The politics of personality disorders: Tom Junod on the Tea Party as a coalescence of resentment.

A few weeks ago I wrote that there might not be a Tea Party if more Americans treated their elders with love and compassion.

Tom Junod has written a lengthy essay for Esquire teasing out the central role that retired and well-to-do Baby Boomers are playing in the Tea Party movement:

The Sore Winners are easy to find. They are most visible at their flagship, Fox News, which dominates both cable news and the political conversaton and yet is always embattled, defending itself against the heathen. They are loudest not only on secular talk radio, but also in Christian broadcasting, which tells its listeners that a nation that remains a nation of Christians rather than a Christian nation is a nation that has turned against them. This is not to say, however, that the Sore Winners are strictly a political phenomenon, manipulated, as some would have it, by their masters in the media or by the money men from Wall Street. No, what makes the Sore Winners such a force in American politics is that their anger is so personal.

…Worrying about what someone who doesn’t think about you thinks about you: this is the essence of Sore Winnerdom, and it is no accident that it also the essence of the Republican animus. The Republican party was small and hidebound — the party of country-club corporatists, and the range-war West — until, with the Reagan Revolution, it began grafting unto itself the legions of the disaffected: the Christianists, the Southerners, the blue-collar workers displaced by the collapse of America’s industrial base and estranged from the unions that failed them. The Tea Party, in this sense, is not a new development so much as it is part of an ongoing migration of the perpetually petulant, a political phenomenon grounded in a demographic one: the creation of a class of baby-boom retirees who have been deprived of meaningful work but given personal computers as Christmas presents. The skin on the Republican Party’s “Big Tent” is by definition thin, and under it gathers a volatile throng of people with nothing in common but the fear that outside its environs someone is laughing at them — or simply having a better time.

Emphasis mine. When politics gets personal it’s no longer about politics – the good of the many – but rather about the needs of the individual.

I’ve previously noted this nexus between our lack of regard for mental health and our political culture: on James Dobson, on behavioral economics, on its antecedents in the 1950s as explored by Sean Wilentz and broached by Matt Taibbi.