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Tea Party Tally

Where does the tea party philosophy come from? One hint is in its name.

Historians and political scientists will be examining the tea party movement for years. Some are starting to lay out what they see as the philosophical underpinnings of this unique insurgency.

By Staff writer / October 29, 2010

Republican US Senate candidate Rand Paul appears with his father US Rep. Ron Paul, (R) of Texas, during a campaign event in Kentucky. Going into next week’s election, tea party favorite Rand Paul is clearly ahead. A recent lengthy article in the Atlantic magazine describes the elder Mr. Paul as “the tea party’s brain.”

Ed Reinke/AP

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It’s still unclear what contribution the tea party movement – its grass-roots element, its behind-the-scenes funding apparatus, and the surging national candidates it’s brought forward – will make to the good of the republic.

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But one thing for sure: It’s a dream come true for political science departments around the world. It may well do for poli sci what Watergate heroes Woodward and Bernstein did for journalism. Let a thousand doctoral dissertations bloom!

In a nutshell, the movement’s philosophy can be summed up in its name and imagery: “Taxation without representation,” which in the 21st century means the size and complexity of government. Strip away all the sillier elements (President Obama’s birth certificate) and sometimes threatening fringe (guns and occasional hints of racism) and that’s pretty much it.

Does it line up with big business types pushing the same agenda for many years through K Street lobbyists and Chambers of Commerce? (That’s you, Koch brothers.) It matters not to most tea partyers.

Many news outlets (including the Monitor) have tried to figure out the tea party, not an easy task since there is no such thing as the “Tea Party” per se. It’s more scattered than organized in any traditional sense, and sometimes there are conflicts within the movement.

The “Tea Party of Nevada,” for instance, has its own candidate running for the US Senate even though GOP candidate Sharron Angle – who may well send Senate majority leader Harry Reid into involuntary retirement – has been endorsed by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express.

STORY: Tea Party 101: Who are its followers and what do they want?

Two recent articles attempt to look at the historical roots of the tea party movement.

In the magazine The Atlantic, senior editor Joshua Green lays out the case for concluding that US Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas is “the tea party’s brain.”

When the Great Recession hit, Mr. Green writes, libertarian Paul “was ready and waiting.”

“He is not the Tea Party’s founder (there isn’t one), or its culturally resonant figure (that’s Sarah Palin), but something more like its brain, its Marx or Madison,” he writes. “He has become its intellectual godfather – and its actual father, in the case of its brightest rising star, his son Rand Paul, Kentucky’s GOP Senate nominee.”

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