The ultimate insight unleashed by the Tea Party is that political liberty must return, whatever the economic implications, because the alternative will destroy itself — at a literally incalculable cost. The return of liberty will not usher in the new dark age of suffering and superstition that liberals fear most. Rather, it will oblige individuals to be better neighbors, better citizens and better human beings — not through the dictates of law, but the realities of everyday life.

If Tea Partiers hammer away at this message, they will awaken the left to the deep alternative denied by Barack Obama. But if they obscure it with other rallying cries, Americans right and left will fight like the prisoners they are over the dwindling scraps of a failed regime.