What do Tea Party Republicans actually want? They claim an end to Obamacare, but that was roughly as realistic as wishing that cold was hot. With a Democratic Senate and a president named... Obama, it just wasn't going to happen this term. That's simply not a rational objective.
But I don't think that's really what they crave. I think they're after something a lot more primeval. Deep down, what they're after is more basic, and not a standard political goal achieved by conventional means. In truth, they're spoiling for a fight. Not a debate, not a polite disagreement, but a donnybrook, an oversized, old-fashioned blowout with slugging and real pain and real casualties. Not something achieved by carefully thought out strategies, but a brawl resolved by fists or worse. A fight!
Why this anger? To these folks the stakes are as immense as any patriot could imagine.
There is an apocalyptic twinge that has been running through Tea Party rhetoric for some time. Over and over the refrain comes out in some variation or another, "I want my country back." The latest version came at a rally in New Jersey, where Sarah Palin campaigned against Cory Booker's run for the Senate. Denise Williams, a retired schoolteacher of 64, explained that she was there because, "I want my grandkids to grow up in America." Clearly that is no longer a given. The stakes are that high.
From that vantage point, this really is a national turning point. They're not fighting for or against a bill, or a candidate. There're fighting for America. They're fighting for the Constitution, for the founding fathers, for the vets who won World War II, for General Motors cars and Coca-Cola drinks and Sunday barbecue, for everything they feel makes up this great country. And it's all being destroyed and dismantled, transformed into something horrible and foreign. You're damn right that's worth fighting for. Conventional schemes are worthless; it's time to roll up one's sleeves, be a red blooded America, and retake what's theirs.
Take a look at this country and what it's gotten to. We have a black president with a Muslim name. How in God's name is he supposed to represent America? Foreigners are flooding in, taking handouts, and so many are voting they could be setting the terms for the rest of us, passing laws our children have to obey. Marriage, the most fundamental institution there is, has been turned into a perversion by the U. S. Supreme Court, may they rot. And our mortgage went under water when the recession hit, and all the bankers did was get extra big bonuses and no one was ever arrested. Is that the fair play America is famous for?
Of course it's not, and some folks -- lots of folks -- are so mad they want to fight. Not because it might help them win, not because it's part of a thought out strategy, but... because!!!
This also explains why Ted Cruz has been the leader of this movement. He's never set an agenda that had a tinker's chance of winning. But he sure can gin up a crowd. If you're in a rage, try and name one politician of any party who expresses your feelings better than the junior Senator from Texas. Rand Paul is a milquetoast by comparison. Ted Cruz talks like he's ready to get out his dukes and start punching. He's captured their spirit perfectly.
This isn't a pretty state of affairs. The country has been through this once before, or at least one section has. During the Civil Rights movement, white Southerners felt this exact way. Segregation wasn't a series of laws to them; it was the basis for their entire way of life, every aspect of their economy, their society, their culture. Everything. And the black rabble and the Yankees were overturning that. Just like now, for millions of Americans, it was the end of their world.
We all know about the bombings and the beatings, but forgotten is what happened when James Meredith tried to become the first African-American to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Meredith had the full sipport of the federal government, and they came expecting trouble. Lots of trouble. There were hundreds of federal marshals and officers assigned to guarantee Meredith access, and truckloads of tear gas.
It wasn't nearly enough. In response, the largest, most violent outburst to try and gut a federal order since the end of the Civil War broke out, with several reporters and bystanders killed, and over a hundred marshals injured.
None of this was ever planned, according to several thorough examinations by historians; it was totally spontaneous. A friend of mine who was a graduate student at another university nearby said that that most of the male, white students ringed he main campus circle, five and more deep. All night cars would pull up, and boys would just pile in; they were going down to Oxford to deal with Meredith.
In the long run, it was as foolish as Ted Cruz's jeremiad on the Affordable Care Act. The folks protesting Meredith could never win. The federal government had immense power and could, and did, bring in the U.S. Army to settle things down. Reality triumphed.
But it didn't matter. What they really wanted was a fight. And they got it. Just like now.