by digby

I'm getting a few lectures about how wrong it is for me to be so hard on the tea partiers because they are mostly good-hearted folks who hate the bailouts/outsourcing/corporatism just like the rest of us. But that argument makes me feel the same way I felt when people told me that Bush wasn't really that bad or that Rush is just an entertainer or that the rush to war with Iraq made sense. It's an awful lot like being told you can believe me or you can believe your lying eyes. I know what I see.

What I see of the tea partiers are a group that used to be called John Birchers or Buchanan Brigades or Perot voters (or when the Republicans are fully empowered, "the GOP base".) When they say they hate the Republicans it's because they are embarrassed by them for being losers, not because of any ideological differences they have with them. They aren't interested in ideology. They are interested in keeping the country from being destroyed by ... us. The details are irrelevant.

Amanda Marcotte says it very well:

Their complaints about the federal government need to be understood in terms of right wing speak, where very few beliefs are stated straightforwardly, but usually bundled up in a bad faith argument designed to give the intended audience a belief that the person is speaking from principle instead of prejudice. In other words, they flit around from one right wing argument about the feds and spending to another, because that’s not really what’s motivating them. That’s just the cover story.

I honestly think what’s going on is a big time identity politics temper tantrum, and unlike all but the worst kinds of identity politics on the left, it’s got very little attachment to policy outside of those policies that reinforce their identity politics argument. And that argument is that they are the Real Americans®, and the rest of us need to submit. Maddow and Rich kick around this idea of libertarianism, but that’s not really what’s going on. That gay marriage wasn’t a major issue with the CPAC voters says more about priorities than beliefs, so I hardly think it’s an endorsement of gay rights, for instance. It’s just that it seems small in the grand scheme of things, which is that they feel “their” country is sliding away from them and turning into something they don’t understand, and they’re pissed. They’re either weeping or sneering, but it’s not that they’re trying to advance arguments about what’s good for the country. They’re mostly screaming, “Me first!”

Read the whole post because she gets to something I don't think most people understand:

Right wing populists shut up and get behind Republicans when they’re in office. They only do this shit when Democrats have power, especially if the sitting President isn’t a member of their perceived tribe. What that says to me is that even as they preen around about how they’re not loyalists to the Republican party, that is in fact what they are. And the reason is that Republicans do the work of telling the right wing populists that they’re the only real Americans. And that’s what matters to them more than anything else.
I'm not going to second guess myself about these people. I know who they are. I've known them my whole life. This is not something new, it's something very, very old. I give them the respect of taking them seriously because they are organized around nothing more than the destruction of liberalism and their political vehicle is the Republican party. They can be very powerful. All the rest is a smoke screen.