Everyone loves to hate Wal-Mart, but millions of people still shop there. In graduate school, my India-born finance professor reminded us why: because being able to drive a short distance to buy virtually anything you need is truly amazing. It’s something too many Americans take for granted, even though we are a consumer nation.
In fact, we’ve basically been a consumer nation from the beginning. We’re all taught “taxation without representation” was a key driver of the American revolution, but there’s a much simpler explanation. Our ancestors didn’t want the government telling them which products they could and couldn’t buy, and they didn’t want to pay too much (high tariffs) for them. Sound familiar?
This consumer story is the reason members of the modern Tea Party, whether they live in New York or New Iberia (it’s where Tabasco comes from), can relate to the same issues. So there’s still hope that the new Tea Party movement can bring together what is, basically, still a series of grassroots organizations. This problem is particularly important, because history suggests that without some sort of centralization the movement won’t last.
Ever hear of the tax-revolt movement during the New Deal? It really did exist, but it lacked organization and a clear-cut agenda. It’s fine to have a platform that calls for smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, and restoring the constitution. But this sounds too much like the Republican party. Although many Tea Party activists have started to confront this challenge, the movement still lacks a sharp focus.