In a recent interview, Wolf said of the Tea Partiers, “They were stepping up to the plate, when my own liberal privileged fellow demographic habituates were lying around whining.” Liberals, she says, in words that sound like they belong on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, have “a cultural problem with self-righteousness and elitism … We look down on people we don’t agree with. It doesn’t serve us well.”
Part of it is “authenticity, ” an idea with a weird appeal in recent American politics, especially for liberals. Many admired and trusted John McCain in 2000 and later, not because they agreed with him but because he seemed real, and his fits of ill temper made him even more appealing, until suddenly one day he just seemed like a tired Republican hack. Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger and briefly even Mike Huckabee had a similar appeal, while Mitt Romney suffers as their opposite. And there’s no doubt about the Tea Party movement on this point — they do say what’s on their minds. The appeal is also probably related to the inevitable let-down after the high energy of the 2008 presidential campaign. As we settle into the dreary compromised reality of actual governance, we need a hit of the intensity and passion of 2008 — there’s only one place to find it, even if that place is a wholly owned subsidiary of a Republican lobbying operation.
And finally, it may be that, now that even the New York Times has recognized that “identity politics” is not a liberal vice, but today involves the special claims of white American identity against the complex and diverse actual country (a point this magazine made two years ago), finding allies among Tea Partiers is the equivalent of what finding a black friend was to liberals in the 1960s. It’s a way to get in touch with the real America, to feel a little superior, a little less elitist or isolated, less wimpy, less conformist.
I am so fucking sick of the authenticity thing. What exactly makes a welfare-supported retiree with a misspelled sign about “exremism” more authentic than a union worker calling his Congressmen to support health care reform?
But you already know the answer: being well-informed and reasonable is a sign that you are out of touch, regardless of your income, educational level, age, gender, or race.