I opened up Michael Lind's article at Salon titled "The Tea Party and white Southern extremism" with a sigh. I'm sure it will be astute, I told myself, but at the end of the day it doesn't seem to matter. No matter how many writers and historians point out that the Tea Party is just the same old race-baited Bible-thumping white Southern fools that have been a pain in the ass of this country since its inception, the mainstream media won't listen, instead characterizing them as some bold new political force.
Makes you wonder if they all think Old Spice smells better now that it has better advertising.
But I tell you now, drop what you're doing and read this piece. In fact, bookmark it. Because while our mainstream media may have short memories that make them impervious to history*, they have a somewhat harder time trying to wiggle out of cold, hard statistical facts. And Lind has really marshalled the evidence to show that this "Tea Party" is basically the same old angry Southern right wing nuts who were so pissed about desegregation that they switched to the Republican Party (after begruding Republicans their votes for 100 years to punish them for the Emancipation Proclamation), and who have spent most of the post-Civil War period nurturing a culture where fundamentalist Christianity is wed to a general hostility towards the nation as a whole, which they disguise as "patriotism", though the cracks often show with their tendency to fly the U.S. flag next to the Confederate flag. In other words, the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, far from being some sparkly new nationwide phenomenon, is the same group of Dixiecrats that would rather burn this country to the ground rather than see it move into a more modern, progressive era.
But even these numbers understate how much the Tea Party is just a new name for the same old bullshit. After all, there has been a Southern diaspora, which is why you see Confederate flags and Bible-thumping Baptists popping up frequently in rural areas of the Midwest and the Northwest. As Lind recounts, many of the people classified as non-Southern hail, unsurprisingly, from districts that are heavy on the descendents of this diaspora.
Many of the other states with Tea Party representatives are border states with significant Southern populations and Southern ties. One is Maryland, a state with Confederate sympathies during the Civil War, which, because the Census Bureau defines it as "Northeastern," is responsible for the only Northeastern member of the Tea Party caucus, Roscoe Bartlett. The four Californian representatives come from the Orange County area or inland California, both regions whose political culture was shaped by Southern political culture, in the form of the "Okie" diaspora that settled there during the Depression.
I can hear the pissing and moaning and tantrum-throwing of conservatives thus exposed by these statistics, which will center heavily around "Nuh-uh!", as in, "How dare you suggest that just because Southern whites have disproportionately tried to fuck up everything great about this country, all because of their racial resentments and backasswards views on gender, that this could still be going on?"
To which I say, as always, dudes, I'm from Texas. Trying to pass off Southern white culture as more tolerant and less superstitious than it is might work on people who haven't spent a lot of time around the very people we're talking about—thus the baffling refusal to get it in the mainstream media—but it doesn't fly with me. I have a lot of years under my belt of trying to get through conversaations with your average Southern Joes without some offensive shit coming out of their mouths, and I can attest to what a Herculean task that really is. And while part of my reason for living in Austin was to minimize that kind of thing, it's not like we had a law banning assholes from living inside the city limits, as demonstrated by this picture I took during the 2008 elections of a house in my neighborhood.
Needless to say, I'm not fooled by lip-smacking denials about what it's actually like.
I think perhaps the problem was there wasn't a catchy name for this voting bloc before, and so now we're stuck with "Tea Party", even though, as Lind pointed out, the Tea Party caucus presence from the states that conducted the American Revolution is basically nil.
*Seriously, I saw the usually astute Eugene Robinson on MSNBC scoffing at the idea that Republicans might be looking for an angle to impeach Obama. His argument seemed to be, "Nah, why would we think Republicans would be extremist enough to concoct a bullshit reason to impeach a Democratic President simply because they can't stand the idea of him in office?" I suppose it has been a whole 13 years, and so it may as well have not happened. There's some kind of "Logan's Run" system going on with the memories of the Beltway media, except the lifespan of a memory we're allowed to acknowledge isn't 30 years, but somewhere closer to 3.