Conservatives would like us to believe that hatred of government and racism are totally separate phenomena. That one has nothing to do with the other. They’re wrong.
Resentment of the federal government and racism have gone hand-in-hand in the United States for 200 years. In the 19th century, Democrats were the anti-government party. That was the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Southern slave owners embraced the Democratic Party because they feared the federal government would take away their property without compensation. And it did.
Southerners rallied to the cause of “states’ rights” because it meant the preservation of slavery. Later, that morphed into segregation.
Of course, resentment of government is not limited to racists. It has deep roots in U.S. history. The Europeans who first settled the United States came here seeking either economic or religious freedom. As the late sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset put it, the United States was populated by “runaways from authority.” They were escaping the authority of oppressive governments and established churches.
The belief in limited government is enshrined in our Constitution. That’s why Tea Party activists worship the Constitution. The first founding document — the Articles of Confederation (1781) — provided for a federal government that was so weak, it had to be thrown out and replaced by the Constitution in 1789.