Our nation confronts a challenge this Fourth of July that we face but rarely: We are at odds over the meaning of our history and why, to quote our Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted.”
Only divisions this deep can explain why we are taking risks with our country’s future that we’re usually wise enough to avoid. Arguments over how much government should tax and spend are the very stuff of democracy’s give-and-take. Now, the debate is shadowed by worries that if a willful faction does not get what it wants, it might bring the nation to default.
This is, well, crazy. It makes sense only if politicians believe — or have convinced themselves — that they are fighting over matters of principle so profound that any means to defeat their opponents is defensible.
We are closer to that point than we think, and our friends in the Tea Party have offered a helpful clue by naming their movement in honor of the 1773 revolt against tea taxes on that momentous night in Boston Harbor.