One side of the divided tea-party mentality (its “right brain,” so to speak) recoils from the cumulative impact of government programs enacted over more than a century. In the wake of unprecedented “stimulus” spending, Wall Street bailouts, “Government Motors,” and Obamacare’s takeover of health insurance, the movement foresees economic ruin and diminished freedom for all Americans. To combat these evils, the tea party invokes America’s founding ideals of individual rights and limited government, and talks about cutting big government down to size.
Meanwhile, however, the tea party’s “left brain” harbors the same moral impetus that has justified bigger and bigger government since the Progressive Era. The basic idea is that some people’s needs constitute a moral claim on the lives and wealth of others. The list of needs is endless: economic stability, job security, housing, health care, retirement funds. To satisfy those needs, government concocts regulatory and wealth transfer schemes that coercively subject the individual to society. Over the years, each new program – from the Federal Reserve to Social Security, Medicare, and beyond – acquires an aura of moral dignity that renders it politically untouchable by later generations. The needs of others permanently displace the freedom of the individual.
Based on this conflict, my prognosis has the tea party headed for the political equivalent of an epileptic seizure.