The book of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament tells the story of how Israel asked God to give them a human king like the nations around them. Soon after, Saul was made the first ever king of Israel and so began the long tradition of people wanting to led by people that they could identify with.
There has been a lot of ink shed by political analystsÂ over the past 18 months trying to figure out what the driving force is behind the political backlash against the current leadership in Washington from the political right, especially from the Tea Party movement. A lot has been made of the sputtering economy and the unpopularity of the health care bill passed last year, and while both play a part in the debate, I don’t think either are at the epicenter of the firestorm we’re seeing played out in the media day after day.
In November on 2008, a perfect storm happened that left a major group of America’s population in a position where they simply were unable to identify themselves with the leadership in Washington. According to the latest stats from the Pew Forum, the largest religious group in America is Evangelical Protestants, a group that is 81% White non-Hispanic. Ever since the Moral Majority took the stage in the 1980′s this group has also increasingly viewed the Republican party as the true “Christian” party while seeing the Democratic party as the “non-Christian” party at best, and the anti-God party at worst.
So here after the 2008 elections you have this perfect storm where the largest single demographic in America woke up to a completely Democratic government led by a President who, for the first time in the history of the nation, didn’t share their skin color. If that wasn’t reason enough for a backlash (which it would have been in my view), the fact that this happened to take place in the midst of two wars and the worst economic situation we’d seen since the Great Depression should be more than enough to explain why a movement like the Tea Party was inevitable; people want to be led by leaders they share a common identity with.
In a week I fully expect the newspapers to be filled opinions about how the economy was the big story in this election, or how the Tea Party was a clear referendum against the current administration’s agenda. Don’t be fooled by the hype, the real story here is not a battle over ideas, but a battle over identity.