The South’s Lesson for the Tea Party

Mr. McDaniel had all the bona fides of an old-time demagogue. He was once a conservative radio talk show host who dabbled in ethnic innuendo. He made appearances before neo-Confederate organizations. When Mr. Cochran solicited votes in the runoff from black Mississippians, Mr. McDaniel’s supporters vowed to monitor polling places in black-majority precincts, a move reminiscent of old-fashioned Election Day intimidation.

Tea Party spokesmen, as well as the Republican establishment, complain that the movement was unfairly trumped by a race card. Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster working for Mr. Alexander, says the movement isn’t racist, but rather it represents people “who are economically pressed, who feel betrayed, who feel leaders in Washington caused their housing values to decline, for their retirement accounts to plummet.”

But that’s precisely the point, and the hope, for those worried about the Tea Party insurgency. What looks like a mounting wave may have reached its crest this year, running up against the many Southerners — white and black, liberal and conservative — who know well how such passions were once perverted by demagogues.

NYTimes
8/12/14