United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada recently told Matt Lauer in a televised interview that the Tea Party would fade from prominence and eventual existence as soon as the economic recovery reached a satisfactory level of prosperity. Whether Senator Reid was channeling early American history or not, his prediction about the modern Tea Party movement coincides correctly with the chronology of the original Tea Party in pre-revolutionary times.
The original Tea Party arose in the streets of Boston in response to a succession of British taxes. The rallying cry was, as every elementary school student of history knows, “no taxation without representation.” The Tea Party reached its apogee with the dumping of tea into Boston Harbor to avoid the British tea tax. Although recent historians have questioned the independence of the Tea Party and wondered whether Boston merchants were responsible for its organization and promotion, the Tea Party lore – and the Tea Party facts – is that these men were patriots in the vanguard of the American Revolution.
The colorful history of the Tea Party was in fact very short-lived. Once the level of hostilities between the colonies and the British spread from New England throughout the Atlantic seaboard, the leadership of the American movement steadily evolved into the hands of the men we now know as the Founding Fathers. The Tea Party itself, and its leaders, became less prominent as matters became more confederate and complicated. Without predicting the longevity of today’s Tea Party, the historical precedent from which they look for their name and their rallying cry is that of an important but short-lived movement. This may not be what the Majority Leader had in mind but it is an historical precedent for his prediction.