The Tea Party doesn’t exist

Gary Younge dissects America’s hard-right, populist “movement”.

The typically excellent Gary Younge, in today's Guardian, takes on the myths surrounding the so-called Tea Party movement across the pond:

The "Tea Party" does not exist. It has no members, leaders, office bearers, headquarters, policies, participatory structures, budget or representatives. The Tea Party is shorthand for a broad, shallow sentiment about low taxes and small government shared by loosely affiliated, somewhat like-minded people. That doesn't mean the right isn't resurgent. It is. But the forces driving its political energy are not those that underpinned its recent electoral success.

The Tea Party is not a new phenomenon. It's simply a new name for an old phenomenon – the American hard right. Over the last two years the term has provided a rallying point for a coalition of disparate groups, most of which have been around for many years. Minutemen (anti-immigrant vigilantes), birthers (who deny that Obama was born in the US), Promise Keepers (Conservative Christian men), Oath Keepers (military and police, retired and current, who vow to resist unconstitutional government "by any means necessary"), Fox News watchers, Glenn Beck lovers and Rush Limbaugh listeners who had no unifying identity before.

Having a name helps. It has offered a political identity to a significant number of people who were either not active or might not have understood themselves to be in any way connected. That name has helped reorient the stated priorities of the right away from social issues and towards fiscal ones. But this is no more than the old whine in new bottles.

He adds:

. . . the Tea Party has its own "news" channel – Fox – devoted to its growth. It promotes Tea Party demonstrations as though they are events of national celebration and showcases those who pose as its leaders as though they are national celebrities. Second, it has money. A lot of it. When it comes to elections it has the backing of huge amounts of money from private corporations and individuals who are behind institutions – like the Tea Party Express, Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity and Tea Party Patriots – which are run by people with a proven track record of right-wing Republican activism.

Read the full piece here.

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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