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Does the Tea Party Just Want to Watch the World Burn?

Has the movement given up on persuading the public?

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

October 17, 2013 - 8:00 am
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Spoiler Alert: Key plot elements of Atlas Shrugged discussed below.

In Ayn Rand’s influential novel Atlas Shrugged, a tension builds between Dagny Taggart, partial heir and productive heart of her family’s railroad company, and an enigmatic figure known as John Galt. Both uphold the principle of individual rights, believing that men ought to be free to apply their own judgment to achieve their own values in pursuit of their own happiness. Both believe that men ought to deal with each other through reason, persuasion, and consent. Both oppose evermore egregious encroachments by a state which throttles the productivity of individuals and threatens the general welfare of the nation. The tension between Dagny and Galt arises from a difference not in principle, but in methodology.

Dagny reacts to a rising tide of statist interventions by fighting that much harder to stay atop of it. She produces more, comes up with better ideas, and innovates new ways of defying the system while still working within it. Galt, on the other hand, has resolved to defy the system by withdrawing from it. He removes himself and his productive capacity from society and creates a new community in a hidden gulch. Over time, he and his cohort recruit new residents from among the most productive and intellectually honest capitalists in the nation. As that class begins to disappear from public view, the remaining populace wilts under the predictable consequences of collectivist policies. Dagny, only vaguely aware of Galt’s agenda, views him as “the Destroyer,” an antagonist keeping her from saving the country by steadily removing productive individuals from the economy. Dagny eventually finds herself confronted with the choice to join Galt’s strike or continue to work within a crumbling system.

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When President Barack Obama was first inaugurated and opened the throttle on statism in America, many observed an eerie similarity between his policies and the sequence of events portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. In 2009, Stephen Moore wrote for the Wall Street Journal:

Many of us who know Rand’s work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that “Atlas Shrugged” parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises — that in most cases they themselves created — by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs… and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

Given reality’s continuing similarity to Atlas Shrugged, it should come as no surprise that a division has emerged among those who subscribe to the principle of individual rights between those whose methodology resembles Dagny Taggart’s and those whose methodology resembles John Galt’s.

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The shutdown drama has resolved precisely how we knew it would, the only way it possibly could have, with a reopened government sporting negligible reforms and a public agitated against Republicans. By any objective analysis, the strategy instigated by Senator Ted Cruz has utterly failed and indeed set back the cause it was intended to champion. Obamacare has become more popular over the course of the shutdown. Even so, many activists on the Right, particularly among the Tea Party, maintain that the defund strategy was worthwhile. They assert without evidence that if Congress had “stood their ground,” policy concessions would have somehow been extorted from Democrats, despite clear and prolific polling indicating public opinion was starkly opposed to the defund strategy.

On more than one occasion while engaging with my fellow Tea Partiers, when I have asked whether Congress should have kept the government shutdown indefinitely, the answer has been an emphatic yes. Congress has the power of the purse, they say, as if that fact wholly negates any electoral consequence of recklessly wielding it.

Then again, electoral consequences apparently do not matter to some. A sample comment from social media:

Walter, it’s funny to me that you seem worried about the elections. If the Republicans can’t make the Democrats back down over a law that, as Ben Carson said, is the worst thing to happen to this country since slavery, their very existence is entirely meaningless. They are nothing but the Democrats’ whipping boys and lackeys, and I for one am not going to pretend that there is any political power to protect me from the full depredations of Democrats.

This is offered as if Republicans have any power to “make the Democrats back down.” Such power comes with election certificates backed by the wind of public opinion. Without the votes, and without the support, Republicans never had the ability to make anyone do anything. More to the point, to withdraw support from Republicans because they were not able to do something they never could have done further enables the Democrats to pursue their depredations.

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Adopting the attitude that political power cannot protect individual rights has implications which cannot be overstated. Abandoning any hope of fighting tyranny through the political process leaves us wholly at the mercy of those holding the reins we have relinquished. To “go Galt” in this way enables the statists to run roughshod over our rights. I cannot understand the attitude which would allow that to happen.

Unlike the world of Atlas Shrugged, we have no technology to hide us from the lidless eye of the state. We cannot escape the effects of public policy. Our ability to produce and provide for ourselves will continue to be curtailed by the likes of President Obama until we can defeat his ilk at the polls! The alternative is to watch our world burn.

Activists on the Right, particularly those among the Tea Party, need to decide whether they want to play on Team Dagny or Team Galt. They need to decide whether to pursue a serious strategic fight to reclaim the government for liberty, or merely stage a protest without regard for electoral consequence. As with Dagny and Galt, these alternate approaches to an encroaching state will make enemies among those who would otherwise ally on principle. Already, those like nationally syndicated talk radio host Jason Lewis who have dared to question the wisdom of the defund strategy have been widely defamed as sellouts, RINOs, or closet statists. Rather than forge a coalition around the principle of individual rights, what coalition exists has been divided into warring factions. This is not how victories are won.

When I first became affiliated with it, the mission of Tea Party Patriots was “to secure public policy consistent with our three core values of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets.” That mission has since been amended to remove public policy as a central objective. I’m left to wonder why anyone should become an activist if not to secure public policy consistent with their values. What’s the point of putting countless hours into organizing meetings and rallies, burning up phone lines and writing letters to the editor, walking neighborhoods and engaging friends and neighbors, if the sought result is not a substantive change in public policy? Since when did we become content with merely making a point, elections be damned?

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the boards of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, Minnesota Majority and the Minority Liberty Alliance. He maintains a blog and daily podcast entitled Fightin Words and co-hosts the weekly podcast Liberty Tree Radio. He also contributes to True North, a hub of conservative Minnesotan commentary, and regularly appears on the Twin Cities News Talk Weekend Roundtable on KTCN AM 1130. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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Top Rated Comments   
The TEA Party's stated strategy all along has been to take over the Republican Party from the inside. It seems to me they collected a ton of money, and damaged their establishment Republican opponents at the same time, pretty elegant. It seems to me that the Establishment Republicans were exposed as faithless liars uncommitted to fighting for fiscal responsibility and small government, and failures at everything they touch, and this right before the start of the 2014 Primaries. And the TEA Party is planning to primary large numbers of these now badly damaged losers.
So as to the question, "does the TEA Party just want to watch the world burn?" of course not, they just want to watch the professional politicians who's greatest desire is to keep their powerful positions burn. What's more the establishment Republicans know it, as all the screaming and back stabbing and talk of civil war prove.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Hudson is right. Elections have consequences. In 2010 the Republicans were elected to run the House of Representatives specifically with the mandate to oppose Obamacare. That is why John Boehner is the Speaker. Ted Cruz was elected to the Senate to fight Obamacare. So was Mike Lee. It is a purely rational electoral outcome that the House would vote to defund Obamacare, as that is what the majority of Americans voted for in the House elections. What is not rational is the "new" understanding that because the Democrats control the Presidency and the Senate that they "must" get 100% of what they want with zero negotiations. There is this "new" understanding, promoted by Fox News, National Review and Walter Hudson, that the House of Representatives has zero Constitutional power and is required to fully accede to the "demands" of the President. This is a new concept that I can't find in the Constitution, which states that all spending must originate and be approved by the House of Representatives. So, Mr. Hudson, I don't understand the origin of these new concepts you have. Can you explain where this rule is that the House must do whatever the President says? Such a rule seems very odious to a Constitutional Republic with clearly separated powers. By the way, can you also tell me where this "new" notion came from of spending bills, originated in the Senate, that are voted on in minutes after being written, without the Senators having read or even discussed the contents? Is that also part of the system that we simple minded Tea Party types are not knowledgeable enough to know is spelled out in the Constitution?
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Does the Tea Party Just Want to Watch the World Burn?"

Do you just want to beat your wife?
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (185)
All Comments   (185)
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We have petitioned the King, lo, for two centuries now. And all you can say, is that we must again petition the King!

You would do anything to save the country, save fight.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think this is an excellent article. The Tea Party tactics have not been helpful in that they refused to face facts. People like Marco Rubio did what they thought best under the circumstances. We can't hit people over the head and force them to do what we want. The House and Senate leaders did their best as far as they could rationally go. We could not get what we wanted. Holding out would only have intensified the antagonism against us and we'd lose all hope of ever getting the Congress back.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who is this "WE" you refer too?

"Holding out would only have intensified the antagonism against us and we'd lose all hope of ever getting the Congress back."

"Holding out would only have intensified the antagonism against us and the Rino's would lose all hope of ever getting the Congress back."

Fixed that for ya.
21 weeks ago
21 weeks ago Link To Comment
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
The TEA Party serves a valuable purpose here. It gives the Republicans plausible deniability. If the Republicans propose some whackado strategy like, say, obeying the law, and that proposal fails because of the Democrats insistence on not obeying the law, then both parties can blame the TEA Party. See how that works?

Because of the TEA Party, this country has just seen the first battle of the next civil war. Remember: you don't have to win the first battle of the war, but you do have to fight it, or nothing changes.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Has PJ Media instituted the fairness doctrine?
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
A truly coherent response to this article would be as long, or longer, than the article itself.

What many Americans will not acknowledge, and many readers here will refuse to accept, is that the world is going to 'burn' no matter what we do, right, wrong or indifferent. We cannot continue on our current course w/o catastrophe, yet, if everything were changed today and we returned to the Founder's original intent -and their limitations on government- everything we know would collapse, anyway. Everyone and everything is geared up for current conditions. An abrupt reversal of present trends would collapse the system. The system, as it is, is unsustainable and will collapse, anyway. You can vote for whomever you wish, right, left or center, and the system will collapse. You can choose to not vote at all and the system will collapse. You can be productive and the system will collapse. You can 'go Galt', and the system will collapse.

The only peaceful option remaining to you is to 'go Galt,' and even that course of action -or of inaction- will not protect you from the predations of your government or from those who think you're doing the wrong thing. Both government and individuals will set out to destroy you, personally, professionally and economically.

iow, there are no peaceful or 'safe' options remaining to anyone in America. We're all fighting according to the other guy's rules. We're dancing to someone else's tune. We cannot change the system from within and we cannot change the system from the outside. Each one of us is damned if we do and damned if we don't.

There is only one remaining option, and we are still too frightened of the present system to honestly and truly examine that option.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not... truth be told. I'd love to go John Galt but it looks more and more like I'm going to have to go full on Ragnar Danneskjold just to survive.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Right, prepare for collapse, prepare to survive and have a plan for rebuilding.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
You may well be right. It is certainly prudent to be prepared for a government collapse (although that is much easier said than done), but it would also be wise to try to prevent or moderate such a collapse as best we can. That is why supporting the tea party is a worthwhile thing to do.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Aye that. Best not to hasten the day of destruction while God gives us time to prepare for it...
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I do not see the conflict between 'Going Galt' and a 'serious strategic fight to reclaim the government'. I must find ways to protect myself and my family, make a living and keep my sanity so that I may, in whatever way, contribute to the political fight. And I recognize the existence of legitimate differences on our side as to tactics but what better object lesson about the failings of the current composition of the Senate could we have other than the insults of Harry Reid and the surrender of the Rinos to the 'CR'? I do not claim to have the answer. I do know that this process reinforced my commitment to helping conservative Republicans expand their presence in the House and, hopefully, take back the Senate.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Almost 2/3 of the Republicans in the House voted AGAINST the funding bill. That is not nothing. That is not going Galt. That is a result of primaries removing RINOs. Next round next year we need to primary the 1/3 that voted for funding. If we win a bunch of those we can get to 3/4 of the House Republicans being either TEA party or conservative.

We need to do the same to the Senate, but there we need to dislodge the Democrat majority.

We also need to defeat the next Democrat presidential candidate. Should be much easier because (a) he or she won't be "the 1st African-American president" and (b) the Democrats don't have anyone interesting to run. Do you think Hillary will engage the Black and Latino vote? I don't.

So in fact we have a very good shot at getting a Republican president in 2016, and we have 2 chances (2014 and 2016) at getting Republican Senate.

Overall I think our chances are quite good. And with the fact that Obamacare is going to totally crash 1/6 our our economy (healthcare) and everyone is going to feel the pain -- I think the Democrats are going to be in a world of pain the next couple of elections.

We win.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, maybe not first black President, but maybe first woman President. There are a lot more women voters than black voters in this country. The self-identified Conservatives are going to need friends to win a national election, and said Conservatives will have to learn to stop calling people names and play well with others. Or it will be 2012 all over again.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Overall I think our chances are quite good"
I would like to think so BUT I fear the election system has been corrupted, I'm hoping 2014 allays that fear
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
"he or she won't be "the 1st African-American president" "

No, but she can be the first woman president, then the first Hispanic, then the first homosexual, then the first...

The GOP has to quit being afraid when the Democrats put forward "the first X' and call us racists/bigots/etc for opposing them.

That or if they can't just endorse them and not waste the time and energy running against someone who "can be elected" (John McCain) or "a decent man just out of his depth" (Romney). Really, if the GOP had just given ever registered Republican an equal share of what they spent on those two campaigns that were designed to fail everyone could have paid off their mortgage and the country would have been better off.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ann Ryan, God Bless her

Saw an America of White Christians, governed by white males, Amazing that system actually worked for the founders of the US.

Smart Jewish woman from Russia.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
We need a whole lot less government, everywhere, National to local,

Eliminate the tax system and let people pay for those services they value, and let the rest decay and die out.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I want to get rid of property taxes. Why can't we just OWN our land anymore?

I don't mind paying city taxes for the fire department and police force (and roads). But I'm getting tired of the massive waste.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
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