No fan of the Tea Party, Glenn Greenwald attacks the class-based condescension being directed at O’Donnell and those like her:
Much of the patronizing derision and scorn heaped on people like Christine O’Donnell have very little to do with their substantive views — since when did right-wing extremism place one beyond the pale? — and much more to do with the fact they’re so . . . unruly and unwashed. To members of the establishment and the ruling class (like Rove), these are the kinds of people — who struggle with tuition bills and have their homes foreclosed — who belong in Walmarts, community colleges, low-paying jobs, and voting booths on command, not in the august United States Senate.
There is a lot of truth to this. There is a visceral dislike among at least some conservative and Republican elites who have little more than disdain for the rank-and-file supporters who make their careers possible. While they are willing to tolerate the rank-and-file so long as they remain in a supporting role, they will absolutely refuse to accept them as equals, much less as leaders. We saw this in spades during Huckabee’s presidential campaign. There were honest Huckabee critics who genuinely objected to his fiscal record, and there were libertarians who truly found his social conservatism off-putting, but there was also significant hostility towards Huckabee as a person because of where he came from, his education and his vocation before politics. Huckabee’s biggest error from the elite Republican perspective was that he was not only proud of his working-class background as a part of his biography, but he openly scorned corporate executives and indulged in more economic populist rhetoric than any Republican presidential candidate in modern times. Huckabee received a lot of vocal criticism from conservative pundits for this, but more important for the failure of his campaign was his inability to get substantial funding that would allow him to compete seriously with Romney and McCain.
In Huckabee’s case, he erred by saying just a little of what his socially conservative constituency actually thought about economic issues. Much of the scorn being poured on O’Donnell comes from conventional horror at her social conservatism, which has been largely irrelevant to her campaign. What has been remarkable is how unimportant policy is in all of this. Huckabee supported the Fair Tax idea, but received nothing but grief from “economic conservatives” on the grounds that he was some crypto-liberal because he kept Arkansas’ budget balanced and rebuilt the state’s crumbling highways. Because of the hostility he encountered, Huckabee became very outspoken against libertarianism on the right, but he was also one of the only prominent national Republicans to oppose the bailout. As it turned out, his populist instincts were right, but he won’t get any credit from the anti-TARP activists, and he has simply confirmed the Republican elites in their fear and loathing of him. For her part, O’Donnell can dwell on fiscal and economic matters all day, and that doesn’t really matter to a lot of people in the political class and the media, because many of them are much more interested in treating her Catholicism or her pro-life convictions as some sort of joke. TARP was unnecessary and indefensible, so when an anti-TARP candidate wins the only recourse is to talk about something else.
There is something important about Tea Party activists that seems to elude a lot of observers, and I’m not sure why. It’s true that a lot of these activists are regular church-goers, and many of them are social conservatives, but rather crucially they don’t emphasize social conservative issues and these issues aren’t the ones that are energizing the activists and voters this year. Had O’Donnell run her campaign as an Alan Keyes-esque exercise in moral hectoring and Declaration-quoting, she wouldn’t have gone anywhere. Castle was more vulnerable because of his TARP and cap-and-trade votes, and whatever else you want to say about them these are fiscal and economic questions where Castle came down on the opposite side from a significant percentage of his own party. So, no, “the tea party” in general isn’t interested in social issues, doesn’t back candidates because of them, and has no great desire to advance social conservative causes. On the whole, the panic about O’Donnell’s social conservatism and the undue attention paid to it are just another way of expressing disdain for her because of her social and cultural background.