The cool, cerebral White House might logically conclude that Wednesday's decidedly uncool, uncerebral "tea bag" protests were intellectually and politically incoherent, and therefore not worth a second thought. That would be a dangerous mistake. The made-for-TV demonstrations were generally small, and only proved conclusively is that some Americans don't much enjoy paying taxes. What the rallies suggested, however, is that opposition to the Obama administration is coalescing into what I call a Howard Beale Faction, in honor of the anchorman in the movie Network whose signature line now seems to have been elevated into philosophy: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" A growing sense of us versus them, of the little guy versus the big guy, is out there waiting to be exploited by anyone clever enough to fashion a sophisticated populist critique of the Obama administration's policies.

eugene robinson, syndicated columnist