Steve Kornacki: Jimmy Carter's Tea Party

Roundup: Media's Take

[Steve Kornacki is Salon's news editor.]

Jimmy Carter has an Op-Ed in the USA Today that makes an excellent point: The 1970s saw the development of a political movement very similar to the Tea Party of today. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to quite understand the nature of that movement.

In Carter's telling, his dark horse 1976 presidential campaign became a vehicle for Tea Party-ish sentiments. "We capitalized on deep dissatisfaction with the policies and practices of government officials," he writes, "especially those who served in Washington." In reality, though, the Tea Party of his era sprang up from the same place and for the same basic reasons as the Tea Party of today. Then as now, the presence of a Democratic president with substantial Democratic majorities fed a conservative revolt (which was also directed at "establishment" Republicans deemed by the right to be too cooperative with Democrats)....

Enraged (and already emboldened by their near-miss with Reagan in '76), conservatives committed themselves to using the 1978 midterms to take out not just Democrats, but also Republicans who sold them out on the treaty. In this sense, the Panama Canal Treaty can be considered the Carter-era's equivalent of TARP, which seems to animate today's tea Party movement more than any other issue....
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