Here’s an ad put out by Colorado senatorial candidate Ken Buck that, according to conservatives over at Power Line and National Review, hits the nail squarely on its head:
Let’s step back from the partisan fray far enough to ask ourselves why conservatives think “they heard us, yet they ignored us” is so powerful a message. Buck’s words invite a pretty obvious response from Democrats: “Of course we ignored views with which we disagree; that’s our prerogative after winning the last election.” To understand why that answer not only doesn’t satisfy, but infuriates, a lot of voters, you have to appreciate the difference between disagreement and disdain.
Suppose Bill and John are having an argument at a bar. Bill says X, and John says not-X loudly and insistently enough that other people start giving him strange looks. Bill puts his arm on John’s shoulder and tells him that he should settle down because the liquor has gone to his head and he’ll regret having said not-X in the morning. Bill’s not only disagreeing with what John said, he’s telling John that he just said something so outlandish that, upon reflection, he’ll disagree with it too. Bill’s not just saying that John's wrong, he’s saying that his present opinion about X doesn’t count.
Depending on the circumstances, Bill’s words to John might be a praiseworthy, or at least an excusable, act of friendship. Maybe Bill knows John well enough to be pretty sure that he doesn’t really mean what he’s now saying and that he really will regret having said it in the morning. So Bill’s ignoring what John said now out of respect for his unimpaired judgment. We all need a little paternalistic supervision occasionally and rely on our friends to provide it when we do. Or maybe Bill’s trying to be good a friend to John, but is mistaken in this case about whether not-X is John’s considered opinion. In the morning, John might still be a little pissed-off at Bill, but forgive him anyway because he meant well.
Yet Bill could also be expressing disdain for John. That would be a fair inference on John’s part if Bill always tries to preempt disagreement by putting a patronizing arm on John’s shoulder. Under those circumstances, John might reasonably resent Bob’s condescension even if, in this particular instance, John finds that he really does believe X upon reflection. Being wrong is embarrassing, but being treated with contempt is intolerable—even when you’re wrong. Under the circumstances, you couldn't blame John for finding a new drinking companion.
If “they heard us, yet they ignored us” resonates not only with Tea Partiers, but with a substantial number of Independents, it’s probably because they all feel the sting of the Democrats’ disdain. They're tired of being told that, although they don't yet realize it, they're really going to love what the Democrats have done over the last two years when they reflect on things dispassionately. It’s possible that at least the Independents among them could still be persuaded that the Democratic agenda makes as much sense today as it did two short years ago. But they've stopped listening.