Thinkprogress.org reports that the Lafayette County Republican Central Committee has taken out the billboard advertisement at right, urging local citizens to rebel against the US government. Mad props to Big Game James Horak for the link. First of all, hey Amanda Terkel of Thinkprogress.org: You know what your internet news article needs? Some indication of where Lafayette County, Missouri is, or when the billboard went up, or a quote from someone at the Lafayette County RCC, or any additional information at all besides two links, one of which doesn’t work. Let’s hope the New York Times stays in business a little while longer. Second of all: JESUS CHRIST—THIS IS SEDITION, RIGHT? I mean, I didn’t go to law school, but telling people to not pay their taxes and “prepare for war” against the government is pretty much the definition of the term. Meanwhile, in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, local businessman Phil Wolf has erected a slightly more not-treason billboard asking the serious political question, “President…or Jihad?” It features a cartoon of Barack Obama in a turban and urges us to “remember Fort Hood.” It’s also emblazoned with the legend “BIRTH CERTIFICATE…PROVE IT!” Phil Wolf, I hope you’re reading this, because here you go. Wolf is not operating in the capacity of official representative of the Republican Party—although I think it’s safe to assume he’s not a registered Democrat—so his actions aren’t quite as damning as those of the Lafayette County RCC. Still, it’s hard not to see his behavior as partly consequent of a Republican Party whose elected representatives are actively fomenting mistrust of the federal government. At this point, the assessment that the GOP has settled into the role of opposition party is old news. What’s weird and mildly terrifying, though, is their emerging willingness to be a deliberate obstacle to American democracy.
I don’t mean that the Republican Party has run out of ideas. They have, as Mitt Romney’s hilariously vague Free and Strong America PAC indicates. “Our plans must have at least one common thread,” Romney writes. “They must make America stronger.” That is a genius idea, Mitt Romney, and I must say it appeals to me a lot more than this year’s DNC slogan, A Gradually Weakening America. What bothers me is the legend above his statement of purpose: “Stimulate the Economy, Not the Government.” Actually, former governor and son of another governor Romney, I think your political action committee should try to stimulate the government. I think we should have a really vital, effective government that gets stuff done, as opposed to one that can’t generate any revenue because everyone refuses to pay their taxes, and can’t pass any laws because a man whose father also ran for President keeps telling us that government can’t solve our problems.
It’s one thing for a political party to demonize its opposition. It’s quite another for them to oppose the apparatus of American government itself. Where was the GOP’s terror of federal overreach when George W. Bush was creating entire new domestic security departments and launching trillion-dollar wars? As Jon Stewart regularly points out, there’s a difference between losing an election and falling under the yoke of tyranny. In the almost-year since Barack Obama has taken office, the Republican Party has gone from attacking the Democrats to attacking the federal government itself. That government remains largely unchanged since last year—same fundamental structures, same electoral process, same tax code. The only difference is that there’s a black guy in charge of it, and he’s trying to give poor people health insurance.
For now, the Democratic Party and the United States government are roughly the same thing. The GOP can score some short-term capital from billboards advocating “revolution of [sic] a corrupt government,” but what happens in 2016? No matter who sleeps in the White House, Americans are going to need a country in which people pay their taxes, accept the results of duly-executed elections, and occasionally discuss things calmly without saying that everyone they disagree with is Hitler. By encouraging Americans to think of themselves as prisoners of their own government, the GOP is abrading the fabric of representative democracy. You know why the people running our government are doing a bunch of stuff that some of us find weird and scary? Because we voted for them. We can write letters and argue and vote however we want come the next election, but pretending we didn’t agree to this system is not an option. American democracy and the Republican Party’s capital-F Freedom are the monster under the bed. If we all stop believing in them, they will go away.