Its members claim it is, and political reporters describe it as such. But the record says otherwise.

Take the recent race for governor in Virginia. The Republican nomination went to Ken Cuccinelli, the Tea Party favorite chosen not by popular vote in a primary – that was an option, but Cuccinelli and his Tea Party followers rejected it in favor of a closed convention, the old-fashioned party boss way.

Had there been a primary, chances are that Cuccinelli would have lost the nomination to Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, not considered conservative enough for the Tea Party bosses. (And who, if nominated, would by all odds have defeated Terry McAuliffe in the general election.)

But evidence that the Tea Party is simply masquerading as a populist movement doesn’t stop there. Beyond Virginia, there is the national Tea Party movement, spearheaded by the ideological harebrain Rand Paul, to repeal the 17th Amendment of the Constitution, which provides for the popular election of United States senators.

That is, the Tea Party would take the power to choose who represents the people in the United States Senate away from the people and put it back in the hands of state legislators.

The irony – or more appropriately, the hypocrisy – in all this is that passage of the 17th Amendment was and is considered the signature achievement of the grassroots Populist Party of a century ago.

Soundbite to Remember

“No, I took journalism. It was easier.”

 Jets quarterback Joe Namath on being asked by a New York sports reporter whether he had majored in basket-weaving at the University of Alabama (circa 1965)