Robert Dallek: The Long View of the Tea Party





[Robert Dallek is the author of“Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power” and “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963.” His new book is “The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953.”]

Regardless of how many seats change hands in the election, one result is already clear: The tea party movement will, for the immediate future, influence the direction of the Republican Party.

This is not to suggest that the tea party is likely to become the party’s principal voice or even have a long-term impact on the GOP’s policy initiatives and candidates. But, in the short run, its current popularity and enthusiasm are an irresistible force driving the Republicans further to the right — especially on issues such as cutting taxes and reducing government’s role in the economy and in social programs like the Obama administration’s health care reforms.

The historical parallels are compelling. When grass-roots discontent from farmers and laborers suffering in the 1893 depression ignited a Populist Party in the South and the West, demanding “radical” economic and social reforms, William Jennings Bryan, their charismatic spokesman, was able to overwhelm the Democratic Party establishment and capture the presidential nomination in 1896 and 1900. But even though Bryan received more than 6 million of 13.5 million votes in both elections, he never came close to winning the White House....



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Paul Siff - 11/5/2010

There was "fiscal insanity" a-plenty during the Republican ascendancy under W, and no good reason for it. Where were the tea partiers then?


John a Wilson - 11/5/2010

The point is that the USA is broke. Any politician that preaches fiscal responsibility will be a Tea Party fave. When we are on a better fiscal footing as a country, we can take our fanciful toys out again for progressive politics, but not until then.

The Tea Party is grass roots and is first and foremost an uprising against fiscal insanity. If in twenty years, we are again fiscally sound and there is not Tea Party, we will have won. That's all we want.

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