In the Obama era, Tea Party Republicans like Senator Rand Paul have portrayed the U.S. government as a threat to individual liberty, an oppressive force in American life. They just want government to leave us alone. But while the Stand With Rand worldview is quite consistent—against gun restrictions, traffic-light cameras, drone strikes, anti-discrimination laws, anti-pollution laws, and other Big Brother intrusions into our private lives—it’s wrong. And most of us know it’s wrong, which is why we celebrate our first responders, our soldiers, our law enforcers. They’re from the government and they’re here to help. We know our government is fallible, because it’s made up of people, but we still count on it to protect us from terrorists, from psychos with guns, from exploding factories. We also need it to protect us from floods and wildfires, from financial meltdowns and climate change. We can’t do that kind of thing ourselves.
I don’t want to imply that we live in a Game of Thrones episode—our nights are dark but only occasionally full of terrors—but last week, an Elvis impersonator trying to poison the president didn’t even make the front page. There’s dangerous stuff out there, and while it’s probably fun to Stand With Rand, I’m more inclined to stand with the public servants keeping us safe, even when the al Qaeda operative they ice in Yemen is an American citizen, even when they shut down an entire city to hunt for a single teenager, and yes, even when they try to regulate coal plants and oil rigs and Wall Street casinos that would greatly prefer to be left alone. That’s why I pay my taxes, and that’s why I don’t feel like I’m being tyrannized when I pay them.