A showdown like the ones we’re seeing in state capitals across the Midwest has been building since the idea of a tea party movement was born on a Chicago trading floor.
It’s fitting that union members began amassing in, and Democratic lawmakers fleeing from, the Wisconsin state Capitol within days of the second anniversary of CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s now-famous, on-air tirade from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Santelli, you’ll recall, ranted about federal bailouts and then called for “a Chicago tea party” to protest them.
Two months later, tea parties were held nationwide, and American politics was transformed. Just ask any member of Congress who was involuntarily retired last year by the voters.
The tea party caught on as a popular movement in large part because, in the aftermath of the financial panic and the bailouts and the stimulus, the common American taxpayer looked around and realized he was the only “special interest” without a seat at the table. The tea party