thinks that it is. According to his recent piece at the New Republic it all goes back to John Calhoun. I have included a taste of the essay below, but my post does not come close to capturing all of Tenenhaus's argument. I encourage you to read the entire thing.
...The true problem, as yet unaddressed by any
Republican standard-bearer, originates in the ideology of modern
conservatism. When the intellectual authors of the modern right created
its doctrines in the 1950s, they drew on nineteenth-century political
thought, borrowing explicitly from the great apologists for slavery,
above all, the intellectually fierce South Carolinian John C. Calhoun.
This is not to say conservatives today share Calhoun's ideas about race.
It is to say instead that the Calhoun revival, based on his complex
theories of constitutional democracy, became the justification for
conservative politicians to resist, ignore, or even overturn the will of
the electoral majority.
This is the politics of nullification, the doctrine, nearly as old as
the republic itself, which holds that the states, singly or in concert,
can defy federal actions by declaring them invalid or simply ignoring
them. We hear the echoes of nullification in the venting of
anti-government passions and also in campaigns to "starve government,"
curtail voter registration, repeal legislation, delegitimize presidents.
There is a strong sectionalist bias in these efforts. They flourish in
just the places Kevin Phillips identified as Republican
strongholds—Plains, Mountain, but mainly Southern states, where change
invites suspicion, especially when it seems invasive, and government is
seen as an intrusive force. Yet those same resisters—most glaringly, Tea
Partiers—cherish the entitlements and benefits provided by "Big
Government." Their objections come when outsider groups ask for
consideration, too. Even recent immigrants to this country sense the
"hidden hand" of Calhoun's style of dissent, the extended lineage of
rearguard politics, with its aggrieved call, heard so often today, "to
take back America"—that is, to take America back to the "better" place
it used to be. Today's conservatives have fully embraced this tradition,
enshrining it as their own "Lost cause," redolent with the moral
consolations of noble defeat.
And a bit more:
Today, Calhoun is often described as a kind of crank—and with some
reason. He called slavery "a positive good" and ridiculed the
Declaration's "all men are created equal." ("Taking the proposition
literally ... there is not a word of truth in it.") But in the early
cold war years, when so many intellectuals, left and right, rebelled
against the numbing dictates of consensus and conformism, there was a
Calhoun revival. He became "the philosophic darling of students of
American political thought," Louis Hartz wrote in The Liberal Tradition in America, published in 1955. A liberal like the
historian Richard Hofstadter was stimulated by his bold theories on
class and labor ("the Marx of the master class"), and conservatives were
drawn to his protest against encroaching big government. Calhoun,
Russell Kirk wrote in The Conservative Mind (1953),
was "the most resolute enemy of national consolidation and of
omnicompetent democratic majorities" and had valiantly uncovered "the
forbidding problem of the rights of individuals and groups menaced by
the will of overbearing majorities." The Calhoun apostle James J.
Kilpatrick, the editor of The Richmond News Leader, wrote a defense of segregation, The Sovereign States
(1957), that had an epigraph from the Fort Hill Address and
exhaustively catalogued examples of "interposition" dating back to the
origins of the Republic. Kilpatrick repeated the exercise in an attack
on the Little Rock intervention, published in The New Republic.