by Chris R. Morgan
AS THE 2010 mid-term elections approach, it is all but certain that those candidates closely associated with the “tea party” movement will receive support from the public so robust that they might take not one but both houses of Congress. For whatever good that this may do in streamlining how this country is run and how its money is spent, their penchant for hysterics and their likely would-be habit of making up their positions as they go along can lead them into having their fortunes reversed come 2012. And if it’s failure that is in store for them then it is only best that they should fail, not so much because I feel they deserve failure but more because they are so completely unprepared for success. Though I believe those who make up the movement to be well-intentioned, and some of their positions to be justified, I cannot trust any movement that lives by a central principle that is so completely at odds with itself.
The Tea Party movement’s primary ambition is to “take back” the country from those who would seek to rid it of what the movement believes is most valuable to it: individual liberty (personhood) and American exceptionalism (nationhood). In fact this is their only ambition, simply restated several times over with semantic adjustments where needed. Their ideal is some equation that is missing a component. By granting more freedom to us as individuals we grow closer to the nation. This ludicrous proposition is no secret among either the movement’s critics or its sympathizers; however these observers are just as bad as the movement in refraining to explain why they know this dynamic to be impossible. They themselves do not want to have to choose between personhood and nationhood. The tea party attendees are hardly sinister in believing that their ambition makes sense; the worst crime they can be accused of is misunderstanding the evolution of our nation and seeing what little sense it makes to return to the Jeffersonian/Jacksonian vision of American individualism while not wanting to weaken their nation as a superpower. Whether they are aware of that is unclear at this moment, but both cannot go together.
Whether or not the movement is one steeped in explicit nationalism depends on which kind of Tea Party attendee one asks, but it’s clear that national identity brings them together. Assuming that their success with the midterm elections goes as swimmingly as the pundits, pollsters, and candidates themselves predict, their tenure will resemble in actions what William F. Buckley conveyed in words: That for America to endure—in his case it was against World Communism—libertarian notions of civil liberties could reasonably be put on the back burner for an indefinite period. Though considered an extreme position as much now as it was then, if not more so, Buckley was simply stating what was and still is required to run America, or any nation for that matter. That there are individual liberties at all in this country is entirely alien to this basic logic, and the new crop of Republican legislators, likely led by one who is more nationalist than most, will take steps to correct this error.
In a nation there is no such thing as an “individual” or a “person,” only a “citizen.” Though the nation’s very being is linked to these citizens, they having founded and built it, they do not own it or control it; their function is limited to powering its organs and providing it with sustenance. Every action undertaken by the citizen, though often in the guise of individual determination, is done as part of their function to keep the nation alive. Whereas customs such as labor, education, marriage, and family have no beneficial bearing on the welfare of an individual, they are crucial to the health of a nation.
Likewise, political leaders are as subject to this dynamic as everybody else. Though his sense of individuality is more apparent than in others, it is only because it is so tightly cuffed to the nation. In fact a nation’s leader is a leader because he is more in tune with the non-individualistic workings of the citizens, and knows that he must to all in his power to put the citizens in the nation’s employ to the use most beneficial to the nation. As such, the leader can decree whatever he feels best for that purpose, whether it be to draft soldiers for a war (be it a war for feeding the nation or for virus protection), to take over corporations and their means of production, to prosecute and eliminate perceived internal disease, or to institute communal production programs like that of Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” and he cannot be reproached for having done so.
This is appalling to “individuals,” and no doubt there are those citizens going about their days with that delusion of themselves—they will be found of course. These would prefer to be anything other than servants, and there isn’t much option for those in leadership positions to do anything else other than order them to serve.
If the new class of legislators come into Congress with no understanding of this, it is only proper that they learn it. Those who learn will do well, while those who don’t will be told what to do. What’s to be learned is that time spent in session is not so much how to save their voters’ money, but to redirect where it is spent. The nation’s fat is easily enough found, and likely to be burnt, at NPR, NEA, NEH, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, the President’s Council on Bioethics, etc. Their funds will be put instead into defense, industry, biological research, intelligence, Planned Parenthood, Medicare, welfare, education, etc., all of which are crucial to strengthening the nation. The life of a citizen, then, is inextricably tied to service.
This is not to say that any of this will explicitly happen, let alone between 2011 and 2013, but these are some of the things that Tea Party attendees must consider when they vote for a Sharron Angle, a Joe Wilson, a Christine O’Donnell, or a Marco Rubio. Will they adhere to the needs of the nation or will they damn it all and make the first strike for anarchy? It is my suspicion that they’re more reconciled with the nation than is generally assumed. After all, those who have reconciled in the other direction are not seen and don’t want to be seen, having resolved to take to the wilderness and incubate into a formidable virus, a fatal unity of individuals.