I get a fair amount of Tea Party people sending me email disagreeing with my essays on republics and democracies. Until recently Tea Party people were characterized in the "liberal" media (yes, I read the New York Times) as a hodgepodge of angry, mostly white, right-wing anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-Obama types. Now a new consensus is emerging, both in the Tea Party and for its observers: the main theme is going back to "the original United States Constitution."
Before I lose you, copy this to your clipboard, and then put it somewhere in your handy intellectual ammunition belt: But it is superfluous to try, by the standard of theory, a part of the Constitution which is allowed on all hands to be the result, not of theory, but "of a spirit of amity, and that mutual deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable." That is in The Federalist Papers No. 62, attributed to John Hamilton or James Madison. While it specifically refers to the decision that each state should have two senators in the Federal Senate, it also admits that a bunch of politicians got together and hammered out a Constitution based on mutual backscratching. If God entered the writing process, it was in mysterious ways.
Even though I disagree with many Tea Party positions, I love the idea that people are getting together and talking to each other about fundamental political ideas, unmediated by the corrupt major political parties.
My favorite email from a Tea Party guy so far said, "Bill, u r so wrong about democracy vs. a Republic lets see, I pledge aleigance to the flag , and the democracy for which it stands, no i dont think that is how it goes. And there was no such thing called u.s.citizenship until 1868, and it was created for the slaves. I dont have civil rights, I have unaleinable rights. But I can promise u this, the people of' this country are starting 2 wake up. The republic that was stolen from the people by that traitor, FDR is on its way back. Aint there is nothing u new world order people can do 2 stop it." [don't judge by the spelling, this was email, after all]
Since Tea Party people are reading the Constitution, maybe that will put an end to the tax-scam idea that the Federal Income Tax is illegal because we are all citizens of the States, not of the Federal Government. On the first page of my handy U.S. Consitituion it says "No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have ... been seven Years a Citizen of the United States." That seems pretty clear. Federal citizenship began when the first Federal government convended. Find a better excuse to not pay your income taxes. [I suggest becoming an oil company]
And since they are reading the Constitution, maybe they will read about the events leading up to the Constitution. It may shock the Tea Party faithful to know that one of the main reasons for doing away with the Articles of Confederation was an armed tax revolt in Massachusetts, Shay's rebellion. And one of the first acts of the new Federal Government was the armed suppression of the Whiskey rebellion, which was also an anti-tax rebellion.
So if you are really anti-tax, and want a fundamentalist document to hang your hat on, you would want to go back to the Articles of Confederation. Which is all right by me. As far as I can tell, the declaration that the Constitution had superceded the Articles was a power play. When most people voted against the new Constitution, the elites had to use highly questionable methods to get it in place.
One thing I do agree with the Tea Party on is the misuse of the Commerce Clause. It was gradually made into a "Congress and Presidents and bureaucracies can do anything they want" clause. If Congress wants to regulate business in general, instead of leaving that power to the states, there should be an Amendment to the Constitution giving Congress that power, and clearly defining the extent of the power. [Best Commerce Clause book: Gaveling Down The Rabble]
Reading the Constitution with a fundamentalist mindset is not a bad thing, if you have not read the Constitution before or thought about it. On the other hand, thinking the Constitution was written by God is just idiotic. It was written by just a another bunch of corrupt politicians who mostly whoreshipped at the altar of Wealth. The Constitution has needed amending and interpreting. In fact, I can think of a bunch of amendments I would like to add, like one giving Congress the explicit power to protect the environment.
But if you really want to see a bunch of idiots interpreting the Constitution, look at almost any Supreme Court decision of the last 20 years. Where do they find those guys?