SBLichtman at ship.edu
Fri Sep 17 19:58:35 PDT 2010
"The TPM is about turning the clock back to living within our means, both in the public and in the private sector, and returning to original understanding on governmental powers ..."
Not to get all Herbert Croly on you, but if you really want an original understanding of the relationship between governmental powers and individual rights, try the Declaration of Independence: "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men."
My point ... the truly irksome thing about the Tea Party movement is its spectacularly arrogant insistence that THEY KNOW what the Constitution "really" means about the federal-state relationship. If you want to argue as a matter of POLICY that we should be investing the states with more power, go right ahead. I might even agree with that on some levels (though not the Repealer Amendment, which is lunacy).
The Tea Party doesn't phrase its wants in terms of policy, though; it insists that its adherents are the true constitutionalists ... and that's a level of hubris which is utterly breathtaking. To suggest that the current scope of federal power is a perversion of the Constitution and of the federal-state balance that the Framers envisioned is a load of nonsense, precisely because that's a fundamentally unanswerable question.
Some of the Framers wanted Tea Party-esque limits on federal power. Others wanted the federal government to have wide dominion over the states. And as the Declaration's language makes clear, the Framers understood the counterintuitive reality of rights: rights which protect against governmental tyranny are nevertheless dependent on governmental power for their vitality, because rights are meaningless if they cannot be legally enforced.
I respect the Tea Party's energy, and I admire the way that it has forced interesting civic questions about constitutionalism into mainstream civic conversations. But I have little patience for the Tea Party's smugness that it has a monopoly on constitutional wisdom.
Dr. Steven Lichtman
Assistant Professor and Pre-Law Advisor
Department of Political Science - 413 Grove Hall
1871 Old Main Drive
Shippensburg, PA 17257
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