I have just published short a pamphlet on the genesis of Tea Party movement mostly from secondary sources entitled Storming the Castle. It is now available on Amazon Kindle for $3.99: “It is a pamphlet describing how gradually yet irresistibly, Washington became the dominated by a party of incumbents. Whether they are Democrat or Republican, politicians have now become a permanent class in the capital, existing along with a giant bureaucracy, operating the government for their own sake. Unless that is changed, they will simply continue to increasing until they bankrupt the country. ”
It tries to tell the story from two points of view: the history of the incumbent’s relationship with the voting public and second, from the experience of those who joined or were caught up in it. The Tea Party is one of the most misunderstood phenomena of recent times, largely because the subjects it touched upon were controversial from the first. What is startling is why that should be so, for many of the Tea Party’s espoused principles — limited government and the insistence on the impermanency of the political class in Washington, DC — are simply restatements of foundational American ideas. They are the way ‘things are supposed to be’; the normative America of popular myth. The fact that such ideas have now come to be regarded as vaguely subversive is commonly cause for outrage among those who joined the Tea Party Movement.
But in fact those ideas are now indeed subversive. The myth of a republic governed “by the people” has over the years been replaced by the reality of a bureaucracy govered by a “permanent ruling elite”. The rate of turnover among incumbents in Congress today approaches that party officials in North Korea. They are a nomenklatura in all but name. Retirement and death are a bigger factors in turnover than a political challenge.
That change has made the “normative America” of yesteryear almost an anachronistic fairy-tale. How many people in America think the Federal government works bears as little relationship to actuality as a department store Santa does to the “Holidays”. The latter is no longer about Christmas, though for decency’s sake the new management still pretends it is. The former is still less about serving the people and more accurately the reverse.
Yet only a few of the characters whose progress I followed through the Tea-Party saga quite understood how fundamentally things had changed until September 11 and the 2008 economic crisis. Those events jointly made it clear that the “old America” had gone and died because the new one was so much in evidence it could hardly be gainsaid. It was a profound shock to them. Time and again the individual actors express the feeling that the country had been switched out on them. Things had been hijacked. The old liberties and certainties had vanished, one knew not where.
The pervasiveness of this experience is illustrated by the curious common reaction to a television rant. Many of those who joined the Tea Party and did not even know each other later discovered that they were all motivated by the famous Rick Santelli rant. Santelli’s outbursts followed few of the conventions of rhetoric; it was not written by professional speechwriters. Yet it struck such a chord in so many of the listeners that it surely must have been the result of the political dry tinder lying around. What Santelli had done, in his rough and ready way, was simply give voice to what millions were already thinking. ‘The government was picking the winners and losers. Washington no longer works for me. I work for Washington’. It was a phenomenon so striking I could not help but think of John Adam’s words on the American revolution. Adams believed the revolution took place silently, almost unnoticed. The War of Independence was simply a consequence.
But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. While the king, and all in authority under him, were believed to govern in justice and mercy, according to the laws and constitution derived to them from the God of nature and transmitted to them by their ancestors, they thought themselves bound to pray for the king and queen and all the royal family, and all in authority under them, as ministers ordained of God for their good; but when they saw those powers renouncing all the principles of authority, and bent upon the destruction of all the securities of their lives, liberties, and properties, they thought it their duty to pray for the continental congress and all the thirteen State congresses.
But how can such a momentous event take place silently? Surely someone would notice? Future historians may find that the years from 2001 to 2008 posed a question which found a formulation in Tea Party Movement, but that those questions touched so deep that no one could look at them directly but rather answered from instinct. The arguments one might say, came simply before the act of listening, because what was on the table was nothing the status quo could debate within its terms.
Perhaps the understanding will come later. My pamphlet certainly makes no attempts to comprehensively explain it. It doesn’t explain who its leaders are, how many of them are good, how many important. It doesn’t touch on what its electoral strategy in 2012 will be. It doesn’t mention Sarah Palin. What it talks about is talk about the genesis of an idea and the careers of relatively obscure activists.
A discussion of greater scope should have gone into a book. But there was only time enough for a pamphlet. And within the limits of ambitions, readers may find “Storming the Castle” an interesting read.