For some reason I am on the e-mailing list for a number of local Tea Party groups around the country. The first thing that jumps out is that every local mailing is written by the same person with only minor editorial adjustments to make each appear local. I’ve even had some reasonably cordial e-mail correspondence with a few of the local leaders. So the second thing that jumps out is their genuine fear of Obama and everything they believe he stands for, the federal government in particular, government generally, and their love of some unarticulated vision of a free America. They are Libertarians in the extreme combined with some of the historical characteristics of the old English Ludites and later American No-Nothings. In the mix is a complete lack of recognition that the previous administration trampled all over the constitution with near total disregard, indeed with almost gleeful public affirmation of the unlimited and unchallengeable power of the presidency. So it isn’t that they fear a strong executive leader with unparalleled power, it’s that they fear a certain kind of national leadership, whether democratically representative or otherwise.
With that as a preface, I wonder what sort of America we might be if they were in control of the government they so dislike. Would representative democracy take on the form of the Long Parliament under Cromwell? One thing that’s obvious is that a great many people would be armed and self-authorized to uphold whatever standard of justice they deemed appropriate at the moment. That aside, what else would it look like? Libertarian philosophy certainly maintains a high place for defense, so we would probably have greatly beefed up armed forces and local police. Would there still be agencies to protect the food supply, certify medicines, finance highways, subsidize transportation systems, and the like? Would preferential tax treatment for the REA, TVA, and other power systems be eliminated? How about farm subsidies? Would the national parks still exist? Would Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid exist? What sort of tax structure would exist, who would pay them, and what would the distribution of income look like? What would happen to the constitution and two-hundred years of Supreme Court interpretations? What would happen to decades of civil rights and environmental laws now on the books?
I know they are rabidly anti-communist, but what pops into my mind is an image of a cold winter in 1919 Russia, or any one of the early Mel Gibson movies. More important, how has it come to pass that there are so many Americans so fearful of their own country and the world about them?