There are a lot of angles to criticize in Kate Zernike’s piece in the New York Times about tea parties. But there’s one point in the article that particularly jumped out at me:
What accounts for this gap between how they are faring and how they feel the country is faring? History offers some lessons. The poll reveals a deep conviction among Tea Party supporters that the country is being run by people who do not share their values, for the benefit of people who are not like them. That is a recurring theme of the previous half-century – conservatives in liberal eras declaring the imperative to “Take America Back.”
“The story they’re telling is that somehow the authentic, real America is being polluted,” said Rick Perlstein, the author of books about the Goldwater and Nixon years.
Liberal regimes tend to bring out these resentments, Mr. Perlstein said, because conservatives have equated liberalism in the popular mind with the expansion of government power, something that has always stirred distrust among Americans.
But while Zernike tries, with Perlstein’s help, to portray the “Take Back America” idea as some sinister right-wing phenomenon, the reality is that this sentiment is pretty typical of any ideological group that finds itself out of power.
It somehow escaped mention, for instance, that during the Bush years, the liberal activist group Campaign for America’s Future started holding an annual conference titled “Take Back America.”
Even more ironic is that one of the regular speakers at the conferences was none other than Rick Perlstein.