Steve, good comments on the Tea Parties, but some of the other reactions were appalling in their stupidity. The worst comments were by Rick Perlstein because he could have done better. His Before the Storm is one of the best books about modern American conservatism, though Nixonland was a major disappointment. It is as if the following things happened:
1. Perlstein fell into a coma the day after Obama's election.
2. He woke up on April 14, 2010 and was told that there was a right-leaning protest movement opposing Obama's policies.
3. He was kept away from all media and personal contact that might have given him specific knowledge of the Tea Party phenomenon, except for being informed about somebody saying something about keeping the government off their Medicare, something about Glenn Beck on the cover of Time, and some cliches about Democrats being wimps.
4. He was ordered, on pain of lots of pain, to recycle the least thoughtful, most partisan tropes that had appeared in his earlier work and to treat his subjects as a group of homogenous, dehumanized, villainous caricatures.
In one sense it wasn't the worst of the essays. It was more a confession that partisan passion had crippled his ability to think about contemporary center-right politics. The award for worst comments might go to Paul Butler, who is able to find racist attitudes in the racist things Tea Partiers don't say because, "This is how educated right-wing people talk about race in the age of Obama - by not talking about it." They didn't say racist stuff, which just shows how racist they are. I won't say that this is how educated left-wing people talk in the age of Obama, because I don't doubt that many left-wing people have kept their sanity, integrity, sense of proportion, and appreciation for robust public debate. The inability of Paul Butler and Rick Perlstein to comment about an opposition protest movement without despicable insinuations and mindless dismissals reflects personal failings. I'm glad they worry about paranoia, extremism and bigotry. If they paid better attention, they would see an example of how those awful vices can twist a human mind every time they looked into a mirror.