The tea party was over, we thought. Not quite a decade old, the right-wing populist movement that once seemed poised to be an enduring force in national politics had burned out, overtaken by a more virulent strand of populism led by President Donald Trump.
But when Trump dismissed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and named Mike Pompeo as his replacement, it was hard to deny that, in some ways, the tea party is at the apex of its power — even if, paradoxically, it is an establishment power. And it might be out for blood.
Pompeo’s ascent underscores just how many politicians who came to prominence with the tea party, including Vice President Mike Pence, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, now occupy powerful positions in Trump’s administration. Depending on how far Trump goes to try to remake the GOP in his image, tea party alumni may form the core of a new Republican establishment.
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