Not long after the tea party sprang into being in the spring of 2009, America's elites started vilifying the movement. In an article worthy of a class-action libel suit, The New York Review of Books depicted the tea party's first march on Washington as a parade of bigots.
Ex-president Jimmy Carter spit venom at tea partiers by saying they resented an African-American president -- a baseless charge of racism willingly echoed by the media.
When they weren't being defamed as racists, tea party supporters were described as irrational, enraged, seething, and livid. Constituents at town hall meetings who rejected the superficial Democratic Party talking points and demanded answers instead of political spin were portrayed as mobs on the verge of riot. At the very time that real Muslim terrorists were planning a record number of attacks inside the U.S. right under their noses, political apparatchiks in the Department of Homeland Security warned ominously of imaginary right-wing violence as the nation's newest terrorist threat.
When the elites weren't depicting their fellow Americans as out-of-control racists and anti-government zealots, they tried to downplay their social and political importance. They did so with a demographic attempt at marginalization; the tea partiers, they said, were too old, too white, too middle class to matter in contemporary America, and thus could be safely ignored.
This liberal critique of the tea partiers -- a dangerous mob, but of marginal importance in post-racial America -- is a curious paradox. Why fear and loathe a movement said to be narrow in its views and scope?
The answer was given to us in a remarkably prescient book, Christopher Lasch's "The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy," posthumously published in 1995. The noted historian, whose intellectual journey carried him from the left in the '60s to the populist right by the '90s, would have been giddy over the tea party.
Lasch believed the only hope for American democracy lay in a revival of the middle class, particularly what were once known as middle-class virtues. The book title is an explicit ironic commentary on Jose Ortega y Gasset's 1932 (first English translation) classic: "The Revolt of the Masses."
Ortega famously argued that a materialistic mass population had no self-restraint, only takes from its civilization -- in contrast to the elites who still sacrificed for the greater good. Lasch's point -- and mine -- is that roles are now reversed. It is the elites who are the materialists and the tea party/middle-class American who is prepared to sacrifice for our grandchildren's freedom and prosperity.
The very idea of virtue, and other absolutes, has fallen into disfavor with the elites.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.