Jim Bovard reported on one Tea Party rally he attended (via Andrew and Balko), and he found that most of the activists and speakers held conventional Republican views on national security and war, including support for illegal surveillance and torture. The extent of this probably varies depending on the rally, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

If 57% of people who identify with the Tea Party movement have a favorable view of Bush, why are they going to be opposed to Bush’s illegal acts, disastrous policies and increases in the size of government? According to the surveys we have seen already, there are anti-Bush Tea Partiers, and there is a sizeable minority within the movement that really does oppose most or all expansions of government power on principle, but clearly they are being overwhelmed and drowned out by nationalists and hawks. In other words, the Tea Party movement suffers from the same problems as the conservative movement and the Republican Party in that the majority of the movement seems to support just about anything done by and for the national security and warfare state. As in the conservative movement and the GOP, there are principled dissenters who object to these things on small-government, constitutionalist, prudential, moral and religious grounds, but in the end they remain dissenters against the prevailing view.

The dispiriting part of all this is that hating liberals more than loving liberty is hardly a new phenomenon. Unfortunately, it has defined a large part of postwar conservative politics all along. As Prof. Lukacs wrote in his “The Problem of American Conservatism” 26 years ago: “Many American conservatives, alas, gave ample evidence that they were just conservative enough to hate liberals but not enough to love liberty.” What we have seen over the last ten years is a tendency to make loathing for liberals the thing that truly matters, and usually liberty becomes important to most conservatives only when it is useful to berate liberals. To the extent that liberals have defended constitutional liberties against anti-terrorist government intrusions, it is the latter that most conservatives have embraced. It is not just that loathing for liberals exceeds love of liberty, which might be true for members of all kinds of ideological movements, but that love of liberty becomes almost entirely contingent on whether or not it can be marshaled in opposition to liberals.