Underlying all the Tea Party’s issues and complaints, it appears to me, is the entirely legitimate issue of the relationship between the individual and the federal government. But why would this concern about oppressive, intrusive government become so acute now? Why didn’t, say, government surveillance of domestic phone calls and e-mails get the constitutional fundamentalists all worked up?

I have to wonder what it is about Obama that provokes and sustains all this Tea Party ire. I wonder how he can be seen as “elitist,” when he grew up in modest circumstances – his mother was on food stamps for a time – and paid for his fancy-pants education with student loans. I wonder how people who genuinely cherish the American dream can look at a man who lived that dream and feel no connection, no empathy.

I ask myself what’s so different about Obama, and the answer is pretty obvious: He’s black.