The Freikorp or “Free Corps” in immediate post-World War I Germany were organized groups of demobilized soldiers from the Kaiser’s Imperial Army who beat back an attempted Communist takeover in 1919. They were soldiers to be sure but not officially part of the army, which was discredited in the aftermath of a losing war and upheaval in German society.
One could say the Tea Parties were a sort of “Freikorp” of persons nominally Republican who didn’t want to associate themselves with a discredited Republican Party in 2009. Ultimately as 2010 came around they acted with the party structure but often times independently, running candidates in party primaries for example. Fox News pundit Brit Hume was right in saying by doing this the Tea Parties gave the GOP a legitimacy with right voters once again.
However, one would like to think all demonstrations and political activity had more meaning than making John Boehner the Speaker of the House. From some initial moves, gestures and statements in the news recently, there’s indication Tea Party activists and members of Congress intend to at least try to maintain their independence.
Some of these include freshmen members passing up plum appointments on the Appropriations Committee, to Tea Party organizations attacking the Claremont Institute for their freshman-orientation (I agree with you Eric Erickson, I think Claremont’s neocons and Lincoln idolaters are, to coin a phrase, “winguts” in their own way), forcing Mitch McConnell to flip-flop on an earmark ban for fear of setting off an intra-party struggle (although its a bad move in different ways) to Rand Paul pleasingly calling for cuts in the defense budget, (although one wonders if voters around Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell are wondering “Is this the Rand Paul we voted for?”) forcing a knee-jerk reaction from John McCain about “isolationism”
Freshmen in Congress are like freshmen in college. They’re away from home, perhaps for the first time, and buffeted by all sorts groups, persons, fads and the like designed to draw their attention and interests. Whether or not these members (a huge class, 85 new Republicans in the House alone) proves to be a base backed up by the Tea Partiers for a revived antiwar movement as Justin Raimondo potentially foresees is unknowable. Its hard to say how any freshman member will turn out in a few years (a good chunk of the freshmen from the “Republican Revolution” class of 1994, instead of changing Washington, joined it.) or what an event like an attack upon Iran would make of them either. The Tea Parties were populist reaction to the Panic of 2008, not something with an organized set of beliefs. And as anyone who attended such rallies (from myself to Medea Benjamin or Lew Rockwell.com fans) will attest, they had a very nationalistic/Jacksonian bent which made it hard to argue that the “empire” was a big reason for the bad economy. All that aside, the initial tea offerings show the independent spirit still alive and well.