So accustomed have we become to media armchair psychoanalysis of tea partiers’ motives that it’s downright jarring to watch them for once being taken at their word. There’s almost a feeling of suspense as this rolls on: Sure, Matt Welch and Byron York and even Rod Dreher claim, either from firsthand knowledge or via trusted sources, that the rally wasn’t the freak show it’s being portrayed as, but the way this genre of right-wing-protest video typically works is to cherry-pick the most offensive signs and then pronounce the whole rally a Nuremberg by another name. When it doesn’t happen here, it’s like watching a cowboy movie that somehow doesn’t end in a shootout. Luckily, Marc Ambinder, speaking for pretty much the entire mainstream media, is around to fire his gun:
Logically, there is no way I can assess the collective motivations of 70,000 people in Washington, or the tens of thousands of people who showed up at other events across the country. And, in truth, I confess to having an inner Maureen Dowd voice — and not the snarky part of that voice — but the voice that tells me that these protests are proximately motivated by policy concerns. Ultimately, this voice tells me, they’re motivated by tremendous anxiety about the direction of history, and how it seems to be moving away from them — white, traditional, bounded — and toward something else — global, multicolored, unbounded, experimental. This is the Silent Majority, the neo-Bircherite majority, the reactionary id that resents affirmative action, ethnic integration and gays — the impulse that links government spending with help for poor black people. Direct racial animus against Barack Obama is not something that anyone ought to dismiss, as one look at racial aversion from 2008 shows.
You’ll get much the same vibe from this short piece by New Yorker bien pensant Hendrik Hertzberg. Feel free to ascribe to the mob any motive you like — racism, “nativism,” simple confusion — so long as it’s improper, illegitimate, and therefore conducive to dismissing their stated concerns about government bloat out of hand. Exit question: The most compelling part of this, I think, is the bit about how disgusted the protesters are with both parties. There’s room here for a third-party movement in 2012 a la Perot, but one which would probably guarantee a result similar to 1992 — i.e. a Democratic victory enabled by the indie candidate draining votes from the GOP. Is there anyone out there willing to risk that and go third-party anyway?