Greenwald asks:

I'd really like to hear what it is about Christine O'Donnell, or Sharron Angle, or any of these other candidates that sets them apart from decades of radical right-wing elected officials who came before them?

I think what the tea-partiers would say is that they are for real - that, unlike Bush, they won't spend the country into oblivion, that they won't bail out the banks, that they won't pass unpaid-for 6a00d83451c45669e2013487613f8d970c-800wi entitlements, that they actually will make sure that abortion is illegal, that they will round up illegal immigrants and enforce the border, and will not pretend that we are not fighting Islam in a civilizational war. And that they will refuse to raise taxes even if it means the most radical dismantlement of the entitlement state since the New Deal.

Now you can argue that this kind of extremism was always part of the picture, but the Rove method was to use these convictions, not actually share them. Bush increased spending radically, added a huge unpaid entitlement to the next generation, pandered to Hispanics, favored immigration reform, did nothing to prevent legal abortion, felt awkward demonizing gays, pretended he wasn't torturing prisoners, did not kill enough Iraqis, and made a major point about not having a fight with Islam as such. The base wants to get rid of any of these nuances and get the real thing.

It isn't class snobbery. It's the difference between those who use far right convictions and those who actually hold them. That's why Palin's chief campaign tool was a Down Syndrome child. It proved that she was serious about banning all abortion because, unlike Rove, she really believes it's murder. It's authenticity. And once unleashed, it's very hard to stop.

(Photo: O'Donnell supporters exulting on primary night. By Mark Wilson/Getty.)

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