"The Tea Party: A Brief History" by Ronald Formisano | Free Essay Example

“The Tea Party: A Brief History” by Ronald Formisano

Words: 1411
Topic: Literature


Formisano is an American political historian and the author of the concise book, The Tea Party: A Brief History. This compilation is one of the books that broadly talk about the Tea Party in the history of American politics. The books mainly talk about the rise of the Tea Party movement during a time in history when the American economy was in a crisis coupled with undergoing a cultural transformation. The book looks at how this scenario affected American politics. The party was also a major media attraction, and thus a book covering such topic is important to explore the party and its relation to American politics. This paper is a review of the book The Tea Party: A Brief History by Formisano.


The book starts by looking at the origins of the Tea Party in the national political scene. This occurrence is believed to have happened between 2009 and 2010, and it was powered by right-wing grassroots passion as well as Astroturf big money (Formisano 33). Formisano is interested in the definition of the term ‘Tea Party’. In the author’s view, the party is a conglomeration of organisations, hose policies hinge of the Protestantism that characterises the Christin faith. The party had an effect on the electoral politics and the American political process.

According to Formisano, the party had some challenges as its message, aims, and reasons for staying in power remained unclear largely due to the loosely organised groups. The activities of the media were driven by the attention of the media and the tendency of its followers to say and do outlandish things (Formisano 42). This aspect has also made many to divert their attention from its origins, agenda, and its influence in the American political arena. The rise of the party was occasioned by the incessant frustration of the common people, who double as the majority of the voters, coupled with anti-state sentiments within the American society.


The book mainly talks about the origin of the Tea Party that came to light in the American media and politics in 2009. Therefore, the title, The Tea Party: A Brief History is appropriate for the book as it informs the reader on what to expect. Other third parties and pressure groups have emerged in the history of American politics. However, many have not caught the attention of the media. This realisation elicits the question of why the Tea Party caught the interest of the media despite being disorganised. Formisano answers this question as he makes it clear that the party came up during a time of economic crisis and cultural change, hence the reason why caught the attention of the media.

In the book, the author uses suspense to catch the readers’ attention and probably make them read up to the last page. Many would expect Formisano to jump into answering questions on whether the third party will last or it will fade away. However, from chapter to chapter, the author revolves around the topic, but he does not give specific answers. A reader will only realise the cues after reading the entire book.

For instance, Formisano says that in American history, third parties, pressure groups, and social movements have come up to demand reforms and radical changes; however, they fade away after some time. In some cases, their programs or part of them are adopted. Regarding the Tea Party, Formisano says that it is not organised and the political leaders are leading it out of personal agenda. These assertions underscore clues that the party may not last for long; however, Formisano does not address this issue directly in the book.

Given that the book majorly centres on the genesis and growth of the Tea Party, the author examines the forces behind the formation of the party. He does this from a historical manner by looking at how third parties started emerging in American politics. Since the majority of the claims were from the grassroots, many would think that the party was genuinely from the grassroots. However, in a journalistic manner, Formisano explores how the party came up under the influence of corporate interests and billionaires.

He also looks at the future of the party broadly. He does not simply state that the party may not last; on the contrary, he uses experiences from the past to show how the party may fade away in the course of time. He also uses expertise to show that the issues raised are not the ideas of ordinary people by exploring different issues. This aspect makes the book interesting, and the readers will find fun in the way the author plays around with issues before answering hard questions in a simple manner.

The book is also written in a brisk and journalistic fashion. It is informative, and the author uses illustrations to make elaborations. For an ordinary reader, it becomes easy to understand the contents. The words are also matched with professionalism so that one does not need to have a dictionary to understand the contents of the book. Although the questions being answered are complex, the author gets it right through simple answers. The illustrations used to make the answers simple and clear, and thus readers will not need to raise more questions from what they are given.

However, one of the problems with the book is that the author has a negative personal take on the Tea Party. The analysis is prejudiced because the author keeps on defining the party as “astroturf”. This term implies that a party is simply a tool of a coterie of power-hungry influential individuals and corporations, which use it as a conduit to pursue their personal agenda. The term is used contrary to grassroots, which would mean that the party is pushing the agenda of the voters. The author does not concentrate much on the positive side of the party. He probably wants to show how the party has behaved over the years and how it may fade away just as it has happened with other third parties and pressure groups. Therefore, the author does not take a neutral stand about the party as he leans towards its negative side.

On the issues being raised by the party, the author does not give much attention to the same. He holds the belief that those supporting the party may not necessarily be sycophants from the opposition. On the contrary, they might be genuine Americans with pushing for accountability and transparency within governance for the well-being of every citizen. This assertion can only be best explained within the confines of an individualistic culture.

Therefore, the author does not see any good with the issues being pushed by the party. He says it is for their good rather than the goods of the Americans (Formisano 43). This criticism is unwarranted, as given the nature of the mature American political environment; such a party could not stand for that long and earn such great media attention if it were pushing for personal agendas. The author does not give credit where it is due because the party merits credit for catching the attention of the media since its predecessors have failed to do so.

There is also little use of evidence in the book. The author does not rely on primary and secondary sources since much of the content is about personal understanding and interpretations. Therefore, it may be difficult to trust such work as it does not relate with other scholars considering that American politics is one topic that has caught the attention of many scholars. Therefore, the author shows some immaturity in defining American politics. Therefore, the book needs the ideas of other scholars in a bid to become a masterpiece in American politics.


In the book, The Tea Party: A Brief History, Formisano explores the origins of the party, coupled with the motives and forces behind its formation. For those who have not read the book, it is important for them to do so as the compilation answers several critical questions that surround American politics. The book comes out as an important general collection, and thus it suits anyone with interest in knowing the different aspects that surround the American politics and the emergent parties. Unfortunately, the author takes a negative view of the Tea Party, and thus he gives little attention to the party issues. The author should have taken an impartial stand by presenting facts and letting the reader make decisions.

Works Cited

Formisano, Ronald. The Tea Party: A Brief History, Baltimore: JHU Press, 2012. Print.