Tea Partiers cite the Constitution as the only source of authority for government in the United States, but one analysis says their interpretation of the founding document is wrong.
Andrew Romano writes at Newsweek.com that Constitutional fundamentalists like the Tea Party are using the “sacred text” of the Constitution to push their own political views.
Contemporary Constitution worshipers claim that they’ve distilled their entire political platform—lower taxes, less regulation, minimal federal government—directly from the original text of the founding document. Any overlap with mainstream conservatism is incidental, they say; they’re simply following the Framers’ precise instructions. If this were true, it would be quite the political coup: oppose us, the Tea Party could claim, and you’re opposing James Madison. But the reality is that Tea Partiers engage with the Constitution in such a selective manner, and for such nakedly political purposes, that they’re clearly relying on it more as an instrument of self-affirmation and cultural division than a source of policy inspiration.
Romano says the Tea Party interpretation of the Constitution is that it’s not dogmatic enough.
Most Tea Partiers claim that the 10th Amendment, which says “the powers not delegated” to the federal government are “reserved to the states,” is proof that the Framers would’ve balked at today’s bureaucracy. What they don’t mention is that James Madison refused a motion to add the word “expressly” before “delegated” because “there must necessarily be admitted powers by implication.”
Romano says the Tea Partiers do a disservice to the founding fathers by insisting that those who don’t share their idealized view of the Constitution are somehow un-American. Rather, a healthy debate over the direction of the country would truly honor the spirit of the founders.