It irritates members of both when I note the similarities of the Tea Party movement that swept the nation in the 2010 election and the peace movement of the late 1960s and early ’70s — but they’re similar.
Both represent the surge in political activity by hundreds of thousands, even millions, of previously uninvolved citizens. Both focused on what are undeniably central political issues: war and peace, the size and scope of government.
Both initially proclaimed themselves nonpartisan or bipartisan, but quickly channeled their efforts into one political party — the peace movement in the Democratic Party, the Tea Party in the Republican Party.
But new movements prove troublesome for the political pros. Peaceniks and Tea Partiers naturally want presidential nominees who are true to their vision. They’re ready to support newcomers over veteran incumbents who’ve voted “the wrong way.”
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Tea Partiers will grouse if Romney is nominated. But maybe they need patience and perseverance. One lesson of history is that a movement can reshape a party. Another is that it takes time.