Last week, while I was watching a YouTube video of the September 12 “Tea Party” march on Washington—between my amusement and disgust—I was struck by more than the ignorance, racism, and piety, I was most impressed by the anger. The marchers were not minorities, young radicals, or those who have marched for the rights of gays or the unborn—not like we’re used to seeing. They were Boomers and Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation.” They were against anything with President Obama’s name attached to it and took extreme liberties in modifying his name on their placards and posters. But it was not at all clear what they wanted—what they were for. When interviewed they mostly stumbled to take a position or articulate a point of view on any issue. They were just plain mad. They were white and over fifty. They were like me. Well, sort of.
Introducing: The Anger Party, committed to devolution!? Notwithstanding a few bigots, racists, and evangelical misfits, these are mostly good people—patriots chanting “U-S-A” who are concerned about the future of America and, moreover, their position in it. They represent the angry margin that was once the center of American culture. The country they knew, or thought they knew, has changed. And they are scared. They blanche at the term “revolution,” although they embrace the historical notion of a tea party. What they want is devolution; they want power taken away from our federal government and things put back the way they were. Most claimed the Republican Party, but many more claimed no party. They are the newly disenfranchised. They are the Anger Party.
Our Founding Fathers worried about this and struggled to produce an organic Constitution to allow for self-correction. They strived to protect us from our “errant selves” and warned us of the danger of “factions.” More recently, Fareed Zakaria illustrated our slide toward an illiberal democracy in The Future of Freedom and argued for a rebalancing of liberty and democracy before restoration becomes impossible. It was clear to him, as it is to more of us now, that our form of collective action—our government—serves the few at the expense of many. The Anger Party just wants to be put back on the list of the few.
While it is unlikely The Anger Party will prevail—especially without any sense of mission—the sentiment they represent (when you strip out the ugliness) is real. It’s legitimate. And, it’s a harbinger of things to come. More people will become angrier more often as those who help themselves continue to ignore that they were elected to help others too.