I think a defining moment of the Tea Party movement happened when Glen Beck decided to take on Teddy Roosevelt. The quote that Beck focused on for his wrath was this: “We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used.”
In Beck’s eyes, and in the eyes of the Tea Party followers, T.R. was speaking about some sort of “socialist utopia”. Apparently real men defend wealth that is dishonorably obtained and then wasted. It’s sort of like defending the right to commit evil. It’s really a hard sell for anyone outside of the cult.
I don’t use the term cult lightly. The demonization of the word “socialism” (plus the obvious lack of understanding of what the word actually means) and the strict adherence to all things “free market”, not to mention the hyper-patriotic war-mongering, is a throw-back to the Cult of Reagan.
These people are still fighting the Cold War. This also explains the average age of Tea Party members.