The PJ Tatler

The Essence of the Tea Party

I have just published short a pamphlet on the genesis of Tea Party movement entitled Storming the Castle,  available on Amazon Kindle for $3.99.  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. What is startling is why: many of the Tea Party’s espoused principles are simply restatements of foundational American ideas.

But in fact those ideas are now indeed subversive. The rate of turnover among incumbents in Congress today approaches that party officials in North Korea. They are a nomenklatura in all but name.  That change has made the “normative America” of yesteryear almost an anachronistic fairy-tale. Yet only a few of the characters whose experiences I followed through the Tea-Party saga quite understood how fundamentally things had changed until September 11 and the 2008 economic crisis. Those events made it clear that the “old America” had gone, possibly forever. It was a profound shock to them. Time and again the individual actors independently express the feeling that the country had been switched out on them.

The pervasiveness of this experience is illustrated by the curious common reaction to the famous Rick Santelli rant, which struck such a chord in so many of the listeners it can only be explained as 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; a phenomenon so striking I could not help but think of John Adam’s words on the American revolution.

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? 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 how people were jolted into mutual discovery and into joining it.

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.