Tea Parties and the Constitution

As I’ve now mentioned a couple of times, tea party patriots are arguing — at an increasing clip — for activists to get in the business of political conversion. The San Juan Capistrano event on Saturday had just a bit more of an “outreach” feel to it, and recall too that Lt. Col. Allen West really hammered the point home in his Ft. Lauderdale address. Perhaps this is something of a maturation of the movement. While some leftists have been gleefully pronouncing the death of the tea parties, the movement’s most likely here to stay in some form (as long as activists aren’t co-opted into a third party — I’m thinking Ross Perot in 1992 and after). The July 4th weekend demonstrated the point pretty well, I’d say. Indeed, there’s a couple of articles out today discussing the tea parties, and most pertinent to my thinking is at Washington Post, “Tea party gatherings on the Fourth mix the educational and the patriotic” (via Memeorandum). I noticed earlier that some folks really are invested in their cherished interpretations of the Constitution (see here and here), and so the first couple of passages at WaPo are what interest me:

Tea party” activists across the nation tried to put the “independence” back in Independence Day this weekend with festivals and other gatherings focused on the Constitution — and how to use it for political gain.

Coupled with an upsurge in organized classes and book clubs, the trend reflects a growing effort among conservatives to teach supporters how to do political battle using an inviolable weapon: the nation’s founding documents. It’s a change in emphasis for a movement that rose to prominence with spirited and sometimes unruly protests across the nation.


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One of the points in the article — that tea partiers are just now stressing constitutional principles — doesn’t square with my experience. I recall sometime after last summer’s town halls finished up, the next batch of tea party events became even larger revivals for constitutionalism. And pretty much all this year, my local group has been hammering the nation’s founding principles at events. In any case, Gallup’s got some new findings that confirm it’s mostly limited government principles of concern to tea partiers, and while yes, the Founders wanted to correct the deficiencies of the weak confederation of states during the Revolutionary War, it’s probably not accurate to overstate the case that they unequivocally backed strong centralized government. I can’t vouch for all of these quotes below, but not even Alexander Hamilton — among the strongest proponents of federal power in 1787 — could accurately be portrayed as completely favoring centralization over ultimate guarantees for the liberties of the people.


Cross-posted from American Power.

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