THE BLOG
09/14/2010 05:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Understanding the Tea Party, in New York and Nationwide

Last year, I asked my colleague Doug Schoen if the Tea Party was real, and he explained why any skepticism about the movement's impact was misplaced. As he recounts in his compelling new book -- out tomorrow -- Doug knew, from the beginning, why the Tea Party would have a very real impact, nationwide as well as here in New York.

Indeed, GOP voters in New York will likely nominate a Tea Party-inspired candidate to face Andrew Cuomo this fall, with polls showing Carl Paladino virtually tied with the insider candidate, Rick Lazio. And that's a direct result of Tea Party support and mobilization.

As Doug and Scott Rasmussen describe in Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System, the Tea Party is giving meaning to many of those among the growing legion of independent voters who've been wishing for a new way to self-identify.

And what makes this new book a must-read -- surely, the definitive account of both why the Tea Party emerged so fast and so strong, as well as why Tea Party candidates will change the face of American politics whether or not they prevail on election day -- is the reality that our daily news cycle is in many ways driven by the Tea Party.

The blended and independent-minded ideology of many Tea Partiers proves a generally conservative movement can still attract liberal support. The basic tenet of the Tea Party seems to be a rejection of government-as-usual and the right vs. left ideological base.

This unusual DNA for a political movement has stumped plenty of political insiders, as reflected in the early skepticism of the Tea Party's sustainability. This new book explains why, and how, the Tea Party is a legitimate political influence, using research and poll data that is far more influential than opinion.

For all the talk of the "liberal media," the media is most fundamentally addicted to conflict and good stories. By staking out unusual positions -- some may call them radical, though in many cases they're just non-traditional -- the Tea Party provides a narrative tailor-made for new media.

Even the most established media organizations are obsessed with how to engage their consumers -- readers and viewers -- with so-called user-generated content such as home videos and even columns like this. So think of the Tea Party as a user-generated political movement.

Republicans and Democrats have been around for ages; Tea Partiers are new. And that's critical for the "new" in "news" to really be news.

As Mad as Hell reminds us, the Tea Party represents the reality of American political shifts: populist movements always directly result from economic distress.

Mad as Hell methodically explains the creation and evolution of the Tea Party, with critical observations about how the movement will continue to influence American politics. This is a definitive account, and required reading.