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Tea Party Time: The Making of a Political Uprising  Thursday, Sep.

16, 2010
By Michael Scherer Time Magazine

Delaware's Christine O'Donnell may be (*1)partial to

pearls and proper skirt suits, but she talks like the
leader of a rebel army. "When the people fear the
government, there is (*2)tyranny," the newest
Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate declared
Tuesday night at a party to mark her victory over the
nation's entire Republican establishment. "When the
government fears the people, there is liberty."

People hold signboards during a "tea party" protest in She attributed the line to Thomas Jefferson, an error
Flagstaff, Arizona August 31, 2009. Organizers say the
that now (*3)adorns bumper stickers sold online for
event is an effort to work against members of Congress
who voted for higher spending and taxes. The midterms $2.99 (*4)a pop. In O'Donnell's telling, Jefferson's
are still two months away, but already a lot of Tea Partiers
vision of the British monarch has been replaced by
are looking beyond the elections and working out where
to go from here. Picture taken August 31, 2009. new threats: the Republican Party (*5)bosses in
Wilmington and Washington and, most of all, the
Joshua Lott / Reuters
governing habits of President Obama. "We the people
will have our voice heard in Washington once again,"
O'Donnell declared.

Her words come straight from the political movement that elevated her to victory and shocked the
political world — the (*6)diffuse collection of furies and frustrations that calls itself the Tea Party. It
has no (*7)charter, no published manifesto and no governing (*8)council. Yet from Nevada's high
desert to Kentucky's rolling coal hills, this movement has (*9)upended the elite of the Republican
Party in 2010 and (*10)set its sights on remaking the U.S. Congress — and, in 2012, the presidency.
"It's more a (*11)cause than a campaign," O'Donnell told her roaring supporters in an Elks lodge. "And
the cause is restoring America."

The cause is also (*12)roiling America and the GOP. Not since Barry Goldwater (*13)thumbed his nose
at country-club Republicans in 1964 has a rebel movement created such a crisis of (*14 )legitimacy
among the GOP establishment. And like that rebel movement, this one may spur an evolutionary
change in the party that could last a generation. Back in April, when Florida's once popular governor,
Charlie Crist, (*15)bolted from the GOP in the face of a conservative (*16)revolt in his state, some
(*17)dismissed it as an isolated event, a symptom of state (*18)fissures and candidate
(*19)quirkiness. When Utah Senator Bob Bennett (*20)choked back tears after losing renomination at
a state convention in May, few thought such (*21)insurrection would spread beyond any but (*22)the
reddest states. Then the upsets turned from a(*23) tremor into an earthquake. In the Senate races
alone, Tea Party candidates in Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Alaska, Kentucky, Delaware and Florida
declared victory, sometimes over rivals handpicked by Republican leaders in Washington.
At a time of historic economic insecurity, the Tea Party movement has stolen the hearts of
conservatives. It now has a chance to send as many as seven new Senators to Capitol Hill with their
dreams of a radically smaller government, (*24)unfettered financial markets, (*25)defanged
regulation and shrinking federal (*26)entitlements. Democrats have officially responded with
celebration, citing polls that show that many of the newcomers' policy views and personal histories
(*27)hold little appeal among the broader public. "Republicans chose extremists instead of
mainstream candidates as their nominees," said Senator Bob Menendez, who is leading Democratic
campaign efforts in the Senate, just hours after O'Donnell's victory. "This has made a handful of
states (*28)demonstrably more competitive."

But Democrats were (*29)spooked by what they were seeing even before the results in Delaware.
Republicans have (*39)turned out in far greater numbers than Democrats in primaries this year, just
as Democrats outvoted Republicans in 2008. What's more, Democrats fear the (*30)throw-the-bums-
out (*31)fervor that (*32)stunned Republican (*33)incumbents this summer may (*34)topple the
mostly Democratic incumbents in the fall. Finally, it may be difficult for Obama to claim that a vote for
the Republican Party represents a return to the past when the GOP is being so dramatically upended
and overhauled. "The Administration's ability to make that argument has been weakened by the very
(*35)vociferous changes that have happened in the Republican Party," says William Galston, a former
adviser to Bill Clinton.

The (*36)Backlash Against Elites

So far, the primary victories by Tea Party candidates like O'Donnell have (*37)exploited one of the
biggest open secrets of American politics. The two major parties, for all their power to shape the
national agenda, have seemed to care too much about retaining their power. (*38)Off-year primary
elections tend to turn out just a fraction of the (*40)electorate, making establishment candidates
vulnerable to even small popular movements.

In Delaware, O'Donnell defeated Mike Castle, a (42)titan of state politics with a (*41)war chest of $2.6
million, more than 40 years of government service and statewide favorability ratings over 60%. Castle
polled well ahead of Democrat Chris Coons even as O'Donnell polled far behind. Yet O'Donnell was
able to win with just 30,000 voters at the polls, or about 3% of the state's residents. It was the same
in Alaska, where Joe Miller(*42) ousted Lisa Murkowski with little more than 55,000 votes, and in
Nevada, where Sharron Angle won with just 70,000. These are not the sort of numbers that cause
Democratic fainting spells, but they have proved heart-stopping for Republicans. "The GOP is very
worried. It's very hard to deal with the Tea Party movement," explains James Thurber, head of
American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. "It's like fighting guerrilla
warfare with them."

In the past, state and national parties have dealt with such (*21)insurrections by shifting their
(*44)endorsements and donations to candidates who can win general elections. But like all other
forms of authority — the press, the banks, the corporate leadership — the nation's political leaders
are (*45)embroiled in their own crises of legitimacy. The tools that were once useful in (*46)thwarting
outsider candidates have become further expressions of rejected authority.

(*47)If anything, the new authorities in Republican politics are rebels such as Sarah Palin, Senator Jim
DeMint and Representative Ron Paul, who define themselves as lonely agents of change fighting
impossibly large institutional powers. Conservative media heroes Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and
Sean Hannity have been careful not to (*48)embrace the GOP in any formal way. On a recent radio
show, Limbaugh announced that he was replacing the Buckley Rule, which advised Republicans to
vote for the conservative candidate with the best chance to win in a general election, with the
Limbaugh Rule, which says vote for the person furthest to the right. The fact that William F. Buckley Jr.
is no longer an icon for conservatives may be the clearest sign (*49)yet that the authorities of old
have collapsed.

On the night of O'Donnell's victory, former White House senior adviser Karl Rove appeared on Fox
News, obviously annoyed that the wisdom of party elders about O'Donnell's (*50)checkered personal
financial history had been ignored. "It (*53)does conservatives little good to support candidates who,
while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not (*51)evince the characteristics of
(*52)rectitude, truthfulness and sincerity and character the voters are looking for," he (*55)said of
O'Donnell, attempting to (*54)preach to the choir. The next morning on the same network, Palin
demonstrated where the real power lies by dismissing Rove's comments as the (*57)musings of
"expert (*58)politicoes." "Bless his heart," she said of Rove. "We love our friends there in the machine
... I say, '(*56)Buck up.' "

Rove was himself an indirect beneficiary of the last great wave of popular revolt within the Republican
Party, which more than anything else has provided the framework for the Tea Party. The Goldwater
revolt of 1964 ended in a historic defeat against Lyndon Johnson. But while it appeared that LBJ's
overwhelming win left no survivors, Goldwater's run planted the seeds of an ideological revival that
revolutionized Republicanism — and American politics — for the next 40 years. The losing 1964
campaign led just two years later to the election of Ronald Reagan as governor of California,
(*59)presaging his presidency and (*60)reinvigorating the College Republican organization that gave
Rove and much of the current GOP leadership in Washington its start in politics.

Can They Prevail?

So what are the long-term plans of the Tea Party (*6146)rebellion? Attend a rally for Tea Party Senate
candidates like Kentucky's Rand Paul, Nevada's Sharron Angle or Alaska's Joe Miller and you might be
surprised at just how much mainstream frustration they are channeling. At root, the Tea Party is the
amen corner for those deeply worried about the size of the (*62)bailouts, the stimulus and the
expansion of government-supported health care. Many see a way of life for themselves and their
children slipping away while the nation's leaders do nothing but make the problems worse. Many of
the candidates also go much further, talking about (*63)repealing President Obama's health care
reform bill, eliminating the departments of Education and Energy and the Environmental Protection
Agency and (*64)devolving those powers to the states. Candidates like Angle have said it is "hard to
justify" Social Security and (*66)called for (*65)phasing out Medicare.
Congress has seen a sudden (*67)influx of no-compromise conservatives before. In 1994, 73
Republicans stormed into the House, many of them preaching anti-government themes that sound
similar to those of today's Tea Partyers. The Republicans of that year even (*68)proclaimed their
victory a revolution that promised to change how Washington worked. It didn't (*69)pan out that way.
Even in the newly Republican-controlled Congress, votes on congressional term limits and a balanced-
budget amendment to the Constitution came up short. And when House Republicans, led by Newt
Gingrich, forced a federal-government shutdown in an effort to make President Bill Clinton accept
their budget cuts, they badly lost the battle for public opinion. Indeed, the class of 1994 may have
saved Clinton's foundering presidency by allowing him to portray himself as a defender of the
mainstream against their "radical" agenda.

As a result, many of the GOP newcomers adjusted their ambitions to the reality of the Capitol. "I don't
think we'll have the same (*70)chutzpah that we had last time," Representative Rick White of
Washington told PBS after the 1996 elections. "We're going to be a little bit more measured, a little bit
more cautious, perhaps." And so they were, working with Clinton on a deal to balance the budget.

It's far too early to know if this new breed of conservative reformer will follow a different course. But
the movement will certainly play a major role in the Republican race for the 2012 presidential
nomination, which will effectively begin Nov. 3, 2010. "Many of these primary results serve as a
reminder that crystallizing our party's message to voters on reforming the (*71)status quo in
Washington and (*72)reining in spending is vital in the current political environment," said Kevin
Madden, a top adviser to Mitt Romney. Romney has (*72)run afoul of some Tea Party activists for
backing health care reform in Massachusetts, and he immediately endorsed O'Donnell after her

The Republican leadership seems to be getting the message. On the night of O'Donnell's win, the
National Republican Senatorial Committee released a (*73)terse, one-line statement from a staff
employee congratulating O'Donnell for her nomination "after a hard-fought primary campaign." At the
same time, Republican operatives across Washington (*74)grieved to one another and reporters over
O'Donnell's victory, which put at risk a seat previously considered safe for Republicans this year.

But by daybreak it was clear that such a reaction was unsustainable. By (*75)faint-praising O'Donnell,
party leaders were only (*77)playing into the hands of the (*76)populist revolt against the party and
its leaders, just as Rove had done the night before. In the current environment, only outsiders have
credibility. So Senator John Cornyn, the head of the committee that had once been working for
O'Donnell's opponent, changed course. "Let there be no mistake: the National Republican Senatorial
Committee, and I personally as the committee's chairman, strongly stand by all of our Republican
nominees," Cornyn said. And then he promptly shoveled O'Donnell $42,000 for her campaign. More is
sure to come.

In other words, O'Donnell may have been right after all on election night. "We the people" are making
their voices heard.