The University of Washington’s (UW) Political Science Department on Monday asked its alumni if the modern Tea Party is “like the Ku Klux Klan?” in a widely distributed email newsletter.
The question, which was posed four times throughout the email, was part of a promotional blurb for a new book by UW Associate Professor Christopher Parker entitled Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in Contemporary America.
“Is the Tea Party like the Ku Klux Klan?” asked the newsletter. “Professor Christopher Parker… argues that recent research shows racism is a strong indicator of Tea Party support, stronger even than a preference for small government.”
The email, sent to Campus Reform by an alumnus who asked to remain anonymous, also included a lengthy commentary in which Parker argued that the Tea Party is in fact very similar to the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) of the 1920s.
“Consider the Tea Party,” wrote Parker. “Similar to the Klan, white, middle- class, middle-aged, Protestant men dominate the Tea Party’s ranks.”
“Tea Partiers are motivated by both conservative principles and racism,” wrote Parker, earlier in the piece.
Parker went on to clarify both in the piece, and in an email to Campus Reform that there are “differences between the two right-wing movements” and that his comparison was specifically with the KKK of the 1920s, which lessened its focus on violence in favor of gaining influence in the political system.
“My comparison to the KKK is very specific: the KKK of the 1920s,” he wrote. “This Klan departed from the Klan of the 19th Century and the mid-20th Century in several ways. The Klan of the 1920s was a national movement, not confined to the South. As a result, it was less violent than the other two versions.”
“The Tea Party need not be a similarly violent or bigoted movement in order for it to be compared to the KKK, especially given the different historical context,” he added.