David Brooks thinks so. But to link the tea parties to the ’60s left by way of Rousseau, he has to draw our attention away from the nationally disaggregate and locally-rooted character of lots and lots of the tea partiers. The recent tea party convention does underscore how the tea parties have been able to leverage themselves into prominence by giving a preexisting minor national movement a bigger stage. But the tea party convention must not be mistaken for the tea party phenomenon itself, even setting aside the internal and external debate over how organic or authentic the convention and its organizers may be. If anything is tempting tea partiers to coalesce around a handful of leaders stars, it’s not the emancipatory psychology of mass revolution — it’s a near-instinctive understanding that, now more than ever, celebrity equals publicity and publicity equals power.

That said, there really are serious overlaps between the Rube Power campaign of the tea partiers and, say, the Freak Power campaign of 1969-70 Colorado immortalized by Hunter Thompson. And Thompson distinguished himself from the rest of the radical left most spectacularly by being a romantic pessimist like Benjamin Constant, not a romantic optimist like Rousseau.

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