I've been wondering for a while now what is connecting with ordinary right-wing people in the "tea party" protests - why do they care that people making more than $250K should pay about 3 cents more on each dollar over that amount than they are now? Especially when that doesn't come into effect until next year, while the other 95% of us are seeing relief in our pay stubs right now?
I understand how people upset about government spending could be against the stimulus bill, particularly if they don't believe that government spending creates jobs or creates demand to keep businesses afloat (such as the recent purchase of thousands of vehicles from the Big 3, at a time when average consumers aren't buying). I'm not qualified to discuss all that, but I will say that Paul Krugman and Nouri Roubini have made a lot of sense this year and have been right about many of their predictions.
But I totally get how people who get their news from one source - Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh, or Michelle Malkin - could respond to a call to action. I haven't followed the "astroturf" accusations because I'm interested in policy, not politics; but the only way tea party protests make sense is if you realize that they are driven by the GOP ruling class. There is no rational policy being proposed - anywhere. Meanwhile, Republican political operatives are very good at filtering reality to their best advantage, at giving people impressions that support them while withholding facts that counter them. They think they can channel negative emotions against their political opponents.
In a political environment that is seeing a dramatic diminishment of the religious right's cultural wedge issues and their ability to pull people to the polls, the GOP is attempting to co-opt issues that led to excitement among Ron Paul supporters. They think that anti-tax and anti-government sentiment can return them to power again so they can loot the treasury for their friends and squeeze even more blood from the stone of the middle class. The Republican party is looking for their next wave of mind-controlled foot-soldiers.
I have to think that most people remember how the so-called fiscal conservatives behaved when they last ran the government - it really wasn't so long ago - and that's why tea parties are relatively small, compared to the sixties civil rights marches and gay pride parades (for example).
While the people following the instructions on how to create tea party protests in their own communities most likely believe they are standing for something, the elites in charge are catching names and e-mail addresses and hoping to replace campaign rolls thinned by the waning of the religious right.
I hope that the working stiffs among us (including myself) will finally realize we don't have a dog in that fight, and start promoting policies rather than politics. Some intellectual consistency is needed in our political debates, and it's needed now more than ever - consider it a civic duty.