One of the many interpretations of this election season is that it represents, particularly on the Republican side of things, an unequivocal repudiation of the sellout establishment’s nefarious game. The emergence of the Tea Party movement as a viable political force, it is argued, heralds the willingness of voters to scrap the familiar, both faces and ideas, in favor of that vacuous but beloved buzzword in current politics — “change.” The orthodox understanding, as presented by CNN political editor Mark Preston, positions a radical, if not menacing, Tea Party as victorious in “battle with the GOP establishment.”
Though reasons abound to be apprehensive of sweeping political triumphs of Tea Party candidates, the right reasons differ strikingly from statists’ cautionary rants. When the government devotees in the professorate and in journalism visualize a popular movement at least outwardly committed to individual rights and to curtailing the state, their unthinking reaction, born of preconceived articles of statist faith, is categorical disgust.
Associating a consistent and unwavering defense of the liberty philosophy with the Tea Party movement, however, is only the government shills’ first mistake, the second being their narrow-minded insistence that aggression is the way toward social justice.
Assuming that the movement’s liberty credentials were as solid as the MSNBCs of the world would have us believe — that these upstart candidates would bring to Washington some unprecedented thinking — there, at least arguably, would be a shred of truth in the idea that “the establishment” was unsettled. The attentive can, however, glean one important truth from sifting through the hyperbolic bombast of electoral politics: That by participating in the process Tea Party (and any other) candidates hope not to uproot the establishment, but to become a part of it. Fastening itself to the venal, unscrupulous whoredom of politics, which is itself the problem that needs confronting, is not to be confused with “bucking the system” or disrupting the prevailing state of things.
It is the process, the very idea that a governmental solution to any social ill is possible, that ought to be discarded, and elections only fortify that process. Addressing the folly of joining in the self-delusion of voting, H.L. Mencken wrote, “Then [there is] another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent — the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free. It is only on the surface that there are transformations …” In the United States, political movements professing their loathing for the elites, for “the powers that be,” for “the system,” have risen and abated like the tides, spreading and cycling like trends in fashion. For all of this, the existence of the state — not of a particular party, or legislator, or “ism” — has assured that no election day or number of ballots will alter the result.
As long as the state survives, the corrupt and the corruptible will endeavor after its charms, and it will be, as Frederic Bastiat warned, “the most influential and calculating” who succeed in this competition at lying. The Tea Party movement has, as should have been expected, been a study in the abandonment of principle, in the readiness of politicos to transform like the pigs at the conclusion of Orwell’s Animal Farm. This is the unalterable nature of an institution that acts through domination and draws life out of setting free people against one another; it directs attention to a veneer of nonissues, lulling people into a false sense of security stemming from the fantasy that votes matter and are capable of changing the game. Upon entering the voting booth, you will find no choice to vote in any way that would disrupt the state’s lien on your life, property and labor, no choice to vote against the state itself. That option exists only for those who stay home on election day and abstain from investing any kind of moral sanction in the unjust use of force.
In politics, there is no “right man for the job” because it is the job that is flatly wrong, and no one seeks the job to dissolve it. George H. Smith has argued that the challenge is to “persuade people to apply the same moral standards to the State as they apply to anyone else.” He’s right, and if you wouldn’t cheer as a mugger held up an innocent, then you shouldn’t give your vote to politicians whose interests end with lining the pockets of the ever-decried “establishment.”