Jacob Weisberg: The Tea Party's Anarchist Streak





[Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group.]

After its primary victories last week in Delaware and New York—following ones in Kentucky, Arizona, and Alaska—we have no choice but to take the Tea Party seriously. Come 2011, we are likely to have mama grizzlies in the House and Senate, and the movement’s gravitational pull is capturing traditional Republicans by the day.

So who are these people and what do they want from us? A series of polls, as well as be-ins like Glenn Beck’s Washington rally last month, have given us a picture of a movement predominated by middle-class, middle-aged, white men angry about the expansion of government and hostile to societal change. But that profile could accurately describe the past several right-wing insurgencies, from the California tax revolt of the late 1970s to the Contract with America of 1994, not to mention the very Republican establishment that the Tea Party positions itself against. What’s distinctive about the Tea Party is its anarchist streak—its antagonism toward any authority, its belligerent self-expression, and its lack of any coherent program or alternative to the policies it condemns....

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