10/03/2010 03:32 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tea Party in a Cuckoo's Nest

Remember One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (there were very few explosions or vampires in it so it may be difficult)? Specifically, the scene where "Cheswick" decides to take a stand over his confiscated cigarettes:

Encouraged by MacMurphy's flamboyant rebelliousness, Charlie Cheswick vents a marginally coherent but volcanic rage at the corrupted authority of Nurse Ratched. It is explosive, sloppy and ultimately a condemnation that speaks less to the institution's systemic insensitivity and more to the howling man's lack of self-awareness.

Given the perpetual fear/reward roller coaster of his world, Cheswick has committed his real but misguided passion to a fight which, by virtue of its vagary and volatility, can only end in his defeat. Had he been better able to articulate his anger in support of a more grounded and defined cause, he would have probably had a much better chance of getting his beloved cigarettes back.

Well, the Charlie Cheswick of political movements is similarly shrieking "no, no, no!", shaking its head with clenched eyes and urine-stained pajama bottoms and clinging white-knuckled to a populist delusion of oppression. To the degree that no Teapublican candidate has the credibility or intellectual capacity to offer any cogent suggestions as to ameliorating the problems plaguing this country without betraying an actual, palpable stupidity speaks less to the problems they cite than to the shriekers themselves.

The Republican party has thrown its legendary loyalty behind a cadre of low-brow would-be leaders, whose lack of ability and wisdom is paraded like a badge of honor to the mass of similarly adulterated disciples.

Of course, the joke is (as it has always been) that the angry horde being exhorted to go gloriously over the top are the very ones who will be shot (and in this case, in the back).

After a while, the strategy becomes as clear as "A Pledge to America" is muddled. It is a strategy that exploits the indoctrinated fears of the soon-to-be fodder and bespeaks the planners' own cynicism, desperation and, worst of all, cowardice.

Which comes as no surprise as bullies are invariably, for all their swagger, pussies.

And it's not only so-called progressive legislation that is being affected by the Republican's berserker tactics (legislation which would justly repair the eight-plus years of right-wing wrongdoing) but the Tea Partiers themselves, who, incredibly, fight against the very things they would benefit from, but who have obediently swallowed the pills and taken the shots their pretty masters proffer.

Master marketeers from Hearst to Murdoch, from Atwater to Rove have historically taken legitimate anger and focused it on mythical malignancies, amassing an audience not of citizens but of technology consuming, xenophobic, fear-addicts.

But today, the current crop of PR savants rely not just on the spinning of actual events but on agents who are themselves spun versions of American icons; the list (Carl "The Hit Man" Palladino, Christine "Hands Off The Meat, Infidel!" O'Donnell, Sharron "I Never Said That But I Did" Angle, "Dr." Rand Paul and "The Duchess of Doof" herself -- Sarah Palin) grows with every swallow of the machine's un-kool aid, and these would-be envoys are really kamikaze kandidate kooks who act on behalf of those who think that any regulatory mechanism which would presume to preserve the welfare of the citizenry (i.e., government) would impede their own profiteering interests.

At the end of Cuckoo's Nest, MacMurphy is dead, the inmates all resume their routine passivity and the shrewdly autocratic authority settles back onto its perch, once again vigilant against any uprising.

I suppose it's only fitting then, that the lone escapee from the asylum -- Chief Bromden -- is the one who in the larger sense had been oppressed the longest and suffered the deepest of all the inmates and who, having observed all intelligently, finally acted with the decisiveness and clarity that eluded the misguided fury of Cheswick's thwarted rebellion.

If Tea Party patriots could wrest themselves from the grip of their misleading leaders, they could learn a lot from this real American rebel in their midst, one who had the sense to fly over the cuckoos rather than do their bidding.