A new study has found that the Tea Party has deep roots, stretching back to the 1980s – and some of those roots are on the tobacco farm, not in the grass.
Liberal bloggers are portraying the research as evidence discrediting the Tea Party as a purely astroturf movement, but the story told by the study is more nuanced. As the study's authors put it, "the Tea Party has been influenced by decades of astroturfing."
As the researchers explain, "rather than being a purely grassroots movement that spontaneously developed in 2009, the Tea Party has developed over time, in part through decades of work by the tobacco industry and other corporate interests."
Starting in the 1980s, tobacco companies worked to create the appearance of broad opposition to tobacco control policies by attempting to create a grassroots smokers' rights movement. Simultaneously, they funded and worked through third-party groups, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, the predecessor of AFP and FreedomWorks, to accomplish their economic and political agenda. There has been continuity of some key players, strategies and messages from these groups to Tea Party organisations.The research was funded by the US government, via the the National Institute of Health.