Book Review: “Boiling Mad” by Kate Zernike

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 at 7:19 am

You’d have to have been sticking your head in the political sand to have not heard about the American Tea Party.

Furthermore, you’d have to be pretty apolitical to have not developed an opinion regarding said Tea Party.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you really have any idea of what the Tea Party is all about.

For my own part, I am a Tea Party participant. I’m not a hard core mover and shaker, but I’m also not merely a passive spectator or silent “supporter”. I silently supported the movement, sorrowed to have missed a Lincoln event, and finally rejoiced to have heard of an event in time to participate. I gathered together a group of friends, bought poster board with which said friends could make posters, and took the group with me to a Fourth of July protest.

My participation had to do with protesting an out-of-control government seeking to federalize, regulate, and tax every element of life. I protested because I wanted (want) a limited government, a government that pays attention to the people it supposedly represents, a government that sticks to its job without sticking its nose in everything else. That’s what the tea party meant to me.

But ask the Tea Party protestor next to me what the Tea Party is all about and you might get a completely different answer. Ask the silent supporter whose only connection to the movement is watching and agreeing with Glenn Beck on FoxNews and you might get still another answer.

The Tea Party movement is diverse ethnically, regionally, and ideologically. It’s not easy to define.

Kate Zernkike does her best to delve into this hard-to-pin-down movement in Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America. To a Tea Partier such as myself, Zernike’s inability to empathize with the Tea Party movement is apparent. It’s obvious that she has no love for this movement and cannot comprehend the feelings behind it. Nevertheless, she tries admirably to maintain objectivity.

Boiling Mad describes some of the major organizations involved in the Tea Party movement, shares vignettes about dozens of different Tea Party activists, and details a few of the elections in which Tea Party activism played an essential role. It does a good job of describing the popular-level diversity of the Tea Party movement—and the grassroots organization that made the Tea Party movement effective.

I can’t say that Boiling Mad was my favorite book. Zernike’s forced objectivity quickly became tiresome—and her insistence on speaking of the Tea Party in the past tense was beyond frustrating. Nevertheless, Boiling Mad did a decent job of covering the Tea Party phenomenon without making ideological statements regarding it.


Rating: 2 stars
Category: Current Events
Synopsis:Zernike attempts to describe who the Tea Party is and what makes it tick.
Recommendation: It might be the best book of it’s kind, but only because objective reports of the Tea Party movement are hard to come by. Apart from the author’s frustrating inability to empathize with Tea Partiers and the persistent use of the past tense in referring to the Tea Party movement, this isn’t a bad intro to the Tea Party phenomenon.


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Reader Comments (1):

  1. Janet says:

    Imagine writing a book about a movement you don’t understand or empathize with. Sheesh.

    I liked reading your thoughts on this one.

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