You may have seen this column by Pat Buchanan, which TPM linked to:
The Oath Keepers bring to the fore a fundamental dilemma in U.S. political philosophy, one that is also part of the Heller gun case.
The issue is this: How does a government which was founded on the right of the people to make violent revolution if the felt they were too oppressed exercise its authority over its own people?
The Declaration of Independence is celebrated, rightly, as a document which established that human beings have certain fundamental rights. But it is also the document which the then colonies used to justify armed insurrection. It is an important document as much because that insurrection was successful as for any of the principals it expresses.
The Declaration contains a list of grievances which Jefferson and the other signers thought justified their engaging in violent revolution. The idea is that a group of citizens cannot simply decide that they do not like what is going on with the government and then go directly to armed rebellion/revolution. The causes of their grievances must be serious and the exercise of the right to violent resistance must be the only option available.
The issues of what constitutes just cause and whether all non-violent means have been exhausted were also at the heart of the philosophical debate over secession in 1860-61. Lincoln did not believe that the preservation of slavery justified the violent resistance of federal authority, especially when the federal government had not sought the abolition of slavery in states where it was lawful, but only in territories controlled by the central government. Jefferson Davis and the other southern radicals thought the preservation of slavery and the right to carry their slaves with them wherever they went was so fundamental that it justified armed revolution. Latter day apologists for this rebellion try to ignore that debate and instead focus solely on the right to revolution.
In the Heller case, Justice Scalia discusses the issue of how the second amendment is there not only for the protection of individuals from other individuals, but is there to allow citizens to control the course of their society if the courts and other institutions fail them. However, Scalia fails to follow through on that part of the decision when he states that, although there is a right to violent revolution protected by the second amendment, this does not mean that individuals can own heavy artillery or fighter jets, etc. In other words, he is not willing to give "the people" a level playing field against the government in the event of a showdown.
The Oath Keepers Buchanan mentions in his column and Buchanan himself seem to be carrying this debate into the 21st century. They seem to think that things are getting intolerable enough that armed rebellion is justified. They anticipate that the central government will attempt to disarm those who feel that way and they are intent on resisting any such disarmament, or at least refusing to assist the central government in that project.
The problem with their position is that, like the slaveholders, the grievances of the "white people" are not sufficient to justify armed resistance to the central government. Buchanan thinks that the "white people" are the only ones who have a right to feel resentment towards the central government, wall street, etc. This harkens back to the campaign slogan of the Democrats in the 1868 presidential election: "This is a White Man's Country" (I kid you not. That was their slogan). On the other hand, those who advocate the dissolution of the racial system, or at least the opening up of the racial system to permit individuals who do not qualify as white to gain access to power and privilege can call up the words of the very declaration of independence (and war) which Buchanan and the Oath Takers and the slaveholders before them rely upon to assert their right to use armed violence against the central government.
What we are witnessing is the 21st century version of a debate that Americans are doomed to have because of the way in which we came to be a nation. We cannot, as a country, rule out violent revolution as a remedy to grievances. In our country, because of our past, the question is not if, but when is it ok to take up arms against the central government.
It is a mistake for progressives (or liberals or democrats) to characterize people like Buchanan and the Oath Takers and the militias as "crazies." They are no more crazy than Jefferson Davis and the other slaveholders who incited rebellion against the central government in 1861.
I don't want you to have the false impression about what I think about guns. I do not think that Americans should have the unfettered right to bear arms, even handguns. It is not, however, because I think the 2nd Amendment does not protect that right. It is because I don't think we are, as a culture, mature enough to handle that responsibility. Maybe if we ever grow up as a people and learn to agree on the fundamentals of human rights we will be able to handle it. Unfortunately, however, we have incorporated armed insurrection into our political culture and, without a repeal of the second amendment, we are stuck with it.