What the Tea Partiers Want

What do the Tea Partiers want? The New York Times posts the question to several historians and analysts, and Rick Perlstein’s answer is worth checking out: “[T]hey are the same angry, ill-informed, overwhelmingly white, crypto-corporate paranoiacs that accompany every ascendancy of liberalism within U.S. government,” he writes in an angry column. They share the same “blithely narcissistic presumption that the vast majority of Americans (or, at least, ‘ordinary Americans’) must already agree with them” as reactionaries in 1993, 1977, and 1961. The differences, he says, are that the protesters are fewer in number than they were in years past; the media lacks the “moral courage and civic wisdom” it used to display; and thirdly, whereas past politicians “rhetorically stigmatized the shriekers,” Democrats today “proceeded from the suspicion that the shriekers might just have something important and useful to say about the broader judgment of the electorate.” The upside of Perlstein’s interpretation for the tea partiers? It means he doesn’t think they’re simply racists chafing against Obama.