Tea Party movement: Will the populist movement succeed?

Walter Russell Mead looks at the Tea Party movement through the history of previous populist movements.

Elites and experts who know the system believe that this massive logjam demands carefully crafted, expert-led interventions. Wise policy wonks must rejigger the health care system; the scientists and the policy specialists must redesign the national energy structure to deal with global warming. They dream of intricate, finely crafted reforms whose beauty can only be appreciated by a few.

Populists hate this; they want big and simple ideas. “The end of welfare as we know it” is what they wanted, not a careful re-adjustment of caseloads and policies. They think that the experts and the ‘policy communities’ that grow up around various complex issues aren’t just dispassionate servants of the public good. They think that scientists and wonks also have agendas and ambitions. Furthermore they suspect on good evidence that whatever delicately balanced, intricately designed policy proposals go into the legislative process, something much cruder and more, well, porcine will inevitably come out at the other end.

This may surprise you – he is a lifelong Democrat! Actually populist movements are the common people who think common sense trumps all else and Occam’s razor applies in most cases. Remember, humans had the wheel long before they knew the circumference was PI times the diameter. Get in your time machine, travel back in time, and tell this important fact to a chariot builder. He would say, “So what?”

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