In 1964, Richard Hofstader wrote The Paranoid Style in American Politics. As I was re-reading his survey of American political history, this caught my eye:
“The anti-Masonic movement was a product not merely of natural enthusiasm but also of the vicissitudes of party politics. It was joined and used by a great many men who did not fully share its original anti-Masonic feelings. It attracted the support of several reputable statesmen who had only mild sympathy with its fundamental bias, but who as politicians could not afford to ignore it. Still, it was a folk movement of considerable power, and the rural enthusiasts who provided its real impetus believed in it wholeheartedly.”
Just substitute “tea bag” for “anti-masonic” and you have an apt description of our time.