Countering mainstream media depictions of Tea Party hardliners behind the government shutdown as irrational or delusional, Salon‘s Michael Lind lays out what he believes to be the movement’s cohert meaning:
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The Tea Party right is not only disproportionately Southern but also disproportionately upscale. Its social base consists of what, in other countries, are called the “local notables”—provincial elites whose power and privileges are threatened from above by a stronger central government they do not control and from below by the local poor and the local working class. They are the lords of the local car dealership, country club and chamber of commerce.
For nearly a century, from the end of Reconstruction, when white Southern terrorism drove federal troops out of the conquered South, until the Civil Rights Revolution, the South’s local notables maintained their control over a region of the U.S. larger than Western Europe, turning the South into a nation-within-a-nation within U.S.