From David Von Drehle at Time:
Egged on by conservative interest groups and leveraging Barack Obama's digital-networking strategies, grass-roots opponents of the President's agenda have made themselves a major factor in U.S. politics.
Naming the Tea Party movement, however, is easier than defining it. Tea Partyism covers a lot of ground and a world of contradictions.
Whether bitter or sweetened, the tea is winning admirers. According to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, roughly 1 in 5 adult Americans identifies with the Tea Party movement, which scored its first major victory last month when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by the late Democrat Ted Kennedy.
The Tea Party is not a political party, not yet, and maybe never will be. Rejecting the idea — widely held by Democrats — that a government of brainy people can solve thorny problems through complex legislation, the Tea Party finds its strongest spirit among conservative Republicans. Yet a powerful current of "blame both sides" also pulses through the movement. "We're equally disgusted with Republican and Democrat Congressmen," says Lynne Roberts, a volunteer organizer of a Tea Party gathering in Albany, N.Y. Her group is one of hundreds, maybe thousands, animated by Tea Party energy — millions, perhaps, if you count the groups of just one or two people perusing the daily news and muttering, "They've got to be kidding."
"The Tea Party movement isn't a party at all. I'd like politics without parties."
George Washington wanted the same thing, but history went in another direction. It gave us Democrats and Republicans, and we're likely to be living with them for a long time to come. What the Tea Party movement tells us, though, is that the hold those traditional parties have over politics is never as tight as their leaders would like to believe, and that in times of trouble — times like these both R's and D's are well advised to be afraid. Very afraid.