The wild card in the Tea Parties is immigration. It may be true, as many intelligent people have argued, that the libertarian and conservative wings of the movement are able to work together on economic concerns while setting aside their quarrels on social issues and foreign policy. Whatever disagreements the marchers may have when it comes to Iraq or gay marriage, most of their demonstrations have focused on blocking or rolling back bailouts, taxes, spending, and interventions in health care.
Border control is one area, though, where much of the movement wants the authorities to do more rather than less. And while it seems to be a back-burner issue for Tea Partiers in much of the country, the subject has moved to the forefront in Arizona, which just passed a sweeping law cracking down on illegal immigration. This week the Arizona Tea Party Network put out a call for ralliers to come to the capitol to support the new bill. How important is the issue to this corner of the movement? It's important enough that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for abusing civil liberties in his fight against illicit frontier-crossers (and in other areas too), headlined the April 15 Tea Party in Gilbert, Arizona.
Arpaio isn't just repellent to libertarians. He turns off conservatives who don't let their belief in border controls undermine their support for the rule of law and the Bill of Rights. If you're worried about an ugly element in the Tea Parties, don't fret about militias, Oath Keepers, and the other alleged demons invoked by the movement's establishment critics. Arpaio represents a much more substantial menace: the threat of lawless law enforcement.