Read Charles Pierce at

Republicans have been flirting with nullification, and secession, and the whole bag of horrors for years now. And it never was entirely the fringe, either, as Dave Neiwert’s been arguing for years. Republican congressmen spoke for years at Wise Use rallies and militia gatherings in the west. In the South, Republican congressmen regularly dined with the Council Of Conservative Citizens, a white-supremacist group that was the modern outgrowth of the old Citizens Councils, which were, in their time, the polite Chamber Of Commerce face of the Klan and various unaffiliated domestic terrorists. (This stopped only when a visit by Trent Lott to a CCC dinner — briefly — cost him his Senate seat.) And its essential taproot can be found in the most famous passage in Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address.
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

That speech presented the apex of the modern conservative argument — something called Government was the ultimate Other. The modern conservative movement was a multipronged assault aimed at severing a self-governing people from the government they were bound as citizens to create for themselves. It was to undermine confidence in the idea of the creation and maintenance of a political commonwealth and to eliminate as many of the manifestations of that political commonwealth as it could, whether those were national parks or public schools. This was done, mainly, to bring about the blessings of oligarchy to the people who created and financed the conservative movement for their own private gain. This is the fundamental political foundation behind a conservative movement that endlessly prattles about the native entrepreneurial genius of individual Americans. It’s the sunny side of the spectrum that ends up in the phrase, “I got mine, Jack.” Once you’ve done this, once you’ve convinced enough people that they are victims of an alien entity called Government, and not essential partners in a political commonwealth wherein takes place the ongoing creative act of self-government, it’s no great leap to get to secession, and nullification. Reagan even got there in the very same speech, when he asserted the essential Calhounite constitutional heresy right after swearing an oath that committed him to the notion that Calhoun had been terribly wrong.

“It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.”

Apparently, the entire Constitution is sacrosanct except the first three words, which is the whole modern conservative project, and its essential paradox, in a nutshell. The Constitution is not a compact between We, The People, or a committment by us to one another to what the current president calls “the hard, necessary work of self-government. Once you’re already there, it’s no great leap at all to Wayne LaPierre, screaming at the tornadoes and trying to shoot a hurricane to death. It’s where you wanted to be all along. We become a nation of survivalists, alone in the bunkers of our mind, with nothing but empty static on the radio.

Read more: Survivalist Nation – Esquire

Read more: Survivalist Nation – Esquire


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