These should be happy times for liberals and the Democratic Party as a whole. They control the White House and both houses of Congress, while opposition Republicans are leaderless and lost. So why do some Democrats, particularly those farther to the left, appear so angry?
If you doubt it, just watch a few minutes of MSNBC, where the recent nationwide series of "tea parties" to protest federal spending and taxes set off an angry, almost manic response. The most telling came April 16 on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown," during which the actress Janeane Garofalo, who plays an FBI computer geek on "24," denounced the tea parties as "racism straight up."
"Let's be very honest about what this is about," Garofalo said. "It's not about bashing Democrats. It's not about taxes. ... This is about hating a black man in the White House."
Garofalo linked the tea parties to what she described as a peculiar feature of the conservative brain. "The limbic brain inside a right-winger, or Republican, or conservative, or your average white-power activist -- the limbic brain is much larger in their head space than in a reasonable person," she explained. "And it is pushing against the frontal lobe. So their synapses are misfiring." (The limbic brain is the deep portion of the brain that mediates, controls and expresses emotion.)
Now it's possible Garofalo was joking; she used to do comedy. But she didn't SEEM to be joking, and her comments were consistent with a long and dishonorable history of attributing political conservatism to mental abnormality. And as she spoke about the alleged anger on the right, Garofalo herself seemed visibly angry. Why does a virtually powerless opposition apparently trouble her, Olbermann and so many others on the left?
I asked William Anderson, a friend who is a political conservative, a medical doctor and a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard. "They are angry, but I think they are also scared, and I think it's because they have a sense that their triumph is a precarious one," Anderson told me. Democrats won in 2008 in some part because of the cycles of American politics; Republicans were exhausted, and it was the other party's turn. Now, having won, they are unsure of how long victory will last.