Sarah Palin at a Tea Party rally in Iowa
Courtesy Reuters

As proudly patriotic as it is, the Tea Party is not exceptional -- or at least not in the ways it likes to think. The angry conservative group, which accuses U.S. President Barack Obama of betraying the constitution and driving the United States toward “European-style” socialism, epitomizes a libertarian strain of thought and action with deep roots in its country’s past. The same alarm -- that the United States needs protecting from a leviathan state supposedly alien to the cherished values handed down by the Founding Fathers -- has been raised by the Liberty League in the 1930s, by the John Birch Society in the 1950s and 1960s, and by the Christian right from the 1970s to the present. Grassroots activists who embraced that credo propelled Barry Goldwater to the Republican presidential nomination in 1964 and Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980.

But subtract the colonial-period costumes and

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