A West European Style Populist Radical Right Movement in America? The Case of the Tea Party
The Tea Party (TP), whose candidates made significant gains in the 2010-midterm elections, lacks a place in the comparative party literature and also defies ready classification. Is it solely a movement to reduce the size of government and cut taxes as its name – some refer to it as the Taxed Enough Already party – implies? Or do its supporters share a broader set of conservative positions on social as well as economic issues? Does the movement draw support from across the religious spectrum? Or has the religious right “taken over” the TP, as some commentators have suggested (Koelkebeck, 2010)? In light of these various claims, this comparative study seeks to characterize the TP and asks: (1) Is it a populist party? (2) Is it a populist radical right party? The aim is to locate the TP in multi-dimensional space using a careful reading of the party literature as the primary data source and to do so by reference to three fundamental ‘isms’ attributed to West European populist radical right parties – that is, populism, socio-cultural authoritarianism and ethno-nationalism (nativism). It is argued that the TP is indeed a populist radical right party – with Americanism as its pivotal concept – albeit one (thus far) lacking the xenophobic extremism of the likes of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPA) or the Danish People's Party (DPP).