Matthew (The Persecution of Sarah Palin) Continetti's Weekly Standard piece "Two Faces of the Tea Party" observes that although "[t]here is no single 'Tea Party,'" there are "points of shared concern that support the overall structure." He lists them as follows:
First, the Tea Party is unified by the pervasive sense that the country is wildly off course. It believes the establishment has bent and twisted the rules for its own benefit. America, the Tea Partiers believe, is headed for a fiscal reckoning unlike any it has ever seen.
Second, the Tea Party is unified in opposition to the policies that it believes put America in its current predicament. It's opposed to bailouts, which favor the wealthy and connected. It's opposed to out-of-control spending at every level of government. It's opposed to an expansive state that subsidizes bad behavior while accruing more and more power for itself, opposed to a limitless government that nonetheless fails in the basic duties of securing the borders, regulating the financial sector, and keeping America safe.
Third, the Tea Party draws its strength from the American founding. It celebrates the Founders and their ideas. Tea Party members devour books about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams. They carry pocket copies of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. They believe strongly in the Bill of Rights, especially in the Tenth Amendment's admonition that all powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people. Their rhetoric invokes the constitutional vision of a limited government with enumerated powers.
The first is a misunderstanding (that fixing our problems will weaken America), the second a misperception (that liberal policies caused those problems), and the third a misinterpretation (that the Founders were conservative). The conservatives of the Revolutionary Era were the Tory Loyalists, who backed the British monarchy; the Founders were, comparatively, Enlightenment-driven radicals.
Continetti continues, "Beck is not simply an entertainer. He and his audience love American history:"
They are hungry for new ways to interpret current events. And Beck is creating, in Amity Shlaes's words, "a competing canon" of texts and authorities. This competing canon is not content to assault contemporary liberalism, but rather deconstructs the very foundations of the New Deal and the Progressive Era.
If only their new interpretations had some relationship to reality--but their "competing canon" is rife with Beck/Coulter/Goldberg/Schlaes-style Republican revisionism, driven by ideology and out of touch with the facts. Over at OpenLeft, Mike Lux asks "Are Compassion and Community Evil?" and takes aim at Glenn Beck's ridiculous (and widely ridiculed) assertion that Progressivism is a "cancer" that threatens to destroy America. "With increasing vehemence," notes Lux, "conservatives have begun to argue that kind-heartedness, compassion, and a sense of community are actually evil: that they lead inevitably to Nazism and death camps:"
The kind of people that [Ayn] Rand, [Jonah] Goldberg, and [Glenn] Beck are attacking - progressives - believe that our economy works better from the bottom-up, that making investments in jobs and education for poor and middle class folks is better for the economy than giving more tax breaks to the wealthy. Progressives believe that giving people some economic security and a hand up in tough times is what a decent society ought to do for its citizens. They believe that paying everyone a living wage, making sure everyone has a good education and decent health care coverage, builds a better, more productive society. Suggesting that these kinds of views lead inexorably toward Nazi death camps isn't just offensive: it goes against the fundamental cornerstone values of our culture and history. Declaring people who work for kindness and compassion as "leeches" on society twists morality into a pretzel.
He ends by writing:
So let me reassure my conservative friends: the fact that I care about keeping you from starving, freezing to death, and dying due to lack of good medical care does not mean that I eventually want to send you to a death camp. Although I do worry about your sanity a little.
Will any of them hear that message? Will they listen to it? Crooks and Liars' karoli makes a fine observation:
There was a time in this country where people as paranoid and self-focused as Glenn Beck were placed in a room with padding and round corners until the meds took hold.
Now they go on national television. Rupert Murdoch's epitaph should read "He mainstreamed crazy."