Several candidates associated with the so-called “tea party” movement have triumphed over established candidates in Republican primaries. It is a message to the party caucuses similar to the balloting in our last elections. But the exception is that these are primaries, and the new Republicans, due to their extreme positions, will be less electable in the general elections than the Democratic candidates. Or maybe not.

Where did this rebellion come from? From the general conviction that America’s elites have failed on one hand and will take care of themselves on the other. Which is not incomprehensible. Consider the financial crisis: debt as far as the eyes can see, and an administration which, in many people’s opinion, promotes measures which only make matters worse. And the only ones who are prospering in this misery are bankers and lawyers. Then it only takes a minor media event to make a good illustration of how much the elites are “out of touch.” Obama’s clash with Joe the Plumber shows that he is not interested in wealth creation but redistribution. Or the sight of Barney Frank, the perennial congressman responsible for budget and bank regulation, arguing for a one-dollar senior discount when purchasing a ticket.

And then you have a movement with an old tradition like the Gadsden flag, from the time of the war for independence (a serpent with the caption “Don’t tread on me”), which activists have made into a logo. It professes lots of peculiar ideas and also takes seriously the American notion that people are supposed to govern themselves. This time, moreover, they have learned from leftists, the ideologues of social pressure. No one knows to what extent they will succeed, fall apart or be co-opted. But the question which especially European observers ask — who propped them, and who is directing them behind the scenes — is very un-American.