What happened to the Tea Party? Where did it go? Why did it all but vanish? How did it come to pass that the party, the movement, that until five minutes ago was central to the conversation about politics in America has been wiped from the nation’s consciousness?
During President Obama’s first term and into his second, the Tea Party was the proverbial bull in the china shop: a highly energetic, highly disruptive, and highly potent political force that no one was able to tame. Consisting generally of right wing Republicans, the Tea Party was the first twenty-first century faction that was genuinely divisive. Tea Partiers caused an early and significant fissure in one of America’s two major political parties, proving impossible for mainstream Republicans effectively to control.
John Boehner, who became Speaker of the House in 2011, had the miserable experience of discovering that Tea Partiers, ostensibly his fellow Republicans, were impossible to lead. Instead, to his astonishment, he found himself dealing with a band of grassroots, anti-authority populists who shared nothing so much as a deep distrust of the American establishment.
Sound familiar? Turns out the Tea Party had a baby. The baby’s name is Donald. In other words, the Tea Party has by no means vanished. Rather it has a new face – the face of Donald Trump. Trump’s most fervent followers share many of the same characteristics and demographics that six or eight years ago typified Tea Partiers.
Tea Partiers were, famously, leaderless. Now they are not.