What was the tea party?

Like the early Tea Partiers, many voters are drawn to Trump not for principled reasons or a coherent policy agenda but because he serves as an outlet for their anger and frustration. Public trust in government has been declining for decades across the political spectrum. The Great Recession and its bailouts confirmed for many Americans, liberal and conservative and moderate, that government does not have their best interests in mind.

The GOP tried to capture the Tea Party, and to some extent it did. But it failed to assuage its anger—arguably, it made things worse. In their recent symposium against Trump, the editors of National Review claimed the Tea Party represented “a revival of an understanding of American greatness,” understood as liberty through constitutional limited government, “an understanding to which Trump is tone-deaf at best and implicitly hostile at worst.” That no less a Tea Party icon than Palin is now endorsing Trump seems to be a sign of the movement’s dissolution. Jim Geraghty mused that perhaps the Tea Party isn’t just “splintered and weak. Maybe it’s dead.”

Maybe so, but the emotions that first animated the Tea Party are still very much alive. And the message of those early Tea Partiers is more or less the message of those now throwing their support behind both Trump and Sanders: We are angry, and we will not be ignored.