The rise of the US Right: “learning from the Left”

September 28, 2010

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Micah Sifry has written a post asking whether the much-reported “rise of the Tea Party” in America – represented by the surge in Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers – is real.

According to the reports cited by Sifry:

Tea Party Patriots (TPP), one of the main umbrella groups, has almost four times as many Facebook supporters as the Democratic Party, and and almost five times as many as MoveOn.org.

Much of Sifry’s post tries to go deeper into the stats, looking at the various blog rankings for leading “liberal” and “conservative” sites, and examining who amongst the conservatives are getting all the fans and followers.

His conclusion is that the Tea Party and other conservative activists are more energised than their Democrat opponents, but that the reported Tea Party movement numbers are grossly overstated.

What I found interesting about his article – which is not delved into in any depth – is the growing political ecology of online tools and resources made available for online conservative activism. There is now a small but growing army of conservative coders, social media experts and designers who are making their services available to the many Tea Party groups and conservative Republican candidates.

Following the victory by Obama, successful exploitation of the Internet was made a major priority for the Republicans and for conservatives more widely. In particular, the ability to transform online supporters into real-world activists and donors was seen as key to Obama’s success.

The tools now being made available for conservative causes are quite sophisticated – they allow local Tea Party or other pro-Republican groups to quicky set up a professional-looking web presence at low cost, that is then focused on turning online supporters into donors and activists.

Rules for Patriots is a Tea Party version of Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals".

I’ve checked a range of Tea Party related sites, and most of them are very effective at harvesting email addresses of supporters. I’ve not ventured onto their Ning (or other) social networks, but as Sifry notes, they are utilising various social media hubs quite effectively.

The Tea Party are taking tried and true community organising priciples used by Obama’s campaign and applying them to growing their own movement. They even have a version of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals – called “Rules for Patriots” – designed to “help the Right learn from the Left”.

For the broader progressive movement, the energised conservative movement seems to be spreading out from the USA to other social democratic countries. Australia has its own “TEA Party” movement, the UK Conservatives scraped through in their election and other European countries have seen an upsurge in radical right-wing parties (who have always been present, but are now re-emerging).


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