The Tea Party as a Leaderless Movement

Lew Rockwell
LRC Blog

This morning on NPR, Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal was analyzing the Tea Party as a deliberately leaderless, non-hierarchical movement. Its people are not interested in political power as such,  he said, but in changing people’s minds about big government. This, I thought, is the libertarian revolution. But as long as the Tea Party is mired in Republican abstractions like the budget deficit, while accepting and even promoting the empire and the police state, it will not bother those in power. Still, the heart of the Tea Party is libertarian, in concert with its leaderless, ultra-decentralized organizational principles. Broadly speaking, the Tea Party is split between the Palinites and the Paulians. Indeed, the first Tea Parties, anti-tax like the original, were held by Ron Paul in 2007, and he has influenced nany subsequent developments by his example. As a real libertarian, he has never sought to be a top-down controller of a movement, or a country. Instead, he has put the ideas of libertarianism and Austrian economics in the lead.

Rauch reported on a sociologist who predicted the leaderless structure cannot last, and either the Tea Party would go out of existence, or it would end up having offices, a leader, and a staff in the DC graveyard of principle. A Tea Party activist responded, “He would say that, wouldn’t he? He’s a traditionalist.”

Certainly that taming the leaderless opposition is what the regime desperately wants. But the Tea Party should have a leader, said Rauch, so if some nut waves an ugly sign at a rally, the leader can say, “‘That man does not represent us,’ and ex-communicate him.”

Such wavers are often agents provocateur, of course, who seek to demonize the resistance. All such possible media or police agents must be shunned, individually and not by centralized command. But as Rauch in effect confirmed, the regime much misses the role of CIA agent Bill Buckley, who controlled the then-monolithic conservative movement. A dissident? Expel him!

And indeed Buckley ex-communicated such ideological tendencies as the Birchers, the Randians, and–most important–the Rothbardians. Anyone who questioned the CIA, the national security state, perpetual cold and hot war, the morality of nuclear war, or  global hegemony for the US government  was to be crushed. Maximum Leader Buckley was successful for a time in enforcing the party line, but like others tossed out and often smeared, Murray Rothbard more than survived, and today his ideas–anti-Fed, anti-empire, anti-power elite, pro-capitalist–shape the Paulian Tea Party and the liberty movement worldwide. Palin’s mentor Bill Kristol, on the other hand, seeks to enforce the CIA-Pentagon line, in the Buckleyite tradition.

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