Yesterday TNR’s Jonathan Chait took notice of a remarkable speech by Tim Pawlenty to a Tea Party Patriots conference, in which the probable presidential candidate indulged in some crowd-pleasing “rise up and take back our country” rhetoric. As Chait indicated, this sort of talk is too rarely analyzed for its underlying insurrectionary themes:
Why do I say this is inflammatory? Because conservatives are writing President Obama completely out of the American political tradition. Conservatives claim not only to have a superior vision for securing American prosperity, which is an understandable thing for a political movement to believe, but to represent the sole legitimate custodians of the Constitution. It follows from all this that Obama represents a unique threat to American freedom, and moreover — a point that is often made explicit — that the threat he poses requires a response that goes beyond normal politics. The whole metaphor of the Tea Party is to re-imagine conservatism as a proto-revolutionary guerrilla response to tyranny, rather than a movement that operates through normal political channels.
I couldn’t agree more. But what’s most remarkable to me about this incident is that it’s Tim Pawlenty stirring up the mob at the barricades. That this quintessentially bland and conventional pol is talking this way is an alarming indicator of the Republican zeitgeist. It’s like hearing someone drop an F-bomb on the Hallmark Channel–just not a good sign of civic health.