Continuing the Tea Party theme, let's take a trip back in time to 2009. Obama and the House leadership had just introduced health care reform legislation, a baby step toward a system of universal coverage. Recognizing hardcore communism when they see it, the right sprung into action against it. Members of Congress and their masters in the insurance industry set the right wing Noise and Rage Machine (which I imagine looks something like this) in motion. The leaders of this collective bowel movement came up with the brilliant strategy of telling dumb, confused, and mostly elderly white people – who would eventually become the Tea Party core – all kind of ridiculous crap and encouraging them to go to Democratic representatives' town hall meetings to yell at them. Thus were we entertained for several months by videos of absolutely incoherent people boiling over with rage, waving misspelled signs, and berating hapless members of Congress. The GOP and their allies on the right patted themselves on the back and had a good laugh. Ha ha! Look at Arlen Specter squirm.
The screaming-and-waving people continued to be useful until the day after the 2010 election, at which point the (now majority) GOP expected them to return home and quietly await future instructions from Eric Cantor and Glenn Beck. The problem is that some of these people aren't quite as docile as our economic and political elite need them to be. Tea Party Tim really means it and Plutocrat Pete can't control him. Because many of them are so old, they're now angry about plans proposed by Paul Ryan and other Republicans to gut Medicare and Social Security using the Trojan Horse of Austerity. So this spring, the angry mob came back to the town hall meetings – Republicans' town hall meetings – and offered another round of full-throated disapproval. Paul Ryan himself, golden boy of the Beltway elite, puked up talking points to a chorus of boos.
In 2009 most of the Democrats took their medicine and waited for the furor to calm down; eventually it became possible to appear in public without things turning into a complete circus. So the Republicans are following their example and doing the same thing in 2011.
Ha! No, just kidding. They're charging people to get into town hall events. You know, to keep out the riffraff. That's not surprising from a group of people whose idea of "making it" in life is to live in a gated community and who see the social contract as a process of crossing the bridge into the promised land and burning it behind them.