By the end of last semester I was completely burnt out. Having spent a large portion of the semester working on my thesis which was not at all related to the Presidency or American politics, it was initially very difficult to switch mindsets. Nonetheless, I hurriedly prepared a draft for my campus advisor and found myself confronting all the problems I should have dealt with sooner. These problems inspired me to completely scrap the 30 page draft I initially submitted to both advisors and start over…then start over again after that!
To a certain extent my first paper was based off of a dubious assumption. The assumption was that I could, in some way, attempt to track or attribute a certain level of ideological consistency to a group that, by its nature, decries the sort of institutionalization I was hoping to track. Although I thought I could get around that problem by separating members of the Tea Party in Congress, the Tea Party Organizations and the voting population, I could not.
I found myself reduced to delving into the history of the movement and outlining policy positions without delving into the sort of analysis I had wanted to do.
My solution to this problem was to reframe my question. Rather than focusing on the effect of the Tea Party on America foreign policy I would focus on the theory behind oppositional movements and use the Tea Party as a case study. Naturally, the issue here proved to be that the Tea Party does not focus on foreign affairs. While prominent self-identified Tea Partiers may choose to articulate positions, they are not representative of the “spirit of the movement” because foreign policy is simply not the primary concern.
In dealing with this dilemma, however, I may have found the answer to my problems. In some ways the problems I have found are actually the answers to all my questions. The paper is now significantly more political. It looks at the role of the Presidency in contributing to the decline of political movements.
The benefit of looking at the decline of Congressional political movements is that I am able to use the cases I had initially wanted to use (Tea Party, Isolationist movement) and study foreign policy.
I look forward to seeing everyone again and updating you on how I managed to salvage my paper!