Jonah Goldberg tries to explain the Tea Party movement to anybody who feels like listening (ha ha):
It’s all so much nonsense. The Boston Tea Party would make a strange lodestar for an anti-American movement. The tea partyers certainly aren’t “dropping out” of the system; if they were, we wouldn’t be talking about them. And they aren’t reading Marxist tracts in a desire to “tear down the system” either. They’re reading Thomas Paine, the founders and Friedrich Hayek in the perhaps naive hope that they’ll be able to restore the principles that are supposed to be guiding the system (to the extent they’re reading radicals such as Saul Alinsky, it’s because they’ve been told that’s the best way to understand his disciple in the White House).
Restoration and destruction are hardly synonymous terms or desires. And maybe that’s a better label: a political restoration movement, one that reflects our Constitution and the precepts of limited government.
However, any small loyalty Tea Partiers might feel toward Buckley is a combination of polite respect, nostalgia, a natural if unhealthy attraction to “glamour” and a lack of complete understanding.
Actually, using t-shirts as a barometer of Tea Party affections (and believe me, this is a sound strategy), we can see that the Founders, Rand and Reagan are ubiquitous, whereas I have yet to see one sporting the face of the man who started and ran the National Review.
There IS an anti-elitist streak (four lane highway?) running through the Tea Party, and it stretches from leftist academe to the Beltway GOP.
While I actually have more sympathy than Goldberg does for that notion that the Tea Partiers are a right wing reincarnation of the Merry Pranksters (I’ve heard Andrew Breitbart say they were his inspriation, too; some of us had already read Alinsky before last year, thanks), the Tea Party looks to me like the rebirth of the mostly forgotten “hard hat” blip of the early 1970s, along with the Goldwater/anti-ERA campaigns.
The difference is, the only “alternative media” those people had back then was country music, bumperstickers and, yes, rude t-shirts.