The Disenfranchised

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and his vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., arrive at
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, left, and his vice presidential running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., arrive at a campaign rally Sunday, August 12, 2012 in Mooresville, N.C. at the NASCAR Technical Institute. (AP Photo/Jason E. Miczek)

Why is the Tea Party so angry?

In the past, I argued that it was anti-modernism, but they deserve a more nuanced analysis that pays closer attention to what they are actually saying and doing.

Let's see who they are and what they see themselves facing in America today. They are white Protestants. When I was a kid in the 1950s, you knew that they were the majority, knew that they were the true Americans. And it wasn't just the rich ones, either. If you were middle class or below, you could quietly, even subconsciously, bask in the knowledge that it was your country, that you had the dominant voice, and everyone understood and respected that reality. There were rules and an order to American society, and you were on top, irrespective of where you lived or what your income was.

This is beautifully captured in the movie, The Good Shepard. Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), a CIA executive, is negotiating with an organized crime figure, Joseph Palmi (Joe Pesci). Palmi inquiries, "We Italians, we got our families and we got the church. The Irish, they have the homeland. The Jews, their traditions. ... What about you people... what do you have?" Wilson calmly, bluntly replies, "The United States of America, the rest of you are just visiting."

And that dominance in now gone, and not just because of the Democrats or Barack Obama. This is what is so infuriating, causing the outrage. From being top dog, they are now being marginalized. And not just by their enemies, but by their own leaders as well.

The Democratic Party left them by the 1970s. No news there. But now the Republican Party has abandoned them.

Look at their last administration. George Bush gave us a huge increase in entitlements and blew the debt sky high, endangering children and grandchildren. Exactly the issues they are most concerned about. The NASCAR president, one of their own, also brought on a false war and was a bumbler.

Above all, look at the 2012 Republican ticket. A Mormon and an Irish Catholic. Not just any Catholic. An ethnic Catholic to boot.

This is the first time in American history there is no white Protestant on either major party's ticket in a presidential election. And the Supreme Court has no Protestants on the bench, either. Totally without precedent, these lineups only portend the future.

Add to this demographic changes, epitomized by Barack Obama. Whites are already a minority in some states, and may soon be nationally.

So white Protestants are lashing out. At Barck Obama, above all, but also at the Republican Party for betraying them. This explains why so many members of that party's establishment have been handed the door at the polls, quite ungraciously.

White Protestants are in the same position as the British in the 1950s. Formerly the greatest of the earth's great powers, they now held second-rate status and kept losing colonial possessions and becoming still weaker. Our cousins simmered, deeply and fundamentally resenting a change they could not reverse and that demoted them terribly.

In this country they're not going to take it so gently. White Protestants are very, very angry, and they're lashing out.

Yet these trends will continue, so they're only going to get madder and madder. We will see them overthrowing tradition and dominating the Republican Party, some wacky episodes, and some much worse before this subsides. They will not go quietly.