Even though it will be pointedly ignored by mainstream media types wed to the narrative that the Tea Party is a spontaneous uprising of people who were apolitical before Obama sent them around the bend, I'm guessing many of you read with interest Robert Putnam and David Campbell's distillation of their intense research in political attitudes of Americans that shows that the "Tea Party" is the same ol' right wing base, but just with a new name. And they're the most Bible-thumping-est part of the right wing base (as well as the most racist—these things tend to go together).
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
All of which doesn't mean we can just shrug this off as same-shit-different-name. One important thing has changed—giving them a fancy new nickname and a bunch of Astroturf rallies and endless coverage in both right wing and mainstream media has emboldened these dickweeds. It's same-shit-different-name, but with more power and energy because of the fancy new name.
One measure of how emboldened the religious right is at any point in time is looking at book challenges and censorship in local schools. Interfering with the intellectual empowerment of minors is right up there on the priority list with raising the teenage pregnancy rate to produce a constant flow of examples to point to when wailing on about the wages of sin. And censorship attempts have already seen a lot of success this year, according to the American Library Association.
Last month ThinkProgress reported that a Missouri high school had banned Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse Five because religious residents complained that it taught principles contrary to the Bible. Now the American Library Association reports that this year alone, U.S. schools have banned more than 20 books and faced more than 50 other challenges, with many more expected this fall as school starts…..
While parents have traditionally launched the lion’s share of challenges, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, an attorney with the association, says she has noticed “an uptick in organized efforts” to remove books from public and school libraries.
The uptick in organization is a disturbing trend to watch more closely. With religious right whining censorship efforts aimed at the internet or television, I think it's easier just to see them as "concerned citizens", since a lot of well-meaning but misguided people tend to get bent out of shape at kids' investment in pop culture, which they erroneously believe is significantly different than their own youthful love of pop culture. But attacking books shows that this isn't about the religious right being concerned that kids' minds are being numbed. It shows that they're worried kids' minds aren't being numbed enough! Which, in turn, should make people inclined to agree with them about TV and music stop and think really hard. If people whose main concern is making kids stupid and compliant get upset at kids' exposure to music videos and video games, it's because they see those things, like books, as potentially horizon-broadening. Strangely, the religious right sees things the way I do in this way—they don't see a significant difference between fiction in a book, on a stage, or on a screen. The big difference is they oppose all ways that can broaden horizons, and I see the potential to broaden horizons in all these various mediums, and believe that's a good thing.