The Social Movement Society, the Tea Party, and the Democratic Deficit

david s. meyer, Amanda Pullum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter focuses on the Tea Party movement's mobilization of grassroots activism since 2009 to demonstrate how populist mobilization builds from public sentiments of inequality and democratic deficits in the political system. In particular, it highlights the tension between grassroots mobilizations animated by democratic rhetoric and their potentially less democratic claims on policy. The chapter first considers the history of social movements before situating the Tea Party and its right-wing populism within social movement theory, along with inconsistencies/disagreements within the Tea Party. It then explores political opportunity theory in order to elucidate how the Tea Party's claims, tactics, and trajectory are affected by the world outside the movement, with particular emphasis on formal politics. It also discusses the Tea Party's resource mobilization and concludes by explaining how inequality allowed for new mobilization opportunities in the movement's case despite their largely undemocratic nature.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationDemocratizing Inequalities: Dilemmas of the New Public Participation
StatePublished - Jan 30 2015


  • Tea Party movement
  • political opportunity theory
  • resource mobilization
  • social movement theory
  • social movements


  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Politics and Social Change

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