To the extent that a state is challenged as the sole, legitimate owner of the tools of violence, force, and coercion, it is challenged at its core. This is why "state's rights" led to secession and Civil War. The legitimacy of the central state was challenged, then reestablished. It is also why the Civil Rights Movement was so powerful. The overt abuse of state power evidenced by the violence of Southern police called into question their foundational legitimacy. The federal government had to act or risk losing its authority as a state altogether.
Which leads us to March 2010.
The Tea Party is a challenge to the legitimacy of the U.S. state. When Tea Party participants charge the current administration with various forms of totalitarianism, they are arguing that this government has no right to levy taxes or make policy. Many GOP elected officials offered nearly secessionist rhetoric from the floor of Congress this weekend. They joined as co-conspirators with the Tea Party protesters by arguing that this government has no monopoly on legitimacy.
...We must now guard against the end of our new Reconstruction and the descent of a vicious new Jim Crow terrorism.
Professor Harris-Lacewell argues that the teabagger movement is not just idly racist but purposefully seditious. It's worth reading the whole thing, and it's refreshing to read a perspective on the so-called tea party movement that correctly nails its purported populism as racist revanchism not some kind of neo-progressive anticapitalism. Avoid the frightening comments.