Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Rise of the Tea Party

In 2008, the winds of political change were blowing left. A young, energetic generation of voters had rocked the vote, catapulting Barack Obama into the Presidency and the Democrats toward healthy majorities in the House and the Senate. Two years later, and all has seemingly changed. The Tea Party — a disparate collection of anti-big government activists and heartland conservatives who started organizing in 2009 soon after Obama took office and Congress had passed a series of mega-bailouts for the financial sector — loomed over the political scene in 2010, pushing the GOP further to the right while painting the build-up to this year's mid-terms with its own hue of populist fury. Its candidates steered the American conversation, some (see: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul) more successfully than others (see: Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell). The movement — with its fierce libertarian streak and pronounced suspicion of big government — has drawn comparisons to the John Birchers and Know-Nothings of previous eras. But it is also far closer to the corridors of power than earlier populist backlashes, sponsored by wealthy patrons including the billionaire industrial magnates Charles and David Koch brothers. Spurred on by some of the more influential and telegenic personalities in the U.S. like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, the Tea Party may be here to stay.