George I see some of what you suggest and what Micheal posted to be very connected. To go really meta with my albeit unformed thoughts (I'll just babble a bit of a stream of consciousnous) I do see a connection with what I will describe as a generalized culture of the 'individual' and how it's pushed or is present through all areas of our present culture. One can go into theorizing of where it comes from whether stemming from the meta economic philosphy, consumerism, psychology till the cows come home. Of course the social construct of the individual in dynamic with the collective is not something new to these times but I would suggest that we are presently in a hyper form of it and if I was to try to say why this is I would put on lot of emphasis on the generalized consumer culture that surrounds us. Consumerism is very much about the individual and not so much about the we though it's couched in we like terms, 'our economy' etc etc. Consumerism has also been very much connected with a generalized concept of 'freedom' and 'liberty' as well. Couple that with a generalized cultural mythos around the power and fortitude of the individual that is found particularly in a place like the US you have a juggernaut of 'me' culture.
I know I'm generalizing a lot here but I'm trying to keep it short.
Of course in reality a society isn't about a bunch of individual 'mes' and whether consciously or unconsciously most understand to a point that it can't function without some sort of collective 'we'. Politics occurs very much on the 'we' level of course. In order for it to work you have to get some sort of 'we' consenus. What I see has happened in the US especially is that 'conservatives' have been very, very good a using messages directed at individuals fears and desires in order to create that consensus and in doing so the political culture has developed into a hyper form of 'us' vs 'them'. It's a form thats been taken to an extreme. Once you have a 'them' it's very easy to follow a course of using the nebulous 'them' as a political trigger point, regardless if it's based in reality or is rife with cognative dissonance. It doesn't have to make rational sense what matters is some sort of aggrement on who the 'thems', that the 'thems' are bad and that anything they do or say is bad.
If I was to charactize the overall mythos of the Tea Party movement it's very much based on a hyper 'They are out to get you and take everything away mentality' that extends out to a more extreme version of the types of messaging that have pervaded the righter wing for a very long time. The messages around taxes while supposedly based on economic theory about a good functioning economy blah blah are drilled down to 'taxes are evil because the government is taking/stealing your money', cries of 'socialism' are not based on some sort of deep analysis of what socialism really is but connected with concepts of 'government taking your money, taking your freedom, taking your liberty, taking your choices away' and though couched in talk about destroying the country and bringing America down the underlying message is very much an individual one. Cries of Nazism and Hitler aren't really based on sound reasoning just more viscreal equating something that historically is accepted as horrible of horrible ergo what I think is going on now is really horrible so it's the same. Then of course we have all the 'others', immigrants illegal or not - taking your jobs, taking over your communities, gays - taking your children, taking your marriages, taking some perception of morality, poor people - taking your hard earned money through welfare, taking the safety of you communities away, non-Christians or secularism = taking your religion, taking your babies, urbanites/elites = taking just about anything. We have health care - taking your choice, taking your money and yes even taking your very lives away through evilness of things like 'Death Panels', gun regulations - taking your rights to security, a generalized perception that regulation is by nature bad because it takes something way from you and yours. Due the economic woes of the past year or so there's a new addition to the them mix which is used quite carefully because it can't go to far, but is very good at getting the ire going if necessary 'wall street - taking your money and of course it's the bad government fault.
Messaging about 'Real Americans' and those 'Liberals' and 'Muslims' and numerous other 'them' groups are based on a generalized demonization of the 'other'. I think that Palins appeal is that she's is very much considered and 'us' and much of her rhetoric and image is very much based on demonizing and fighting the big bad other. It's gotten to the point where it doesn't even matter what policies or whether she really knows the issues. What matters is that she is out to save me from the 'other'. As ignorant as she might be about many things she plays this part perfectly.
I guess my point is that I see the generalized right as being quite successful in drilling down the messaging to a very individual level thats very appealing in a hyper culture that puts so much emphsis on the individual.
This hyperization of them and us in many quarters is polarized so much that it's not even matter what is being talked about. It's taken to a point that's demonizing by nature. It's visceral. It's emotional. Liberals aren't just people to defeat through policy and ideas they're to be destroyed because their whole nature is evil (both religious and non-religious sense) and vice versa you can find that same sort of thing on the lefter side of things though I have not seen it as much or to the same intensity as it is on the righter side of things nor is it as mainstream where now you can find this blatent demonization, from elected leaders, on the radio airwaves and places like Fox News. Folks like Beck in particular come to mind.
To bring in what Micheal posted I see that as a more macro level version of similar patterns which that article does lay out. It's pattern that has been around for centuries it's just that we're seeing more extreme and hyper version of it now.
George I do agree with your points about Tommy Douglas and the establishment of more collective type policy that helps keep things at bay. I do however think that there is more to it then that. Going back to cultural mythos Canada though the patterns of colonization and the establishment of the state have their similarities there are differences in the generalized mythos that pervades the two countries. We haven't a don't tend to have as much emphasis on the 'rugged frontier being settled by the strong individual John Wayne type archetypes, a sense of exceptionalism that the US has tended to have, we don't have the 'revolution' and the founders who fought for 'freedom and liberty' against the unjust other. I know I'm generaliztion a lot here but hopefully there's a sense to what I'm trying to get at.
I also have to say that I can't get totally behind the idea that it's a issue with the 'great unread' and groups that are just being played upon in a cynical manner by 'great read' folks who are duping them. I understand what your getting at and that element is definately there. However in my travels I found that that sort of characterization fails because it appears that very many 'great read' people look at the world or look at politics in the same way it's not just a matter of people being undereducated or not 'read'. While it would be nice and perhaps more comfortable to think that say the speaker at the recent convention who called for literacy tests was just using it as a cynical ploy to get the 'unread' on side I think he really does think that. The same goes for many politicans that are currently elected or vying for election. I also think that one runs the risk of taking such characterizations to far to the point in creating this 'other' and delving into the murky waters of excerting a sense of superiority of thought, which plays exactly into the whole 'liberal elite' meme which has been fostered for many years with a lot of success. Bit of a Catch 22 I know but there has to be some other way to discuss or frame it that doesn't play into the very framing thats already being pushed.
Anyways I've babbled enough. These are just some thoughts.