Professor Paul Rahe is one of the country’s most distinguished historians of political thought. In view of his classic study of Republics Ancient and Modern, Professor Rahe is the academy’s foremost authority on the history of republics. He is also the author, most recently, of the companion studies Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty: War, Religion, Commerce, Climate, Terrain, Technology, Uneasiness of Mind, the Spirit of Political Vigilance, and the Foundations of the Modern Republic and Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect.
In the current issue of Commentary, Professor Rahe brings the scholarship of his most recent work on “soft despotism” to bear on his analysis of “How to think about the Tea Party.” I learned much from his essay and commend it to your attention.
Among Professor Rahe’s observations is this one, quoted by Glenn Reynolds:
Most important, it should be humbling to those elites that ordinary American citizens choose spontaneously to enter the political arena in droves, concert opposition, speak up in a forthright manner, and oust a host of entrenched office holders when they learn that a system of punitive taxation is in the offing, when they are repeatedly told what they know to be false–that, under the new health-care system that the administration is intent on establishing, benefits will be extended and costs reduced and no one will lose the coverage he already has–and when they discover that Medicare is to be gutted, that medical care is to be rationed, and that citizens who have no desire to purchase health insurance are going to be forced to do so. . . . What we are witnessing with the Tea Party movement is one of the periodic recurrences to fundamental principles that typify and revivify the American experiment in self-government.