On December 16, 2007, on the two-hundred-and-thirty-fourth anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, Ron Paul, congressman and Presidential candidate, presided over a nationwide fund-raiser. This was a new tea party, with a new slogan: “Liberty is brewing.” In Boston, hundreds of Paul’s supporters marched to Faneuil Hall. Paul himself appeared in Freeport, Texas, where organizers had prepared barrels for him to dump into the Brazos River. One barrel read “United Nations”; another read “I.R.S.” The campaign raised more than six million dollars in one day, which was a record, and the event prefigured the protests that became common as the Tea Party movement coalesced, in 2009. The movement, with its focus on economic liberty and small government, sometimes seemed like a continuation of Paul’s campaign for the Republican nomination, during which he won a great deal of attention and a modest number of votes. It’s not much of a stretch to call him the “Godfather of the Tea Party,” as his campaign literature does, quoting Fox News. Ron Paul was ahead of his time. Paul is running for President again this year, in a field that many Republicans find disappointing. And yet, while Paul is doing better, state by state, than he did in 2008, he has conspicuously failed to establish himself as this year’s Tea Party candidate. Polls have shown that voters who support the Tea Party are actually less likely to support Paul—some have gone for Newt Gingrich, whose denunciations of Obama are pithier, or for Rick Santorum, who is more forthright in his defense of “traditional American values.” In South Carolina, where Paul received thirteen per cent of the vote, behind Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Santorum, he did his best among voters opposed to the Tea Party. The Ron Paul movement has grown, but the events of recent years—the rise of the Tea Party, the fights over corporate bailouts, the messy passage of Obama’s health-care reform bill—have done surprisingly little to raise Paul’s standing among Republicans.
more from Kelefa Sanneh at The New Yorker here.