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Tread Upon: What's Next for the Tea Party?

It's this or stop.

On the night of the election, once it became clear which course the nation chose, I received an email from a fellow activist with the subject line “1776-2012,” a pronouncement of death for the idea that was America. While many may dismiss such proclamations as sour grapes, reflection confirms more truth than hyperbole.

Consider: If the quintessential American idea is the one articulated in our Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” then the developments of the past four years culminating in the re-election of the most radical executive in the nation’s history is its eulogy.

The passage of Obamacare demonstrated that the Democratic Party was willing to abandon all pretense of representative government in order to secure power over individual lives. The upholding of that law by the Supreme Court demonstrated that the Constitution is effectively meaningless. Tragic as those developments were, this -- the electoral affirmation of President Barack Obama -- is a crowning catastrophe. It signals more than political or legal corruption. It indicates a cultural sea change whereby the People have rejected the Declaration. To survive and one day thrive, it is critical that the Tea Party accept this reality.

Instead, there is denial. PJM’s Rick Moran tells us not to worry, pointing to exit polling data as evidence that this latest election is just another ebb in the normal flow of national politics. That data suggest that 53% of Americans believe government has become too activist. Never mind that these are the same voters who just doubled down on the status quo. Some local coordinators attending Tea Party Patriots’ first post-election conference call imagined a conservative plurality which could make a third party viable. Never mind that the most successful third party in the country secured less than 1% of the popular vote. Others renewed their prescription to take over the Republican Party. Never mind that Tea Party-favored candidates were systematically rejected by primary voters in states from coast to coast, or that the Republican National Convention took an intentional step away from grassroots organization to ensure future conventions are neat little coronations for the presumptive nominee.

All this grasps at straws. The central presumption underpinning Tea Party resistance in the Obama era has been that a rabid majority of “We the People” is chomping at the bit to “take our country back.” While there have been remarkable local successes, noteworthy down-ticket primary victories, and frequent rattlings of the establishment cage, the movement’s ability to reshape the political landscape has been blunted by a grim reality. This government, essentially unchanged after November 6th, is of and by the People even as it treads upon the Individual.