As somebody who has been fascinated by the Tea Party movement, I wouldn’t for the world have missed this morning’s all-star panel entitled Tea Time: Can There Be a Populist Conservatism? Sponsored by the Hudson Institute and the Bradley Foundation, the panel threw out lots of big ideas: this is a movement that harkens back to the Founding Fathers; the U.S. Constitution is its key document; populism and conservatism can go hand-in-hand. Those are important, but I just want to mention one point that particularly struck me: these people read.

“You walk among these folks, and you hear them quoting Adam Smith,” said former congressman Dick Armey, cochairman of FreedomWorks, which does political organizing at the grass roots level. It was Armey who made the original observation that Tea Partiers are big readers. This isn’t their image. The press likes to portray them as ignorant, put them down as hicks, caricatured them as backwoods crackpots. But guess what? They are readers. The Tea Party is really composed of big-time readers. Based on my own experience, this is absolutely true. If the Tea Partiers do have an influence, it will be a kind of influence that is informed, deep, and based on knowledge of key documents in our nation’s history. ReadingWorks.