A new, liberal tea party is forming. Can it last without turning against Democrats?

A new, liberal tea party is forming. Can it last without turning against Democrats?

Grass-roots movements can be the life and death of political leaders. It’s a well-worn story now about how John A. Boehner, then House minority leader, joined a rising star in his caucus, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, in April 2009 for one of the first major tea party protests in the California Republican’s home town of Bakersfield.

It’s a well-worn story now about how John A. Boehner, then House minority leader, joined a rising star in his caucus, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, in April 2009 for one of the first major tea party protests in the California Republican’s home town of Bakersfield.

A little more than six years later, after they surfed that wave into power, the movement consumed both of them. Boehner was driven out of the House speaker’s office and McCarthy’s expected succession fell apart, leaving him stuck at the rank of majority leader.

The women’s marches that brought millions onto streets across the country the day after Trump’s inauguration — spurred organically through social media — opened Democratic leaders’ eyes to the possibilities.
 
Democrats are well aware of that history as they try to tap the energy of the roiling liberal activists who have staged rallies and marches in the first three weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

 

According to data collected by Erica Chenoweth at the University of Denver and Jeremy Pressman at the University of Connecticut, marches held in more than 600 US cities were attended by at least 4.2 million people.

What if they can fuse these protesters, many of whom have never been politically active, into the liberal firmament? What if a new tea party is arising, with the energy and enthusiasm to bring out new voters and make a real difference at the polls, starting with the 2018 midterm elections?