Boiling Mad Behind the Lines in Tea Party America

Kate Zernike

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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At the height of what's become known as the Great Recession, angry voters began to gather by the thousands to protest bailouts and big government. Evoking the Founding Fathers, they called themselves the Tea Party. Within the year, they had changed the terms of debate in Washington, emboldening Republicans and confounding a new administration's ability to accomplish reform.

In Boiling Mad, Kate Zernike introduces the Tea Party's unlikely activists and the philosophy that animates them. She shows how the Tea Party movement emerged from an unusual alliance of young Internet-savvy conservatives and older people alarmed at a country they no longer recognize. The movement is the latest manifestation of a long history of conservative discontent in America, breeding on a distrust of government that is older than the nation itself. But the Tea Partiers' grievances are rooted in the present, a response to the election of the nation's first black president and to the scope of the government intervention that followed the economic crisis of 2008-2009. Though they are better educated and better off than most other Americans, they remain deeply pessimistic about the economy and the direction of the country.

Zernike profiles the first Tea Partier, a young teacher who's had her nose pierced and lives in Seattle with her fiancé, an Obama supporter. The author relates what Tea Partiers learn about the Constitution, which they embrace as the backbone of their political philosophy. She shows how young conservatives, who model their organization on the Grateful Dead, mobilize a new set of activists several decades their elder. She introduces suburban mothers who, drawing their inspiration from MoveOn and other icons of the Left, plot to upend the Republican Party in a swing district outside Philadelphia.

While the Tea Party movement has energized a lot of voters, it has also polarized the electorate. Agree or disagree, in order to understand American politics today, and tomorrow, one must understand the Tea Party.


Praise for Boiling Mad

"Required reading for anyone who wants to understand the Tea Party movement."—Gail Collins, The New York Times

"Illuminating . . . a picture of how different some Tea Partiers are from the Republican establishment's view of the movement."—The New York Times Book Review

"[Zernike's] concise, elegantly written book is a refreshing reminder of what traditional journalism—so often despised and discounted these days—can contribute to the public conversation . . . A convincing portrait of the [tea party] movement's most ardent activists."—Los Angeles Times

"A brisk chronicle of the people who have streamed to the protests [and] flocked to the polls."—The New Republic

"The beauty of Boiling Mad is that it's room-temperature calm. With fresh and surprising reporting, Kate Zernike cuts through the hype on both sides to show the Tea Party as it really is, not as partisans depict it. It's a complete, balanced, incisive and important account of a reactionary movement that's changing the country."—Jonathan Alter, author of The Promise: President Obama, Year One

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Honestly, it was hard not to stop at the spectacle on Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington, where several thousand Americans had gathered to celebrate their anger on a perfect spring day. There was Representative Michele Bachmann,...

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  • Kate Zernike

  • Kate Zernike is a national correspondent for The New York Times and was a member of the team that shared the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. She has covered education, Congress, and four national elections for the Times and was previously a reporter for The Boston Globe. She lives with her family outside New York City.

  • Kate Zernike Harry Zernike
    Kate Zernike