Majority rule, and open voting (now under siege), are the only insurance against more top-down despotic control, whether military, financial, class, or oligarchic. The supremacy of majority rule precedes America and the Constitution, adjudicating what any one generation elevates to do-or-die status. Issues change, complexions change, personalities change, law and the Constitution change -- but what republic survives this mortal blow? Even when the majority is wrong or mislead, or callously slow about human rights -- today for gays -- some absolute instrument must end debate, make decisions, and start action. Rule by majority, exactly like Churchill's view of democracy, may well be the most dreadful form of government, except for all the others.
What Tea Party insurgencies evoke for me, if sustained and widespread, are divisions we haven't seen in 150 years ago when the South seceded. What else, other than sharing history and this key value, better ties together our six very disparate regions? Today, radical Tea Party ideology disputes our core assumption -- that the president and the majority (not white enough, nor religiously right) can and should rule wisely. That defines the ultimate Tea Party sabotage, way beyond the debt ceiling nonsense. Either we have majority rule or some self-appointed, minority by "faith alone" gang rules. That's why Teavangelists are so dangerous, so inflexible they declare any who disagree are condemned as treasonous, wicked, and/or foreign subversives.
Tea Party -- Modern Confederacy?
Guess the percentage of defiant, white, southern, Confederates in 1861 -- only 20% of all Americans. Not every one of the 5.5 million white southerners favored violent resistance, nor did all of the 22 million non-southerners adore Lincoln. What about the 3.5 million slaves? Whatever the complex causes of the Civil War, its start was anything but democratic or done by popular vote. No, an elite, plantation-slave owning gentry declared war via secessionist state houses. Lincoln wasn't about to end slavery, inflame the South, or use force to impose federal law -- unless coerced.
Now guess the percentage of Tea Partiers in 2011. As polls range from 13% to 25%, let's call it no more than 20%, too. 52 House members define the Tea Party caucus and another 35 join their fun. Now guess what percentage of the total 435 members that 87 represent. Bingo, 20%.
Not to overplay the comparison, but today's batch of older, white, racially-insensitive conservatives also assert less government is automatically good, federal taxation suspect, the U. S. president's a crass, oppressive dictator -- and decentralization would solve all problems. Curiously, today's insurgents want to "take back their country" (just like southern Rebels), forever waxing nostalgic about fantasy golden ages (under Reagan). Not so different from earlier delusions of the pre-abolition, ante-bellum golden age where happy slaves prospered because milk and honey flowed freely.
There is, so far, one great difference: millions were killed and maimed because the Confederacy took arms against legitimate government. The two-year old Tea Party can't yet match those casualties in its war against the majority -- and against reality. But it's still young. Check out the Michael Lind linkage of "The Tea Party, the debt ceiling, and white Southern extremism," arguing "the goal, methods and passions of the Tea Party in the House are all characteristic of the radical Southern right." Good rejoinder by Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore.
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).