Busy today trying to catch up on grading and get ready for a talk later this week, so let me toss this out for comment. Blue Texan observes:
All Together, Now: The Tea Party Isn’t About Economic Insecurity, by Blue Texan: In his op-ed today, the normally razor sharp Frank Rich makes the same mistake I keep seeing over and over from the chattering classes.
Don’t expect the extremism and violence in our politics to subside magically after Election Day — no matter what the results. If Tea Party candidates triumph, they’ll be emboldened. If they lose, the anger and bitterness will grow. The only development that can change this equation is a decisive rescue from our prolonged economic crisis.
Anyone who thinks the Teabaggers’ unhinged “anger and bitterness” will subside in the face of an improving economy really needs to take a closer look at objective polling on the Teabaggers and review the 1990s.
The ’90s was a time of economic prosperity, but because there was a Democrat in the White House, the far-right was in full freakout mode. Back then, Clinton/Gore’s black helicopters were coming for their guns and right-wing “patriots” like Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph roamed the countryside.
But they weren’t called the “Tea Party.” They were the Angry White Men.
These angry white men are one legion in a grassroots movement that has rewritten the political equation of the 1990s, and in the process helped to transform the Republican Party … An army of conservative grassroots groups has mobilized middle-class discontent with government into a militant political force, reaching for an idealized past with the tools of the onrushing future: fax machines, computer bulletin boards, and the shrill buzz of talk radio. They have forged alliances with the Gingrich generation of conservatives and strengthened their hand as the dominant voice within the GOP family.
Sounds familiar, yes? It’s the same crowd.
Polls have shown that Teabaggers are lilly white and well off. They’re not the people getting kicked out of their houses by the banksters. They’re not unemployed. They’re not bearing the brunt of the Great Recession. They’re just doing what they do when Democrats are in charge. Obama’s death panels and FEMA camps have replaced Clinton’s black helicopters.
And of course, the fact that this president’s middle name is Hussein and he’s Muslim and black, well, that’s just a few extra scoops of nuts on the wingnut sundae.
These are John Birch Society types, and the crashing of the global economy — a direct result of the plutocratic “free market” [sic] orgy they helped usher in — is just a convenient excuse to act out.
That’s all it is.
I think this is true to an extent, but not the whole story. There are various flavors of populism out there right now, and this is true for the most prominent, tea-flavored. But I also think that there is dissatisfaction with economic prospects for the future among other groups that is very real. Even when there are "Angry White Men" dominating the discourse, it can still be the case that "it's the economy, stupid."