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The Great Recession broke American politics. Will the coronavirus pandemic make it worse?

A man wearing a mask poses as demonstrators protest Covid stay at home orders in Wisconsin on April 24.
Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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  • Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz

Senior reporter

Rick Santelli, a walking embodiment of bridge-and-tunnel finance, hit a fever pitch on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade during a CNBC live shoot on Feb. 19, 2009, a few weeks after president Barack Obama’s inauguration in the midst of the largest financial collapse since the Great Depression.

“Why didn’t you put up a website to have people vote on the internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages?” Santelli demanded. “This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? President Obama, are you listening?”

The rant is often cited as the catalyst for the political movement that became known as the Tea Party. But this explosion did not begin after the government began bailing out the financial sector five months earlier.

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