The Revolution In Zanesville, Ohio

A snapshot of the mood out there among the older and the whiter crowd, as the race for the Republican Congressional nomination intensifies:

On a night when the U.S. Constitution was king, the Second Amendment was praised, and abortion and the separation of church and state were scorned, candidate Dave Daubenmire of Newark threw the most fireballs and received the loudest applause.

Best known because of a bitter battle with London High School officials over his religious activities while teaching and coaching football, Daubenmire said he didn't want to "just go occupy Zack Space's seat. I want to lead a revolution." "I don't know about you, but I want my country back," he said.

From all I can see, the Tea Party movement is not simply about the size and scope of government. If it were, it could be a useful force in our politics, if it only spelled out honestly how to balance the budget without raising taxes. (Even Rand Paul won't be drawn on specifics.) It is a movement about identity politics, in which the US Constitution is an emblem of a certain demographic, and that demographic is as much about the Christianist right as it is about fiscal responsibility. Gingrich hit the two pillars of what they hate: "secularism" and "socialism."

Secularism isn't atheism; it is the principle that religious disputes and political disputes should be regarded in separate categories, for fear of unresolvable sectarian conflict (i.e. culture war). Anti-"socialism" means ... well I'm not sure what exactly. Abolition of social security? Medicare? More tax cuts? I wish I knew.

I don't think it has any real traction or coherence apart from a cultural revulsion against modernity, a majority-minority country, separation of church and state, and an abstract loathing and suspicion of anything to do with government. When they offer us some concrete proposals or policy options, I guess we can make a judgment as to the impact on the GOP. But right now, it feels like a primal. and somewhet elderly, scream.