The Tea Party Movement is Nothing New

There’s been much contradictory speculation about the tea party movement over the last year or so. Dick Armey’s Freedomworks is generally credited with giving birth to the movement, and continuing to guide it. Most tea partiers, however, passionately insist that the movement is essentially grass-roots, born of itself.

Jane Mayer’s recent New Yorker article about the Koch brothers gives many compelling details of the corporate influence behind the tea party movement. And Frank Rich’s recent article focuses on its dangers to the GOP and to the nation.

But the best analysis of the tea party movement I’ve read so far is Kevin Drum’s article, “Recycled,” in the October 2010 issue of Mother Jones (not yet online). Drum’s piece is one of those seminal articles that will probably soon evolve into a book-length treatment.

Drum shows that the tea party movement has antecedents in earlier movements which have consistently arisen “whenever a Democrat takes over the White House:”

The Liberty League after FDR was elected … the John Birch Society after JFK ((Funded in part by Fred Koch, father to David and Charles Koch)) … the Arkansas Project after Clinton, and today — after Barak Obama’s election — “it’s the tea party’s turn.”

Similarities among the movements?

“A shared preoccupation with the Constitution … other shared tropes include a fear of ‘losing the country we grew up in’ … an obsession with ‘parasites’ who are leeching off hardworking Americans and … a myth that the movement is composed entirely of fed-up grassroots amateurs.”

So, does Drum agree that the tea party movement is “fundamentally remaking our two-party system,” as pollster Scott Rasmussen touts in the title of his soon-to-be-released book? (Thanks to Jeff Pelline for calling attention to this book).


Drum concludes:

“The tea party movement is likely to provide plenty of drama this November, but if the historical record is anything to go by, it won’t last long after that.”

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2 Responses to “The Tea Party Movement is Nothing New”
  1. Ruaa says:

    Wishful thinking. We still have our eyes on 2012.

  2. depelton says:

    Drum’s argument — based on history — sounds compelling to me.

    But I wouldn’t bet money on the timing. Maybe the TP movement will last through 2012.

    My guess is that if the TP movement is still dividing/weakening the GOP in 2012, then it’ll probably fade out soon after that.

    But who knows? History is full of novelty.

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