The American Prospect: The End of the Tea Party
Right-wing populist fads catch our attention -- but they burn out quickly.
The tea-party strain that increasingly dominates the Republican Party represents the latest wave of right-wing populism to sweep the country -- or, rather, the media. There were 200 journalists covering the 600 people who attended Sarah Palin's speech at the tea-party convention in Nashville.
But we've been here before. In the mid-1990s, it was Newt Gingrich's revolution. Gingrich was 1995's Time "Man of the Year," and he and his movement terrified progressives and transfixed the media for most of it. It's hard to remember that period, though, because after just a few months, after a government shutdown and a crippling snowstorm in D.C., it was over.
The tea-party movement cannot be sustained at the level of anger that's currently fueling it. It may leave a permanent impact on the Republican Party, giving it some new faces and new language, and most important, allowing the party to divorce itself from the legacy of that squishy moderate, George W. Bush. But regardless of the economic times or the political mood, hot populism of both the left and right varieties has never had a very long run.