Michael Lind has a fantastic column up at Salon. Lind is at his strongest talking about the political economy of the South, and here he provided great perspective on who at least part of the Tea Party is.
I say “at least a part” because I’m not sure how many of the Smaller Ponders (what I like to call Lind’s “local notables”) are actually out there. If we’re talking about the top 5% of the Southern states, that still doesn’t account for the other 20+% of the population that is Tea-identified, especially in other places.
So I don’t think the effects of AM radio propaganda and the general mental constitution of Movement Conservatism can be ignored. Rather, I think a huge number of Tea Party supporters have just become totally wrapped up in the comforting oversimplification of “government is always the problem,” the joy of self-associating with the Gipper and John Wayne, and, yes, a profound nativism and self-regard, and have been led astray by decades of propaganda that fed their prejudices.
After being induced into paranoia for so many years, these people really do consider Obamacare to be an existential threat to America, and our current crisis arguably stems from them insisting the GOP leadershp take their paranoia seriously.
Of course, this explanation and Lind’s aren’t mutually exclusive even within an individual, and I expect that my explanation dominates at the bottom of the income scale, Lind’s at the top, and they shade through each other as income rises. Taken together this is a pretty comprehensive explanation of the Tea Party, which everyone should pay close attention to.