That sort of mind-set has a history of giving rise to two sorts of broader movements. It can create a populist movement, which seeks to tame power elites, demonize foreigners, turn government over to a new crew, etc. Or it inspires self-improvement modes that have political import but are not fundamentally political (the various Great Awakenings in America, or the self-help gospels of Norman Vincent Peale). The rally was an interesting mix of both strands. In his day job, Beck rarely misses an opportunity to rail against politicians, especially those he deems socialistic or progressive, and there’s no mistaking Sarah Palin on any podium as a politician. Yet more strong at this event was the self-help dimension, the idea that self-transformation was the key to a larger group transformation. A lot of that seems to stem almost directly from Beck’s facility with and embrace of 12 Step rhetoric. In some sense, the rally was a giant AA meeting (I don’t mean this snarkily), flush with the notion that whatever else is going on in the world, you can control some portion of your own life…

The organizers and the attendees are not part of the Leave Us Alone coalition. In some ways, they are proto-libertarian: they want the government to spend less money and they seemed wary of interventions into basic economic exchange (nobody seemed to dig ObamaCare or the auto bailouts or the bank bailouts). But they also want the government to be super-effective in securing the borders, worry about an undocumented fall in morals, and they are emphatic that genuine religiosity should be a feature of the public square. Which is to say, like most American voters, they may well want from government precisely the things that it really can’t deliver.