Understanding the Tea-Partiers Underlying Psychological Motivation

I think it’s the Exodus-Joshua narrative—perhaps the most persistent narrative in the American psyche. As a liberal, I think it’s something very potent, and needs to be respected and worked with somehow. Over the past year, conservatives, by being dropped from the Bush-Cheney “Pharoah” position, have found their outsider footing again. What conservatives are now salivating to is a new Exodus-Joshua narrative: President Obama as Pharoah, and Big Government as the yoke of oppression on the land. Nevermind that Big Government was no problem for most conservatives when Bush was in office (he was one of them, afterall). Now Big Government means to rob the conservative and traditionalist working man of his money, his culture, and his dignity. Cue Andy Williams:

Liberals like me ignore this very potent narrative at our electoral peril. In American politics, I think it’s fair to say that you always want to be in the role of Moses or Joshua, never Pharoah. And as liberals, of course, we’ve always known how to be in the Moses-Joshua position. We better find it again. Fast.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to Understanding the Tea-Partiers Underlying Psychological Motivation

  1. Ohm51 says:

    OK. Just found your post via a google search for:
    The psychological motivations of the Tea Party.

    Post election, mind you.

    I suppose this is just about right regarding the narrative they tell – but I’m not at all sure it is the real underlying psychological mechanism involved.

    They obviously see the political divide as a real existential threat and zero sum game, and as such they have a strong desire to vanquish their enemies, with many forewarnings that if they could not get their way at the ballot box they would resort to other means, as an implicit hint of violence, guns, and force.

    I think some deeper psychological mechanism is involved in all of this other than the ostensible surface narrative, something darker and more atavistic – a near bloodlust {almost} – as though some evil meme of social science is at play.

    As an example, I believe that the Bush Administration after 9-11 were tapping into the recesses of the male identity, and the masculine psyche – both as a method to garner public support for war – and as their preferred method of humiliation in detainee ‘interrogations’ – to break a suspects will.

    Whatever they did, it certainly worked.

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