Paul Greenberg

But the movement does serve as a useful scapegoat for kneejerk liberals, or is it kneejerk progressives by now? Not too long ago, the Tea Party was being convicted, without benefit of trial, for the deranged attacks on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and prominent friends at Tucson.

But the Tea Party is more a random collection of dissatisfactions than any kind of conspiracy. It's hard to imagine its having come into existence if the politicians -- of either major party -- inspired much confidence. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. And the Tea Party fills one. At least with indignation.

When political parties don't respond to public discontent, more or less spontaneous political phenomena like the Tea Party will arise. No matter what they call themselves -- populists, progressives or just patriots. And no matter what the country's more sedate class calls Those People, they have earned a hearing. They have something worth saying, and even heeding. Even if it's only: Enough!

A phenomenon like the Tea Party doesn't come from nowhere, but out of an instinctive understanding of where we are, whither we are tending, and that it is time to turn around.

To think of the Tea Party as just an economic phenomenon is to demonstrate a lack of historical perspective. And a general insensibility to the current American mood. Which is what led the Democratic Party to its comeuppance in the last midterm elections.

There's a reason Nancy Pelosi is now the former speaker of the House, And why the Democratic majority in the Senate led by Harry Reid is now much slimmer. Both leaders embody the hubris and historical amnesia (the two tend to go together) that invite a rebuke from the electorate. Sure enough, the voters delivered it last November. And may do so again the next.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.