Whatever happened to the Tea Party movement?



In 2009, there arose in America a briefly popular political fad dedicated as much to bad-mouthing the nation’s new president, Democrat Barack Obama, as to campaigning in favor of conservative economic principles.

It was the Tea Party movement? Remember?

Oh, yeah. The Tea Party.  It’s been a while since you’ve read or heard anything about the Tea Party, right?

Let me refresh your memory.

This short-lived political movement seems to have taken its name from a rant offered one morning early in  2009 by Rick Santelli of CNBC, a business news channel, who expressed favor for the rise of a new Tea Party.  The idea caught fire almost immediately, and soon there arose scads of Tea Party groups across the country.

But there was no central organization to effectively promote cohesion among the various state and local clubs, and this shortcoming proved fatal to the movement, if not also the cause it represented.

In the congressional elections of 2010 and 2012, Republican candidates who conspicuously identified with the Tea Party  generally fared well at the ballot box. But the movement soon stalled, and we don’t hear much about it these days — especially with Donald Trump now practicing his own maverick brand of politics to a fare thee well.

The Tea Party movement suffered from image problems almost from the outset. Self-appointed spokespersons for the cause, most of whom lacked political experience, often made stupid remarks and otherwise betrayed their amateurism. And anti-Obama racism reared its ugly head on occasion. By early 2011, polls showed that the Tea Party was a tainted brand, with most Americans disapproving of the movement.

There’s probably a lesson Donald Trump could learn from the fairly quick collapse of the Tea Party’s numbers in the polls. The Donald’s approval ratings have been underwater all through the first six months of his presidency. And favor for impeaching him is now running as strong as opposition to it.

The Republican Party, if it survives its current problems, would do well to study details of how it allowed its flirtation with the Tea Party fad to morph into its peculiar inability to resist the dubious charms of Donald Trump.

Of course, the story of Trump as president is still in its early stages — presumably. But nobody knows for sure how it will all play out.

By the way, it’s my opinion that the silliest thing about the Tea Party movement of the 21st century has been its historical illegitimacy. The Boston Tea Party of 1773 was not a protest against a tax hike. The central issues were varied and complicated, and one of them was a popular objection to a tax cut, of all things. The modern Tea Partiers, on the other hand, are against higher taxes, not lower taxes.