Tea Party Politics From Colonial Boston to the Obama Bailouts

British act was the last straw for Boston colonists, but where to now for today's conservatives?

By + More

As colonists tired of what seemed deliberately heavy-handed British colonial rule that gave them no say (or "representation") and resentment seethed toward a far-away government that could tax as it pleased and take away their property on a whim, popular support for self-governance became an unstoppable force.

And today?

On April 15, Tax Day, groups fed up that those folks in Washington, D.C., were spending billions of their dollars and giving taxpayers no say in the matter held "tea party" protests across the country.

These protests were part of a grass-roots movement fueled by diverse individuals opposed to increased government taxes and spending. Organizers, using social network lists—word travels much faster than it did in 1773—rallied supporters to protest virtual "nationalization" of U.S. banks, Detroit automotive manufacturers, healthcare, energy, and education. They argued that the demonstrations were the beginning of "a freedom movement."

I counsel a more measured view.

We know the 1773 Boston Tea Party was fueled by popular anger about taxation and by a feeling that British rule was reaching into and stifling the economic life of the Colonies. We know that the 2009 tea parties were fueled by similar sentiments. We know that both "tea parties" signaled strongly held popular emotions. We know that the 1773 Boston Tea Party sparked a revolution.

It is too early to tell whether the 2009 tea parties will start a new political movement based on reduced taxes, spending, and government intervention or even spark a realignment in American politics. Maybe, maybe not.

But it is refreshing to know that the spirit of Sam Adams and the organizers of the original tea party lives on.