Don't waste time trying to figure out what the Tea Party will do next, says Gary Younge in Britain's Guardian. "The 'Tea Party' doesn't exist." Yes, its "political energy" pushed the nation rightward in the midterm elections. But the Tea Party has "no members, leaders, office bearers," or policies. It is just a "shorthand" term for "loosely affiliated, somewhat like-minded people" who favor low taxes and small government — with opposition to gay marriage expected, though not required. In short, says Younge, the Tea Party is just a catchy new name for something quite old in American politics: The "hard right." Here, an excerpt:
Having a name helps. It has offered a political identity to a significant number of people who were either not active or might not have understood themselves to be in any way connected. That name has helped reorient the stated priorities of the right away from social issues and towards fiscal ones. But this is no more than the old whine in new bottles.
Most of the characters now closely associated with the Tea Party are not new to rightwing politics. They have just moved from the margins to the mainstream. Sharron Angle, the failed Senate candidate from Nevada, has held state office since 1998. While in the 42-member state assembly, she voted "no" so often on consensual matters that such votes were sometimes referred to as "41-to-Angle". The much-maligned Delaware Tea Party candidate, Christine O'Donnell, stood unopposed in the Republican primary in 2008 before going on to challenge Joe Biden. These people didn't join the Tea Party, the "Tea Party" term attached itself to them.