Tea Party Extremism Run Amok

Local control and small government sound remarkably like pure lawlessness.

By + More

The success of the Tea Party movement and legitimate concern over the size of the deficit raise a serious question: What does it mean to promote small government?

The pious commitment to keeping big government out of people’s lives—or championing local control—was a common theme among Republican candidates last election season, particularly among those who professed sympathies for the Tea Party element. But local control and small government sound remarkably like pure lawlessness, as Dana Milbank brilliantly reports in Wednesday’s Washington Post. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the Tea Party.]

Milbank—often amusing, always readable—with this most recent and very well-reported column, an absolute must-read, chronicles some of the anti-federal-authority efforts by state legislators:

When Louis Brandeis called state legislatures “laboratories of democracy,” he couldn’t have imagined the curious formulas the Tea Party chemists would be mixing in 2011, including: a bill just passed by the Utah legislature requiring the state to recognize gold and silver as legal tender; a Montana bill declaring global warming “beneficial to the welfare and business climate of Montana”; a plan in Georgia to abolish driver’s licenses because licensing violates the “inalienable right” to drive; legislation in South Dakota that would require every adult to buy a gun; and the Kentucky legislature’s effort to create a “sanctuary state” for coal, safe from environmental laws.

U.S. News's own Robert Schlesinger also recently questioned the mental stability of some of these local lawmakers.

Setting aside the pure absurdity of some of those ideas, the philosophical underpinnings are pretty disturbing. Where did these local officials get the idea that any community standard—be it a proven ability to make a left turn (if not parallel park) or to avoid poisoning the environment for generations who might come after us—is some egregious infringement on their own rights? [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.]

If the anti-big-government, local-control camp wants to prove its sincerity, it can help out right here in the District of Columbia. Still the last place in the country where citizens are denied the right to full representation in Congress, the nation’s capital is again experiencing attempts by members of Congress to make decisions about school vouchers and other matters. The same lawmakers who say they want the federal government to have less control over people’s lives are using Washington as Congress’s personal lab rat. If they really believe in local control, the lawmakers will let the city of Washington alone.