Glenn Beck is sunk into his chair, as relaxed as a Vito Corleone on the day of his daughter’s wedding. Sarah Palin sits at attention. Beck, the Rick Warren of the Tea Party phenomenon, is about to test the former governor of Alaska’s orthodoxy.

“Who’s your favorite Founder?”

“Uhh, well…y’know, well, all of them, because they came collectively together with so much diverse…”

“Bullcrap. Who’s your favorite?”

Palin looks into her lap, blubbers a bit, tries to work “diversity” into her answer somehow, then finally arrives at George Washington, Beck’s chosen Founder, as disclosed moments earlier. She has kissed the ring.

Palin’s January 12th interview with Beck was easily the most embarrassing  one she gave in the whirlwind tour of the Fox News studios that the half-term governor  undertook last week, which included appearances under Hannity and O’Reilly’s spotlights as well. The three biggest egos in Right Wing television, all vetting her at once; all part of Palin’s coming out ceremony to celebrate her premier as an official Fox News commentator, 

But it is Beck’s interview which was the most interesting, not for again revealing the thimbleful of substance contained in the oil drum that is Palin’s celebrity, but for his attempt to hogtie her and drag her into the strange cult of the Founding Fathers that has become the centerpiece of Beck’s Tea Party movement. Palin’s floundering answer, akin to her repsonse to Katie Couric’s crippling inquiry as to what magazines she reads, disclosed that Palin is no more interested in the puffed-up brilliance of the  powdered wigs that attended America’s birth than she is about the print media. But in Beck’s world, and the world of the tea bags, you are either with the Founders, or against them.

As mid-term fever heats up, expect ever increasing flashbacks to the Revolutionary War, and ever more D-list celebrities appearing in tricorns and cravats. This is because the beating heart of the conservative movement, Reagan worship, is now deader than disco. Conservatism has been vandalized beyond repair by the fiasco of Bush/Cheney and the Rubber Stamp Congress, its ego smashed by economic policies that could have been written by Kim Jong Il,  its conscience molested by waterboarding, Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. And though it is considered uncouth by both parties to give more than an over-the-shoulder glance backwards to the outgoing era, lest our full memory kick in, the conservatives are left with nothing to pride themselves on after nearly a decade of life in the Owner’s Box. They’d sought that grip on power for so long, but America was a dear, precious puppy, and their grip was that of  Lennie Small.

Fortunately, since the darkling usurper took power in the White House, the conservative’s have wasted no time in reinventing themselves. And their approach, while not entirely novel, makes up for its lack of ingenuity with its naked aggression. Our times are genuinely troubled. The nation, while not in a great depression, is in a genuine depression none the less. The homesteads are being seized while the rich dine on the People’s caviar. It is clearly not morning in America, and will not soon be. More than a smiling old man will be needed this time. A whiff of grapeshot is called for! We must return…to the Revolution!

This is the kernel, and more or less the full corncob, of the Tea Party phenomenon. Populist rage which should correctly be funneled at our entire government and its ossified parties, but funneled (naturally) by the party out of power into a campaign designed to return them to their rightful thrones, dressed up in the only garb of  dissent from our history that does not naturally polarize the masses, the breeches and stockings of the Minuteman. 

As one NPR commentator put it, we are seeing “grass roots with an expensive lawnmower.” Real public discord matched with empty patriotism, a vacuous grasp of history and a Republican party that thrives on both. How many of the tea bags know more about the Revolution, its origins or its philosophies than that there was a Boston Tea Party and, later, a Declaration of Independence? 

You can sense the dangerous nonsense the Tea Party effort could really become when you realize all that the Declaration of Independance contains for them. “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are imbued by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is the Tea Party shibboleth. That any words precede this statement, or that a great deal follows, is mostly an alien and irrelevant notion to these angry conservatives. That the Declaration of Independance is not a religious tract, or a call to arms, but a thoughtful and quite specific announcement of a new order and what has required it, is the farthest thing from the mind of a person scribbling a Hitler ‘stache on a picture of Barack Obama. This movement is not about ideas, but about feelings. It’s membership does not need to think, only rant and heckle.

Matthew Spalding, an author and historian at the Heritage Foundation, sums up the conscience of a tea bag in a story he includes in his book “We Still Hold These Truths”, about a soldier in the Revolution whose only education was the bible, and whose only motivation to fight the most powerful military in the world was that Americans wanted to govern themselves, and that the British” didn’t mean that we should.”

While this simple creed sounds great coming from the mouth of one of  the men who fought to build this nation, it has very little relevance to the screaming or weeping fucknuts forming random hordes at town halls or on the National Mall. What are they fighting for exactly, except to guarantee that health insurance companies can continue to hold the nation in a choke hold, or to multiply the cameras, sniffers, wire taps and all-nude x-ray scanners intruding on our lives in the name of security?

The walk to go with this revolutionary talk is, in actuality, nowhere to be seen. Rumors of third parties burn off like so much morning fog, despite the multiplicity of conservatives declaring themselves to be independents. O’Reilly, Beck… even Palin has tiptoed away from the Republican party, at least in words. But don’t worry, she isn’t going that rogue. Neither are the others. For no sooner have the words “third party” hit the air than it becomes clear that there is no third party, nor will there be, and certainly no one at Fox is going to proffer the names of any candidates or (massive, ear splitting snort) endorse one for anything more important than a school board race.

Their third party candidates are the faces on the money. Washington, Jefferson, maybe Franklin when he isn’t talking about how people who give up liberty for security deserve neither. The Founders, into whom all hope may be poured, and whose legacy–of being smarter by an order of magnitude than any of the phoney bags of shit who worship them–may be invoked by one congressional candidate after another, until the world is made right, and the wealthy are once again taxed at the rate which God intended.