Alas, Tea Partiers, you may as well fold your tents and quietly leave the field. Salon (a website that apparently caters to members and would-be members of the national elite) has given your movement the coup de grace. They have uncovered the cruel truth that your movement is a "Southern" movement. No more need be said. The taint is ineradicable.
According to Salon, 67 per cent of the supporters of the movement come from the South. They also hint darkly that the teenage level percentages of "Tea Party" support that come from the Midwest and West are probably people cursed with Southern blood in their family tree. (This is probably true. It is also likely that some of the adherents in the South are Rust Belt refugees.)
For readers of Salon, the fact itself is decisive and conclusive. Whatever comes from the South, in this case populist resentment of the federal government, is beyond redemption by being identified as Southern. They can count on a good part of the public to react on cue with the same automatic hostility and disdain.
What Salon reports neither surprises nor frightens folks down this way. Every populist movement in American history has come from the South. There is no other kind. In America, anti-government populist movements are always conservative—they look back to a past better time and they have a Jeffersonian suspicion of government. The South is the only part of the country that has a historical memory that goes back more than a week and that still contains something of original American feeling.
However, Salonites need not worry. People's movements in this country are invariably taken over by slick operators from above the Potomac and Ohio who turn them into commercial ventures. (This happened to the campaign that grew around Judge Roy Moore of Alabama for his stand against federal obliteration of the Ten Commandments.)
Speaking of numbers, it is reported that after the recent carnival in the federal city, the public approval of Congress has fallen from 27% to 14%. The only thing curious about this is—Who are those 14%? My guess is people who keep sports channels turned on all the time. The number of people, mostly Chronicles readers, who are intelligent enough to know that party conflicts are meaningless for the fate of our country are to few to show up in the numbers.
Clyde N. Wilson is a contributing editor to Chronicles. A retired professor of history at the University of South Carolina, he is the author of numerous books, including Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew and Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture. He is the editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun.