The intended audience(s)

THE INTENDED AUDIENCE(S)…. The assumption has been that the Tea Baggers’ efforts were directed at the nation’s governing majority this week. Tea Party activists, organizers, and sponsors want Democratic policymakers to know that there’s a far-right contingent that opposes the popular economic platform that President Obama was elected on last year.

But let’s also not forget that the protestors’ message wasn’t just directed at the majority party.

The Dallas Morning News’ Mark Davis had an item the other day, describing the Tea Baggers as having “an opportunity to offer reminders and even primary-season punishment to Republicans insufficiently devoted to fighting a socialist-leaning future.”

Now, describing the Democrats’ agenda as aiming for a “socialist-leaning future” is obviously silly, but it’s easy to believe that enraged conservatives are sending a message to their Republican allies: toe the far-right line on economics or face perilous consequences.

Consider, for example, the merciless booing Rep. Gresham Barrett (R) of South Carolina received at his local Tea Party this week.

Barrett, who voted in favor of the $700 billion bailout to stabilize the financial sector, despised by many of the demonstrators, knew what he was getting into. South Carolina grassroots conservatives have been blasting the congressman for months because of his vote on the Bush administration’s bill last October. Previewing his Tea Party speech earlier this week, The Greenville News wrote that Barrett was headed “into the Lion’s Den.”

But that may have been an understatement, according to video of his remarks captured on Friday by the South Carolina political Web site “The Palmetto Scoop.” From the moment he was introduced to the Greenville crowd, his speech was drowned out by boos, turned backs and angry shouts “Go Home!” […]

Barrett got one of the loudest jeers of the speech when he told the crowd: “You may boo, you may turn your back, but I have devoted my life to the conservative cause.”

The booing and shouting continued for the entire five minutes Barrett was on stage. When he pointed out that he recently introduced a bill called the TEA Act to stop wasteful government spending, one protested yelled repeatedly: “Too late!”

It’s hard to say with certainty whether the Republican establishment cared at all about this week’s far-right rallies. The turnout totals were underwhelming, and the purpose of the events was more than a little vague. For that matter, most of the GOP officials won’t need much convincing to embrace the economic vision of the party’s confused conservative base.

But the treatment Gresham Barrett received was nevertheless a reminder to Republican officials, especially those seeking higher office (Barrett is running for governor next year): right-wing activists are in an intolerant mood.

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