Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party

Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party

Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party

Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party


In the Spring of 2009, the Tea Party emerged onto the American political scene. In the wake of Obama's election, as commentators proclaimed the "death of conservatism," Tax Day rallies and Tea Party showdowns at congressional town hall meetings marked a new and unexpected chapter in American conservatism. Accessible to students and general readers, Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party brings together leading scholars and experts on the American Right to examine a political movement that electrified American society. Topics addressed by the volume's contributors include the Tea Party's roots in earlier mass movements of the Right and in distinctive forms of American populism and conservatism, the significance of class, race and gender to the rise and successes of the Tea Party, the effect of the Tea Party on the Republican Party, the relationship between the Tea Party and the Religious Right, and the contradiction between the grass-roots nature of the Tea Party and the established political financing behind it. Throughout the volume, authors provide detailed and often surprising accounts of the movement's development at local and national levels. In an Epilogue, the Editors address the relationship between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movement.


Christine Trost and Lawrence Rosenthal

Nobody predicted the Tea Party.

In the wake of Barack Obama’s inauguration as president in 2009, the Tea Party’s emergence on the American scene was stunning. True, hints of the Tea Party had surfaced at Republican rallies during the 2008 presidential campaign, especially when vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin appeared. But the passion of those mobilized by the Tea Party movement, their anger, and their very numbers—this was a bolt from the blue.

To understand the shock of the Tea Party’s emergence, it helps to recall the political environment of late 2008 and early 2009. the conservative movement, mostly in power and mostly defining the terms of American political debate since 1980, seemed to have run aground, perhaps fatally. After eight years under the most conservative president in memory—six of which included a Republican majority in Congress— things had not only gone wrong socially, economically, and even in foreign affairs; they had gone catastrophically wrong.

George W. Bush’s tagline, “compassionate conservative,” plus innovations such as the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives that Bush established through an executive order in January 2001, had promised a novel but serious approach to addressing American social problems. a new chapter in the left-right debate in this country had begun, including a more robust dialogue on churchstate relations and the efficacy of private versus public safety nets. But . . .

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