The Tea Party Has Always Been With Us
There’s an enormous amount to like in John Judis’ broad historical and intellectual overview of the Tea Party phenomenon. That said, I thought his conclusion was a bit at odds with the main thrust of the analysis:
[T]heir core appeal on government and spending will continue to resonate as long as the economy sputters. None of this is what liberals want to hear, but we might as well face reality: The Tea Party movement—firmly grounded in a number of durable U.S. political traditions and well-positioned for a time of economic uncertainty—could be around for a while.
I took everything else in Judis’ argument to be leading up to a different conclusion. It’s not just that the Tea Party movement will be around for a while, but in a sense it’s always been around. It’s grounded in a number of durable U.S. political traditions and it has a demographic profile similar to other conservative political movement. It’s not going anywhere, but in a sense that’s irrelevant because it’s never gone anywhere. By contrast, the environmentalist movement of the 1970s was a genuinely new political movement as was second-wave feminism. The Tea Party, by contrast, merely reflects the fact that in the United States (like most countries I’m familiar with) a minority of the population strongly adheres to populist nationalist views and becomes mobilizes when its political adversaries are running the country.
Anyway, I highly recommend the article, I just read the analysis as being more of a deflation of the Tea Party than Judis himself seems to. The problem for liberals today isn’t so much that the Tea Party isn’t going away as it is that a lot of people who aren’t Tea Partiers feel specifically that the Obama/Reid/Pelosi trifecta has not made their lives better.