It's not just the US that's going crazy. We have Tea Party extremists and anti-immigrant nastiness, but now even Sweden, moderate, neutral, social democratic, has elected an anti-immigrant party to parliament. There are strong anti-immigrant parties in Holland, Denmark and Norway, and similar parties in Central and Eastern Europe. France not only has the National Front, but President Sarkozy's Roma removals pander to anti-immigrant anger.
The Middle East is in turmoil, driven by extremist actions of fewer than 5000 militants leveraging millions.
China's phenomenal growth drives changes globally. Mexicans and Central Americans stream northward, not an invasion, but a flood of desperate people, choosing between privation--exacerbated by American trade policy--and a better life that can be won with hard work. They generate anger in America.
The tea party movement expresses anger, frustration and fear. It taps into the zeitgeist. Our lives are changing, and for ordinary Americans they are not getting better. The Tea Party movement exhibits the extremism of a majority fearful of losing dominance: "We want our country back!" they scream. The KKK was a response to similar changes in the Civil War's aftermath. Then and now, elites used white anxiety to blame victims and ignore the perp--the elites. It isn't just the imminent specter of a majority of minorities; that's only what drives tea party fury. The movement expresses the economic frustrations of the non-elite: it shouldn't be ignored or dismissed.
Progressives should harness that anger. The economic takeover engineered by corporate elites, rationalized by "conservative" think tanks, its funders now funding tea party extremism, is the real reason why wages have stagnated, not just this year, but since the 1970's. Productivity since has increased almost exponentially, but through the Reagan counter-revolution and after, the tiny, wealthy elite at the top has captured its rewards.
That's why unions have been savaged; that's why "free" trade has exported our manufacturing base and jobs; that's why the "recovery" isn't creating jobs now; it's cheaper and safer to drive your fearful workers harder--or export operations to China or Poland.
No wonder people are angry!
Don't sneer at Sharron Angle or Christine O'Donnell. Democrats need to counter with emotional content of their own. Rational argument may support the Democrats' case, but doesn't convince angry people. What could: emotional appeals. Against the greedy, who demand an extension of high income tax cuts: block them and demand taxing Wall Street's rip-offs; unveil a big jobs program, a 21st century WPA; campaign against unfair employers for workers' rights; and promote fair trade that protects America and its workers.