«Date:_ Approved: _ Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Supervisor _ Kenneth Andrews _ David Brady _ Linda Burton _ Suzanne E. Shanahan Dissertation submitted in ...»
Rebellious Conservatives: Social Movements in Defense of Privilege
David R. Dietrich
Department of Sociology
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Supervisor
Suzanne E. Shanahan
Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Sociology in the Graduate School of Duke University i v ABSTRACT Rebellious Conservatives: Social Movements in Defense of Privilege by David R. Dietrich Department of Sociology Duke University Date:_______________________
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Supervisor ___________________________
Kenneth Andrews ___________________________
David Brady ___________________________
Linda Burton ___________________________
Suzanne E. Shanahan An
of a dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Sociology in the Graduate School of Duke University Copyright by David R. Dietrich Abstract The first decade of the 21st century in the United States has seen the emergence of a number of protest movements based upon politically conservative ideas, including opposition to affirmative action, undocumented migration, and national health care, among others. Conservative social movement organizations like the Minutemen and the Tea Party have had enormous influence over American politics and society.
Conservative movements such as these present challenges to existing ways of thinking about social movements. Most social movement research has centered on so-called progressive movements, like the Civil Rights Movement, which are assumed to be organized by an oppressed population fighting for rights they have been denied historically. However, conservative movements do not appear to involve an oppressed population fighting for rights denied to them. It seems that actually the reverse may be true: conservative protesters tend to be members of privileged populations in contrast to oppressed. But if conservative protesters tend to be privileged instead of oppressed, why then are they protesting? What are their goals?
To fully answer these questions, we must look beyond existing social movement theory. The purpose of my research is to extend social movement theory, particularly Rory McVeigh's theory of power devaluation by using Blumer's theory of racial group position and Bourdieu's conceptualization of capital to explore the motivations of conservative movements and how they construct movement ideologies. This research explores the goals and ideology of two conservative movements, the anti-illegal
posts from movement organization web pages. Second, I conducted nearly fifty semistructured interviews with movement leaders and participants. Finally, I examined over twenty hours of speeches given at rallies and protest events.
Consistent with McVeigh's power devaluation theory and Blumer's theory of group position, I found that these conservative activists are motivated by perceived threats to privileges claimed as proprietary rights by their movement groups. Anti-illegal immigration groups perceive threats to existing privileges associated with employment, social services, citizenship, and cultural issues such as language, while anti-abortion groups cite threats to American morality. Furthermore, these groups make proprietary claims to these privileges based upon restrictive identity formations. While anti-illegal immigration activists identify as "American," they constrain who qualifies as an American based upon factors such as language spoken, cultural behaviors, and citizenship of parents. Similarly, anti-abortion/pro-life activists identify as "Christian," but exclude many who would be identified as Christian in the broader population based upon criteria including opposition to abortion and sexual preference. They also claim American is a Christian nation. Following Blumer's group position theory, I also analyzed those individuals from which these groups feel threatened: migrants crossing the border without documentation and women who get abortions. I found that conservative activists portrayed these individuals in terms of perpetrators and victims, providing only mixed support for group position. Finally, I examined the goals of antiillegal immigration and anti-abortion/pro-life organizations specifically looking at non
American culture as much or, in many cases, more than changing laws. While most antiillegal immigration organizations stress education as a goal, whether this is for the purposes of policy change or cultural change is unclear.
List of Tables
List of Figures
1. Introduction and Literature Review
1.1 Defining Conservative Social Movements
1.1.1 Social Movements
1.1.2 Conservative Social Movements
1.2 The American Conservative Political Movement and Right-Wing Populism........ 6
1.3 Case Movements
1.3.1 Anti-Abortion/Pro-Life Movement
1.3.2 Anti-Illegal Immigration Movement
1.4 Organization of Dissertation
2.1 Social Movement Theory
2.1.1 Political Process Theory
2.1.2 Conservative Social Movement Theory
2.1.3 Culturalist Social Movement Theory
2.2 Beyond Social Movement Theory
2.2.1 Group Position Theory
2.2.2 Bourdieu’s Conceptualization of Capital
3.1 Case Selection
3.2 Locations of Research
3.2.2 North Carolina
3.2.3 Inclusion of Other States
3.3 Research Methods
3.3.1 Ethnographic Content Analysis
3.3.2 Semi-Structured Interviews
3.3.3 Observation of Protests and Rallies
3.3.4 Coding Counts and Representativeness
4. Identities of Privilege
4.1 Anti-Illegal Immigration
4.1.3 Birthright Citizenship
4.2.1 America as a Christian Nation
4.2.2 Opposition to Abortion
4 Other Moral Values
5. Privilege and Threat
5.1 Anti-Illegal Immigration
5.1.1 Economic Threats
5.1.2 Cultural Threats
5.1.3 Social Threats
5.2.1 Cultural Threats
5.2.2 Economic Threats
5.2.3 Social Threats
6. Agents of Threat
6.1 Anti-Illegal Immigration
7. Cultural Goals
7.2 Anti-Illegal Immigration
8.2 Sincerity, Justified Privilege, and Universalism
8.3 Future Research
Appendix A. Movement Organization Web Sites
A.1 Anti-Illegal Immigration
Appendix B. Conservative Movement Claims and Portrayals
Appendix C. Interview Guide
Figure 2: Proportions of Anti-Abortion/Pro-Life Identity Claims
Figure 3: Proportions of Anti-Illegal Immigration Threat Claims
Figure 4: Proportions of Anti-Abortion/Pro-Life Threat Claims
Figure 5: Proportions of Portrayals of Undocumented Migrants
Figure 6: Proportions of Portrayals of Women Who Get Abortions
Figure 7: Percentage of Data Sources Expressing Explicit Cultural Goals
rightfully ours!" - Voice of the People USA (June 2010) "Unfortunately, Christianity in America has become so feminized, weak, and limp-wristed that these lies (abortion, homosexuality, and Islam) have come to prevail in a nation that was established and made great on the manly bedrock of biblical Christianity." - Operation Save America (February 2009)
1. Introduction and Literature Review The first decade of the 21st century in the United States has seen the emergence of a number of protest movements based upon politically conservative ideas, including opposition to affirmative action (Winter 2003), undocumented migration (Stein 2010;
Warner 2009), and national health care (Downes 2010; Dreher 2006), among others (Zeleny 2009). Students in colleges across the country have staged anti-affirmative action bake sales (Dietrich 2009). Members of the Minuteman Project and similar organizations have patrolled for "illegals" crossing the Mexican border, and Americans at state capitols from California to South Carolina rallied for greater border enforcement and against proposals of amnesty for undocumented migrants (Dove 2010; Vina, NunezNeto, and Weir 2006; WIS-TV 2010; Miranda 2011; Bomnin 2010). Outrage over Obama’s health care legislation gave impetus to the Tea Party, whose state and national protest rallies against big government have swept the country, leaving numerous political casualties in its wake (Bacon 2010).
Many of these movements have had a substantial impact on American politics and society. Five years after the anti-illegal immigration activities of the Minuteman Project brought national media attention to the issue of undocumented migration, Arizona passed a highly restrictive anti-immigration law in April of 2010 (Archibold 2010), and similar bills have been proposed in as many as 37 other states, including Texas and California (Castillo 2011; Vogel 2011; Miller 2010). The Tea Party has been highly influential in national, state, and local politics. Political candidates endorsed or favored by the Tea Party won more than 30 seats in the 2010 congressional elections (Jacobson 2011;
Zernike 2010; Fox News 2010).
Conservative movements such as these present challenges to existing ways of thinking about social movements. Most social movement research has centered on socalled progressive movements, like the Civil Rights Movement (Blee 2007; Pichardo 1997; Jasper 1997). These movements are assumed to be organized by an oppressed population fighting for rights they have been denied historically (McAdam 1982).
However, conservative movements do not appear to involve an oppressed population
fighting for rights denied to them. It seems that actually the reverse may be true:
conservative protesters are, on average, privileged populations in contrast to oppressed.
For instance, polls of Tea Party supporters show them to be overwhelmingly white and possessing higher average incomes and higher levels of education that most Americans (Montopoli 2010). But if we do not consider conservative protesters to be oppressed, why are they protesting? What are their goals?
To fully answer these questions, we must look beyond existing social movement theory. The purpose of my research is to extend social movement theory, particularly Rory McVeigh's (2009) theory of power devaluation by using Blumer's (1958) theory of racial group position and Bourdieu's (1990, 2001a) conceptualization of capital to explore the motivations of conservative movements and how they construct movement ideologies. I build upon McVeigh's theory of right-wing movements, which he defines as acting to "preserve, restore, or expand rights and privileges" (McVeigh 2009: 38).
However, I contend that the question of privilege as a goal of conservative movements must be investigated empirically. I abstractly apply the elements of Blumer's theory of racial group position to any potential situation in which a group may be attempting to maintain or restore privileges, and I use Bourdieu's conceptualization of capital to determine precisely what privileges, if any, are being claimed by conservative movements and for what purpose. To further development of theory that is applicable to conservative movements in general, I examine two conservative social movements: the anti-illegal immigration movement and the anti-abortion/pro-life movement.
1.1 Defining Conservative Social Movements 1.1.1 Social Movements In this project I am exclusively concerned with social movements, which are distinct from other kinds of movements, including political movements. I follow the traditional definition of social movements: repeated public displays of collective action by people acting outside of officially sanctioned channels to bring about social change (Tilly 1999). Social movements are distinguished from political movements, therefore, by using means other than institutionalized political channels to pursue their goals. This does not mean that social movements do not also attempt to act through official channels, but that social movements will always include some activities that occur in a noninstitutional setting. This key distinction is generally agreed upon within the literature even though it has been characterized in slightly different ways, including non-official channels (Tilly 1999), non-institutional action (Snow, Soule, and Kriesi 2004), "innovative collective action" (McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001), nonconventional tactics (Almeida 2008), and dramatic action (Reed 2005).
1.1.2 Conservative Social Movements I define conservative social movements as social movements that advance goals consistent with American conservatism. The traditional definition of political conservatism involves wanting to preserve what exists, the status quo, or to bring back what has existed, the status quo ante (Quinton 1995; Heywood 2007; Lo 1982).