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The Tea Party burst on the national political scene in 2009–2010, powered by right-wing grassroots passion and Astroturf big money. Its effect on electoral politics and the political process is undeniable, but the message, aims, and staying power of the loosely organized groups seem less clear. In this concise book, American political historian Ronald P. Formisano probes the remarkable rise of the Tea Party movement during a time of economic crisis and cultural change and examines its powerful impact on American politics.
A confederation of intersecting and overlapping organizations, with a strong connection to the Christian fundamentalist Right, the phenomenon could easily be called the Tea Parties. The American media’s fascination with the Tea Party—and the tendency of political leaders who have embraced the movement to say and do outlandish things—not only has fueled the fire driving the movement, but has diverted attention from its roots, agenda, and the enormous influence it holds over the Republican Party and the American political agenda. Looking at the Tea Party's claims to historical precedent and patriotic values, Formisano locates its anti-state and libertarian impulses deep in American political culture as well as in voter frustrations that have boiled over in recent decades. He sorts through the disparate goals the movement’s different factions espouse and shows that, ultimately, the contradictions of Tea Party libertarianism reflect those ingrained in the broad mass of the electorate.
Throughout American history, third parties, pressure groups, and social movements have emerged to demand reforms or radical change, only to eventually fade away, even if parts of their programs often are later adopted. The Tea Party’s impact as a pressure group has been more immediate. Whether the Tea Party endures remains to be seen. Formisano’s brief history certainly gives us clues.
The Johns Hopkins University Press
— Vanessa Bush
Formisano is a highly respected authority on the history of populist movements. In an evenhanded way he writes of the origins of the Tea Party or Tea Parties (there are many competing factions), in resentments against so-called 'elites,' and various alliances and rejections at the grass roots.
A fine and easy introduction to a brand new party and its concepts, recommended for any general collection strong in American history and politics.
A succinct but enlightening history of the Tea Party in the US.
Formisano examines the conditions that gave birth to the Tea Party and whether it is genuinely grassroots or directed by corporate interests and billionaires. A helpful primer on a movement that is changing the American political landscape.
One of the most orderly presentations of this recent history I have read... Take a few hours in the waning days of summer to read The Tea Party: A Brief History so that you can explain to your students why the Paul Ryan candidacy is history in the making.
1 Reading Tea Leaves 5
Astroturf or Grassroots Populism? 5
Parties, Anti-Parties, and Populism 15
2 The Rise of the Tea Party 24
The Search for the Rosa Parks Moment 24
Media and Money 27
3 Political Payoff in the 2010 Midterm Elections 37
Tea Party Ascendant 37
Evangelicals and the Tea Party 47
4 The Tea Party and the Religious Right 51
Constitutional and Biblical Fundamentalism 52
The Christian Right and Machismo 57
5 The Tea Party and Big Business 63
Libertarian Fundamentalism versus Christian Fundamentalism 63
Developing Strains in the Alliance 74
6 Frustration with Politics as Usual 81
Immediate Precursors of Tea Party Rebellion 81
Libertarianism with Benefits 87
7 The Tea Party and American Political Culture 97
Predictions and Assessments 97
The Roots of the Tea Party's Grassroots 102
Postscript The First Tea Party 118