In the infamous ‚ÄúShout Heard ‚ÄėRound the World‚ÄĚ in February 2009, CNBC‚Äôs Rick Santelli spoke out against federal¬†mortgage bailouts by suggesting a ‚Äúnew kind of Tea Party.‚ÄĚ The grassroots movement‚Äôs original focus was driven by outrage over those bailouts, federal spending in general, deficits, and high taxes. To many observers, it was a punch line, producing hybrid spokesperson-products such as Sarah Palin, Todd Akin (whose recent ‚Äúlegitimate rape‚ÄĚ comments have upended the Republican hold on the Missouri Senate race) and former presidential wannabes Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. But to others, the effort is frighteningly viable as powerful advocacy groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity became proud funders. Along the line, the fiscally conservative effort yielded to accusations of racism, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, assaults against progressive politics...the list goes on.
Now? The Tea Party, with its funding and powerful lobbyists, has become something of a brand. As Tea-endorsed Senator Marco Rubio -- who is delivering a prime-time speech at the GOP convention tonight -- himself says in his recently published memoir ‚ÄúAn American Son,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúIt always bears repeating: in politics, appearances are as important as reality.‚ÄĚ¬†The influence of players like him, with such close ties to 2012‚Äôs GOP ticket, has informed our roundup of the books here. ¬†These titles illuminate the origin of the movement, its major names, and how it might very well impact the country‚Äôs future as soon as November.
‚ÄúAn American Son: A Memoir‚ÄĚ by Senator Marco Rubio
Rubio‚Äôs ascension from son of a poor, hard-working immigrant couple to Florida House speaker to a hotly watched (and eventually victorious) Senate race is as powerful a story of ambition as any. But it is just that -- his understandable and moving worship of his maternal family‚Äôs labors to make a better life for Rubio and his siblings -- that can seem confoundingly at odds with his party‚Äôs values. His political story is that of the true underdog, with a narrative that includes defeating Florida governor Charlie Crist for the Senate seat after a campaign fraught with controversies over funding and property tax reform, a fundraising record that began at an ebb and resulted in a record flood, and long periods away from his family. Rubio balances campaign intricacies with his family‚Äôs background in Cuba, and the handsome and charismatic Senator attributes his success as political player to his grandfather ‚ÄúPapa,‚ÄĚ his doting, hard-working parents and his wife, Jeanette.¬†There‚Äôs much to admire in this young politico‚Äôs story; however, Rubio‚Äôs ties to the controversial former Governor Jeb Bush, the Tea Party, and his push for policies endangering families that resemble Rubio‚Äôs very own can be difficult to reconcile.
‚ÄúTen Tea Parties¬†: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot‚ÄĚ¬†by Joseph Cummins
Begin at the beginning, before the contemporary controversies, seems to be the guiding principle of ‚ÄúTen Tea Parties,‚ÄĚ an evocative collection of many lesser known protests and how they powerfully embodied political discontent. Cummins is an excited, exciting historian, and he drops the reader into the machinations of the East India Company (which resulted in 92,000 pounds of tea famously lost in the Boston Harbor) and tea parties in cities like Philadelphia, Charleston and New York. ¬†The tea party template is, the author argues, a powerful weapon in the people‚Äôs arsenal. At best, it can unify citizens, create policy change for the better, and remind government whose interest they are working for. This book could very well be sent to Washington, as well as Tea Party headquarters, as a primer in how to do it right.
‚ÄúRon Paul: Father of the Tea Party‚ÄĚ by Jason Rink¬†
Although the Tea Party‚Äôs ignition is attributed to Santelli‚Äôs outburst, it was in 2007 that Paul‚Äôs supporters staged a Boston Tea Party reenactment to promote Paul's presidential bid and raise an astonishing six million dollars. Paul‚Äôs personal life is barely addressed in this book, perhaps because his twenty years in Congress provide material for more than enough talking points. His twelve terms were marked by libertarian values, disputes with both sides of the aisle, and his critique of United States foreign policy and military spending. He‚Äôs a fascinating representative, and the book takes great care in bringing this controversial figure to life. His previous occupations as obstetrician and U.S. Air Force flight surgeon are addressed, as are his political travails and the ideological seeds of the Tea Party we know today. Though Paul is considered less of a leader and more of an ‚Äúintellectual‚ÄĚ father to the movement, he is also a bona fide dad to a famous Tea Party member -- Rand Paul, Kentucky Senator, who recently endorsed Mitt Romney.
‚ÄúThe Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism‚ÄĚ by¬†Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson¬†
In this balanced exploration of the Tea Party‚Äôs past, present and future, Harvard's Skocpol and Williamson look at the lives and perspectives of real Tea Party members, from those attending working-class town meetings to conservative elites. Their findings fascinatingly unveil the inner workings of an idiosyncratic but powerful movement, and the book breaks down the party into three long-standing conservative facets, which found footing during the Obama years: working-class conservatives looking for new leadership; conservative media outlets like Fox which "make viewers both more conservative and less informed"; and groups like Americans for Prosperity using this discontent to push extreme free-market ideas in Washington. ¬†Though obviously left-leaning, this book offers an incisive and clear-minded exploration and argument for compromise.