Has the sweet smell of Freedom been marred somewhat by the odor of fear and suspicion?

Today the Tea Party movement has been hosting their much-hyped Tax Day protests. Just as I’m embarrassed when I see an alleged left-wing/liberal/progressive protester adorned in silver body paint ranting about the benefits of a vegan diet and how he or she wants to “heal the world with hugs,” I hope there are some Republicans out there today cringing, wondering what in the hell is happening.

Time seems to have a pretty good idea of what is going on: to use Alex Altman’s words, the Tea Party is out today to display “their freedom-soaked brand of political pageantry.” Altman’s article, “Palin Rallies the Tea Party Ahead of Tax Day Protests,” is quite entertaining, if only because it appears to be the writings of a man who has, as many of us have, grown weary of Palin’s “signature blend of acerbic jabs and winning folksiness.” The fact that Altman chose to be as playful with his language as he is makes one wonder how seriously he takes any of it at all, and good on him. Treating Sarah Palin and the Tea Party as serious subjects for journalistic study legitimizes them. The Iraq War is serious; Health Care reform is serious; a bunch of angry Americans waving placards littered with misspellings and screaming that Obama’s body is the vessel for the foul spirit of a Nazi war criminal… less so.

Even the Tea Party itself seems worried. The Associated Press is reporting that they are “anxious about extremists.” It’s odd — a movement that seems whipped up into a fanatical, conspiracy-laden rage by the neo-Marxist fascism of the Democratic Party has now turned its glare on itself: “The National Tea Party Federation is urging rally participants to point cameras at anyone acting obnoxious or hateful. The intent is to reprimand true tea party activists, disavow fringe followers or reveal the people as plants by opponents.”

It’s no easy task to win on two fronts, without and within. How much ground can you gain when you have to continuously turn around and make sure your army hasn’t devolved into a pack of savage racists and bigots or to ensure spies haven’t infiltrated the ranks and begun to exert their own brand of influence? Hopefully little, if any.

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