Williamson, Skocpol and Coggin explain how the Tea Party was revived after the 2008 presidential elections, with the help of conservative media outlets, notably Fox News. When Tea Party advocacy groups began protesting the Obama administration in February, Fox took this opportunity to boost ratings and establish a secured audience base by creating a far-right conservative identity. The establishment of this identity was a success due to emphasizing its difference from the majority of voters who were in favor of Obama (Bernstein, 532).
These differences began during the election of “the nation’s first black president, a man with a foreign father, Obama… widely perceived as “other””, trickling down to their views of believing government programs are handouts to the undeserving, “other” group (Williamson, 34). A game of “freeloaders” versus the “hardworking taxpayers,” (Williamson, 34). Bernstein writes that by strategically using these differences, advocacy groups can successfully implement policy changes. However, in an organization where “activists share stories reported on the network [Fox] and quote the opinions of Fox News commentators” (Williamson, 31), is the Tea Party really trying to change policies that they deem as important or what Fox News sees as important?
A poll by the Fairleigh Dickinson University showed that over half of Fox News viewers believe that American forces had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 34% of viewers believe President Obama is not a legal citizen of the United States (Breitman). With Fox News commentators promoting Tea Party events and using strong language to push republicans further right; the conservative news outlet has created an identity by misleading their audience. Fox News has gained the unofficial title of agenda setters by artificially amplifying events, forcing other news outlets to react to Fox and cover those same events that otherwise would have seen as insignificant. Fox News has been able to not only create a secure fan base but also play the role of a “social movement orchestrator” (Skocpol). Is it really beneficial for a country to execute changes by an advocacy group whose members are motivated by many misleading facts? In a country where diversity thrives, is it actually advantageous for half the population to deem themselves as different from the other half? As a country that is built on the belief of being united, regardless of class or race, maybe the Tea Party movement would be more successful if they focused on similarities with the “others”. Bonding over differences may have a temporary boost in approval and supporters however may not actually benefit the country in the long run. It is much easier to gain approval for policy change when everyone benefits from it rather than only a certain group.
Bernstein, Mary. “The Strategic Uses of Identity by the Lesbian and Gay Movement.” N.p., Nov. 1997. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Breitman, Kendall. “Poll: Half of Republicans Still Believe WMDs Found in Iraq.” POLITICO. N.p., 17 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/poll-republicans-wmds-iraq-114016.html>.
Skocpol, Theda. “The Fox in the Tea Party.” N.p., 21 Dec. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2011/12/21/the-fox-in-the-tea-party/>.
Williamson, Vanessa, Theda Skocpol, and John Coggin. “The Remaking of Republican Conservatism,.” The Remaking of Republican Conservatism, by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williams. N.p., Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.