[…] a lot of people are beginning to understand that to be a freak is an honorable way to go. This is the real point: that we are not really freaks at all — not in the literal sense — but the twisted realities of the world we are trying to live in have somehow combined to make us feel like freaks. We argue, we protest, we petition — but nothing changes.
So now […] a handful of ‘freaks’ are running a final, perhaps atavistic experiment with the idea of forcing change by voting. — Campaign wallposter, Hunter S. Thompson for Sheriff (1970)
The times, they have a-changed. Only a fool can deny the deep resonances between Thompson’s Southwestern libertarianism and the Nick-Gillespie-chronicled Tea Party longing to restore America’s honor while keeping America weird. Yes, the hotbed of classical American political activity stirred up by the Tea Party — fanaticism, careerism, opportunism, quixoticism — can make matters confusing. No, the typical tea partier would not huff ether or eat LSD, not even to prove a point about how messed up American priorities have become. But the Tea-centered confluence of ‘freak power’ and ‘rube power’ — to use those terms not much more or less ironically than Thompson would — reflects a momentous, gathering realignment of once-disparate, and even opposed, constituencies.
To date, only one thing stands in the way: the smearing of the tea party as a movement of crazies. Not just freaks, rubes, or weirdos, mind you, but kooks — unjustifiable diehards for unpopular causes, professional losers, fast-talking swindlers, cranks who live off of campaign donations and speak to the press as if reading aloud from The Big Book of Mind-Rotting Catchphrases.
Indeed, anti-tea-party voices are already congealing around the narrative that the Tea Party is powered by these people — that a vote for Tea is a vote for Crazy, and that any decent American freak or rube had better throw in with the liberal sex vote in the first case and follow union orders in the second.
This is clever, in the way that a cornered rat is clever, but it is wrong. The great untold story coming out of the O’Donnell upset is that, right now, a bean and cheese burrito could win a GOP primary by running as a Tea Party candidate. The presence of a few suboptimal candidates reveals the colossal strength and momentum of the tea partiers, not some cankered weakness or ugly truth. It is the natural consequence of any precipitous success — whether in music, sports, or entertainment, whether in national-level politics or the criminal underworld…