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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.
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, conservative darling and all Minnesota nice, cheerfully raging against "gangster government." "Two years from now, Barack Obama is a one-term president!" she taunted, the words echoing off the surrounding walls. There was the rapper performing a Tea Party anthem, the former Saturday Night Live star singing a song called "A Communist in the White Hou