[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
Justin D.’s been nagging me to blog about the Tea Parties, so here’s my two pence:
Whichever party is out of power always begins to emphasise its libertarian-sounding side in order to divert anti-government sentiment toward support of that party rather than toward genuine radical opposition to the entire establishment.
By the same token, the party that’s in power employs alarmist rhetoric about the other side’s supposed anti-government radicalism in order to drum up support for its own policies.
Thus events like the Tea Parties serve the interests of both parties; people with libertarian leanings get diverted into supporting one half of the bipartisan duopoly, the antistate message getting diluted by mixture with (in this case) right-wing statist crap about war and immigration and the Kulturkampf. Those turned off by this creepy right-wing stew get diverted into supporting the other half of the bipartisan duopoly, with any libertarian sentiments likewise getting diluted into (in this case) left-wing statist crap about gun control and the need to impose regulation on some imaginary laissez-faire economy. And so the whole power structure ends up being reinforced.
I saw this game under Clinton, I saw (almost) everyone switch teams under Bush, and now they’re all switching back again. And so we get Republican pundits and politicians suddenly howling about Obama’s fascism when they’ve never supported anything but fascism in their entire lives; and on the other side we get Democrats ridiculing the very sorts of concerns about oppression and civil liberties violations that they pretended to take seriously under Dubya’s reign.
Is it worth libertarians’ and/or anarchists’ while to participate in such events? Sure; because while the voices at the podium tend to be statist apparatchiks, the crowds will tend to be a mixture of statist yahoos and genuinely libertarian-leaning folks, and outreach to the latter is always worth a try – in Kierkegaard’s words, “to split up the crowd, or to talk to it, not to form a crowd, but so that one or another individual might go home from the assembly and become a single individual.” But of course the organisers of such events are on the lookout for us and always do their best to try to narrow the boundaries of discussion.