During the course of American history, there have been sporadic outbursts of “reform” groups which express disdain for the present which is viewed as corrupt and tainted by vestiges of “un-American” components. The famous Populist Party which emerged in the last decade of the 19th century stemmed from farm groups which regarded industrial leaders and the influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe as harbingers of a dramatic change in the composition of the American population. It is not surprising that studies reveal the vast majority of Tea Party leaders are from the upper middle class and essentially white. Their demands to “return to laissez faire” and end government regulation of business is closer to Jeffersonian Democrats in the early 1800s than to Republican nineteenth century leaders like Abraham Lincoln who welcomed industry and wanted the federal government to subsidize railroad expansion. Ironically, Tea Party goals of ending government regulation fly in the face of Republican Progressives of the early 20th century who, under leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, wanted government regulation of business corporations and laws to regulate the working place, end child labor, protect women at work, etc….
Tea Party leaders in demanding “give me back my America” are seeking a return to an America which has long ceased to exist. Prior to the Civil War, most American farmers raised for themselves or the local market. An industrial world meant there were now 30,000,000 customers in cities anxious to purchase farm products. Technology now allowed US farmers to sell anywhere in the world. As late as 1940, about 90% of what Americans purchased was made in America. Tea Party leaders want a return to a WASP controlled America which could exist without large scale government intervention. The Populist Party– farmers– were the ones who introduced the graduated income tax– NOT SOCIALISTS. Republican leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft wanted government regulation. In 1890, a Republican Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust act, NOT SOCIALISTS.
If the Tea Party wants to help America it will focus on the Future, not the past. As of this point, there ideas border on the ludicrous for a modern post industrial society. For example, China is plunging into Africa and South America and offering billions in aid. How can American businessmen compete with such offers? Wake up Tea Party folk and offer programs for the 21st century.