You look into the eyes of these people when you talk to them and they genuinely don't see what the problem is. It's no use explaining that while nobody likes the idea of having to get the government to tell restaurant owners how to act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the tool Americans were forced to use to end a monstrous system of apartheid that for 100 years was the shame of the entire Western world. But all that history is not real to Tea Partiers; what's real to them is the implication in your question that they're racists, and to them that is the outrage, and it's an outrage that binds them together. They want desperately to believe in the one-size-fits-all, no-government theology of Rand Paul because it's so easy to understand. At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart.This yearning for simplicity, this primitivism, this fear which expresses itself in a rage against the Other, against those forces that push and pull us in ways we neither understand nor like, is certainly much of the attraction of the Tea Party and its candidates. Fear an oversexualized culture? Christine O'Donnell is there insisting that even masturbation should be subject to a disciplined life. Confused about the tax system? Rand Paul is there saying you are overtaxed. Wondering why there seems to be more concern for so many in places other than where we live, where we are hurting and afraid? So many candidates are saying that illegal immigrants are taking our jobs, our tax money in the form of public education for their children and emergency health care paid for by Medicaid.
It isn't that these answers are wrong. They kick against the pricks of our current reality. Yes, it is frightening that events in a far off country, perhaps one of which we had never heard, can end up costing us our jobs, our homes, our sense of security. This doesn't make it any less real; unplugging from this weird machine, while certainly an attractive possibility, isn't really tenable (regulating it in a more just, scrupulous, and judicious manner, however, is another matter).
Should the unlikely happen and the Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives (the Senate is just too far out of reach), the agenda for at least the next two years will consist of items that have nothing to do with the way our world is really constructed. We will wage fights, post items on FB and our blogs, on subjects that are, at best, tangential to the ongoing realities of economic stagnation and social malaise.
I am not saying that retaining a Democratic majority guarantees butterflies and rainbows. On the contrary, all the evidence from the past four years should convince anyone not yet convinced that, even at their best, the Democrats can be said to muddle through. All the same, the forces of reaction and fear, the desire to shrug off our contemporary lot for some idyll of our imagination is a recipe not just for disaster, but perhaps even collapse. So, we have the horrid choice before us - those who have the minimal virtue of keeping the worst of possible worlds from coming to fruition without making any progress; or, chuck it all and find ourselves staring in to a very real, very horrid abyss that stares back.