Friday, February 12, 2010

Tea Parties and the American Political Tradition

The tea-party movement has made a mark on the politics of the Obama era, and it has historical parallels—less in this country's founding era than in two great "anti" movements of the last two centuries: the resistance to Thomas Jefferson's embargo (1807-09) and to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's plan to pack the Supreme Court (1937). Both episodes befell presidents who had enjoyed spectacular political success. Jefferson, who won the White House in the nail-biting election of 1800, had given America peace, low taxes and the Louisiana Purchase. In 1804 his Democratic-Republican Party (ancestor of today's Democrats, not the GOP) blew away the opposition Federalists, as he carried 13½ of 16 states (Maryland voted by electoral districts, which split). The man who had vowed to sink Federalism into "an abyss" seemed to have done it. FDR in 1937 was even more potent. Although the Depression lingered, the New Deal was the only political game in town. In the election of 1936 Roosevelt won 46 states to the Republicans' two; there were 333 Democrats in the new House and 75 in the new Senate. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, eat your hearts out. The embargo and the court-packing scheme both provoked bitter, bipartisan resistance...If I have my precedents right, the tea-party movement by itself will not take lasting political form. The spontaneity and diversity of such revolts unfits them for the long more

If you are not familiar with Brookhiser's writings, he is very much in the Federalist camp.

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