But having read Larrey Anderson's essay at American Thinker about the Tea Party movement, I'm now compelled to reconsider my position. Or at least, I now feel more confident about giving the Tea Party more of a fair chance to prove itself. The difference between it and previous efforts, as Anderson notes, is that in defiance of the many flavors of opinion held by those active within the Tea Party movement, there is a very common regard for the Constitution that is uniting them...
The Tea Party is a unique populist movement and moment in American history. There is no charismatic leader of the party. The Tea Party has more grassroots movers, shakers, and members than any other populist movement ever seen in our country. So what makes it so different from previous populist political factions?I especially like how Anderson notes that the Tea Party does not need a charismatic leader or spokesperson. Indeed, it would almost certainly work against the Tea Party's favor if it were to invest in such a person.
"Populism" is a vague political concept. There have been populist (and wannabe populist) political movements on the left, on the right, and even in the middle (wherever that is) in the history of American politics. None of the movements were particularly successful -- and many of them were outright scams.
So what makes the Tea Party different? I have attended several local Tea Party gatherings (and addressed a couple of them). There is one document that is ubiquitous at these events: the Constitution for the United States of America[iii]. People hand out copies of the Constitution like hors d'oeuvres that are served at...a de rigueur tea party.
I've thought for the longest time that the most refreshing thing that could possibly happen in American politics is for the average citizen to stand and take the initiative on his or her own. If the Tea Party earnestly represents that and can continue to buck the status quo, then I couldn't help but applaud it.