Most of you who are reading this article are not tied into the network of political grassroots activists and professional agitators with whom I am in contact every day. Like most of our media, our political leaders and just about everyone else, I suspect that you have almost no idea of the level of anger which is seething below the surface in this country.
At most, you probably see only the tip of the iceberg of white-hot rage which is consuming and radicalizing more and more of our population. You may laugh at the claims of the Birthers or scratch your heads at the slogans on the signs held up at a Tea Party or snicker when Bill Maher calls the political right crazy. You dismiss protesters as "angry white males" and point to the declining number of self-identifying Republicans and the complacent Democrats holding all of the power in the halls of government and you think you've won, the future is yours. Obama is in office and all's well in the world. You couldn't be more wrong and nothing is as it seems.
You think that the dwindling number of Republicans means that people are being driven away from the conservative message and presumably being won over by Obama and the left. But did you examine the polls? Yes, the GOP has lost supporters. But while the number of Republicans has gone down, the number of self-identified Democrats has not gone up significantly. These disaffected voters haven't left the Republicans, they've left the political mainstream altogether. They are still conservative. They just think the Republican party has failed them and is too moderate.
What you are missing is the rapidly growing block of voters who are extremely conservative and very angry and who are hostile to both political parties. No one is polling to find them, but I suspect they make up about 20% of the population at this point. About half of them still reluctantly vote with the Republicans and about half just vote against incumbents and the establishment if they even still think their votes have any meaning, which many do not. In a lot of cases they no longer see elections or politics as a way to solve the nation's problems at all. They have become radicalized.
The radicalization and the rage are becoming harder to just brush off. Much of the rage is misdirected and poorly expressed, and a lot of the rhetoric seems crazy and representative of a lunatic fringe. But when your lunatic fringe includes tens of millions of people who are increasingly motivated to take action, you ignore them at your peril.
Right now it's little things, but you can see the beginnings of a transition from angry talk to angry action.
Look at the crowds at the protests which now spring up wherever Obama or other public officials appear. They aren't just a handful of country club Republicans in their golfing outfits. They're young and they're increasingly aggressive and they clearly have a list of specific complaints. The hair may be shorter and some of the issues may be different, but they are very reminiscent in tone and character of the protesters of the 1960s.
Perhaps more telling is the anonymous protest of anti-Obama graffiti, which is springing up all over the country. Cases have been reported in Houston, Raleigh, Columbus, Grand Rapids, DC, Indiana, New York and all over California and Florida. Tagging the cars and the homes of Democrat party officials seems to be the most popular form which this protest takes. There has also begun to be some proliferation of anti-Obama posters, like the Obama/Joker poster being posted all over Los Angeles and various soviet-style Obama as socialist/communist posters which are quite popular.
This sort of protest is really in its infancy, but if the apparent intent of the administration to silence dissent and criminalize protest continues, you can reasonably expect underground protests to become more widespread, more destructive and ultimately more violent. The recent appointment of internet censorship advocate Cass Sunstein as a sort of anti-free-speech Czar has raised a great deal of concern, as has the recent crackdown by the DHS and FBI on a very broadly defined group of "extremists" which includes returning veterans and non-violent protesters.
What outsiders seem not to understand is that while these protests are directed at President Obama and Democrats in general, they mostly do not originate with the Republican party. The common response of saying that Bush was just as bad and why didn't they protest Bush shows how clueless most observers are. To these radicalized conservatives the Obama administration is seen as barely distinguishable from the Bush administration, or an extension of it. They call Bush and many mainstream Republicans socialists and see them as part of the same ruling political elite. In fact, these are often conservatives who opposed the Iraq war and many of them have actually been protesting since early in the Bush administration. It's just that Obama's politics are more clearly defined and have given them a better target and the ability to draw more people to their cause.
You may think goofy controversies like the questions about Obama's birthplace are silly and they certainly draw the ridicule of pundits and humorists, but to those involved they are seen as deadly serious issues and only a small part of a vast conspiracy to destroy America. And some of their other issues are more legitimate, appealing less to the parodists and pundits and more to the political mainstream. They may not all agree on who the real villains are, but they strike a chord with the general public when they argue that that government is no longer listening to the people and that action is needed to effect real change. In a way, it's very much the same anger that brought Obama and his message of change to power, but now it's bitter and disappointed and alienated and feeling increasingly isolated and threatened.
With growing numbers of angry people who feel they have no voice in government and that they are under very real threat from that government, you have a formula for radicalization and increasing extremism. When they are driven to action and there are no legitimate avenues for them to pursue, the protest is going to come out in unacceptable ways. We're not there yet, but you can expect to see escalation with more vandalism and increasing violence which will accelerate with every arrest and every restriction of rights.
At this point I don't know how far the process of radicalization will go, but the more the agitators seem to be oppressed, the more people they will draw to their banner, and there is a magic number of about 30% of the population; when the movement reaches that size, change will come, and it may not be the change you were hoping for.