Nativist Militias Get a Tea-Party Makeover
The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps dissolved this past spring, after years of infighting and accusations of financial mismanagement. But the demise of the group, once so mediagenic that it spawned many imitators, does not signal the death of organized nativism in the United States. On the contrary, the anti-immigrant movement is stronger than ever. And it is gaining political muscle through its growing ties to other ultraconservative groups. Like Garza, many nativists are morphing into Tea Party irregulars. They are also redefining themselves more broadly as patriots, embracing a resurgent states rights movement to challenge the federal government’s authority.
This affinity with the Tea Party, to the extent that it also leads to backing from a movement with growing political momentum and grassroots energy, promises to lend more clout to anti-immigrant leaders. Take the victory of a dark horse candidate for state assembly in California. The odds were so long for Tim Donnelly—a former Minuteman leader who runs his family’s plastics supply business in Twin Peaks—that he couldn’t even hire a campaign consultant. But various Tea Party groups went to work for him, and in July he managed to win the Republican primary in a district that votes Republican. He said he couldn’t have won without Tea Party volunteers walking precincts and knocking on doors. “It was the way we reached people,” he said. “We didn’t have the money to reach people in the conventional way.” Donnelly said he realized, in the crush of a crowd of thousands at a tax protest in 2009, that the Tea Party movement would far outstrip the Minutemen in reach. It has allowed him to situate anxiety about undocumented workers in the context of a broader anger against a federal government he compared to “King George who kept taxing us, taxing us, taxing us, but never wanted to hear from us.” Donnelly campaigned on reproducing Arizona’s immigration law in California. It is first on his agenda if elected.
It’s long and informative. Read how going “Tea Party” allows nativists to go mainstream.