BERKELEY, Ca. -- I am finally ensconced at the (deep breath) University of California at Berkeley's Center for the Comparative Study of Right-Wing Movements conference "Fractures, Alliances and Mobilizations in the Age of Obama: Emerging Analyses of the Tea Party Movement." I'll have a full write-up on the event later, because there is something inescapably poetic about a hand-wringing conference on conservative activism held a few steps away from People's Park.
What do you imagine such an event might look like? You're right! A racially diverse crowd of older-looking people are mostly filling a room built for 220 people. They are taking notes; the pens go into overdrive when a speaker (we are on our second) mentions a number or a neologism. For example, Rick Perlstein, who remains the best scholar of this stuff, has introduced the room to "sluicing," or how people are made to be angry about things that activists present as a threat to the things they already believe. "We need a meticulous and mature sociological analysis of grassroots and grasstops interaction," says Perlstein; there are numerous papers coming out of the conference that attempt to kickstart that.
Side note: The brochure for the event makes reference to the TPM, as in "The Tea Party Movement (TPM)." Paging Josh Marshall!