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Steve Benen, in an excellent analysis of the sloganeering that characterized Glenn Beck’s Besmirch MLK Rally yesterday, exposes the lack of substance behind the boiling Tea Party paranoia. Benen’s post, definitely worth reading in it its entirety, concludes:

The folks who gathered in D.C. today were awfully excited about something. The fact that it’s not altogether obvious what that might be probably isn’t a good sign.

According to Bill Lambrecht at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s “Political Fix,” St. Louisians who traveled to Washington D.C. to bask in the light of Beck, the self-anointed prophet, and his acolyte, Saint Palin, are equally worked up and just as vague about what it is that’s got them twitching.

One gentleman whom Lambrecht quotes melodramatically declares that “This is to wake up the people. The politicians don’t listen.” We should doubtless overlook the tang of sour grapes in this cri d’coeur – the outraged tone of those who thought that the Bush years, with their indulgence of the full range of right wing fanasy, would truly go on forever. That particular speaker though does seem to have awakened – albeit a few years too late.  He is concerned, Lambrecht reports, because he has “never seen the economy so bad”:

It’s time to stop Congress from all this overspending and these frivolous earmarks. I think we’re headed for a collapse of the economy if it doesn’t stop

Similarly, an equally clueless St. Louisian is quoted as saying:

I’m scared that where we’re going is not a good place,” … There is no good ending to this story unless we make a U-turn,” he added.

The fact that the economy collapsed some time ago – two years ago to be exact – due to the ministrations of those applying just the panacea of deregulation and tax cuts that folks like these gentlemen advocate, doesn’t seem to have much penetration among this segment of the population. Instead they seem to derive intense, almost palpable satisfaction out of railing against the very measures that have kept us from the deepest and darkest of economic pits. How could any thinking person want to make a U-turn right back to the Bush policies that put us in the very bad place we were in at the end of 2008?

What is really going on when you have a wildly energized group whose raison d’etre dissolves when examined closely? Several observers noted that the tone of the Beck rally was essentially religious. However, the St. Louis  attendees who were quoted in the Lambrecht article almost all seemed to locate their worries in the political sphere, And, although they might justify themselves by reference to religious beliefs, I strongly suspect that most of those attending expect to find solutions to their complaints in retrograde political action.

Am I the only person who finds this blending worrisome? On the one hand, you have easily led, poorly informed people, seething with discontent, expressing real fear and anxiety about something that doesn’t ever seem to quite materialize in an intellectually viable form. On the other hand, you have numerous interested parties feeding the group’s sense of self-importance with visions of super-patriotism, heroic defiance, and now, with the Glenn Beck crusade, a sense of religious mission. Am I the only one reminded of Father Coughlin’s incendiary radio broadcasts and his depression era Christian Front brown shirt wannabes?