From a purely sociological and psychological perspective, I would have to agree with the recent assertions by Frank Rich in The New York Times regarding the true meaning of “take our country back”, which has been the battle cry of the Tea Party Movement.
The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.
The week before the health care vote, The Times reported that births to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in the 12 months ending in July 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority. The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded.
The country has changed in that we are even more of a meritocracy today than at any time in the past. Women, minorities, gays, Jews … all can now work on Wall Street, in law firms, start businesses, and enter the market without being run out of town. Merely being one of the boys isn’t enough anymore. The level of shrillness is nothing but the last, desperate gasps of an aging demographic group left over from a time when America meant apple pie and baseball for some and lynchings, beatings, and disenfranchisement for others.