Fiscal restraint requires sacrifice – especially in entitlement spending – and hard choices with the defense budget. Defending federalism actually requires permitting progressive enclaves to govern themselves, and that’s often intolerable to a highly-polarized public that sees any progressive (or conservative) victory anywhere as a threat to their own partisan project.

The best test of whether a person wields any constitutional doctrine as a weapon versus advances it as a principle is relatively easy to apply – will you defend the doctrine when even your political opponents attempt to use it? Or is it functionally “for me, but not for thee.”

Lost in this endless partisan back-and-forth, however, is the underlying merit of the original Tea Party argument. Is the federal government growing too large and too centralized to effectively govern a population that is increasingly diverse and increasingly divided? Shouldn’t we de-escalate national politics (where every presidential election is “the most important election of our lifetimes”) by pushing as many key decisions as we can to local decision-makers, those people who are directly accountable to their communities?

In other words, if the mayor of Atlanta wants to respond to a pandemic with a masking order, shouldn’t that rest within her authority? And if her voters don’t like it, shouldn’t they hold her accountable?