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912 March: The Tea Party Movement Is the New Religious Right

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The men behind the religious right make a comeback with the Tea Party movement.

Glenn Beck will tell you that this weekend's march of right-wing activists on Washington was six months in the making.

Don't believe a word of it. Try 40 years.

As disgruntled white taxpayers joined conspiracy theorists, gun enthusiasts, state-sovereignty activists and outright racists on Pennsylvania Avenue, the long-time leaders of the American right, whose pedigrees go back to the 1964 presidential campaign of Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., no doubt witnessed a day they thought might never come.

Never before has the right taken to the streets in such numbers. (Estimates range between 50,000 and 100,000 attending the post-mach rally at the U.S. Capitol building.) Marching has long been the province of the left, most notably in the civil rights movement. But the election of the nation's first African-American president, a moderate liberal, in a time of economic crisis, yielded right-wing leaders the gold of backlash.

While the foot-soldiers of the Tea Party movement give it a more secular appearance than its recent predecessors, the movement is the right's replacement for a religious right that has weakened since 2004, when it helped win a second term for George W. Bush. The tactics, however, are the same: just as the religious right subverts the Christian faith in the service of its authoritarian, business-friendly goals, so, too, does the Tea Party movement subvert the American civic religion -- that faith characterized by love of country, invocation of the Founders and veneration of the Constitution.

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