Michael Kazin: Fight the System, but Know How to Make It Work

Michael Kazin is a professor of history at Georgetown, a co-editor of Dissent and the author of “American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation.”

The Great Recession and its frustrating aftermath spawned the Tea Party and the Occupy movement – bands of dedicated activists who agree about nothing but the need to transform the political system. Both movements grew quickly, aided by their own creative tactics and the news media’s rapt attention. Each one forced office-holders and aspiring candidates to address their concerns and adopt some of their rhetoric – whether “protect the Constitution” or “We are the 99 percent.”

So why, less than three months before the election, do only the Tea Partiers wield a major influence on American politics?

A big reason is that the main purpose of these conservative activists was always to elect right-wing stalwarts who could thwart President Obama’s “socialist” programs. And, from the first, they could draw on wealthy contributors like the Koch brothers and experienced advisers like Richard Armey....

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