Not all marches on Washington, however, have pursued populist goals of economic justice. In 1925 and 1926, members of the Ku Klux Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. They protested threats to the Protestant religion and the white race posed by communism and immigration. These echoes seem to resonate in the current tea party slogans about birth certificates, immigrants and Muslims.

The tea party leaders disavow any racist appeals from their ranks. But historically, whether it was the JBS or Goldwater, the radical right has often had a soft spot for bigots.

When the tea partiers say they are true conservatives, there is no reason to doubt them. They stand in the conservative tradition of the radical right — a movement of the haves and the well-protected who, since the time of FDR, have feared that their freedom will be lost if the government extends a hand to the have-nots and the unprotected.