Restoring Constitutional Principles is the Future, Not the Past

By: May 30, 2011


I was surprised by your ending question:

To the extent that Tea Party ideas prevail, should we really be looking for a do-over not on the New Deal, not on the fourteenth amendment, not on judicial review, but on acts of the first Congress and accomplishments of the Washington administration? 

The Tea Party supports the plain meaning of the words of the Constitution as amended. Many of us view it as a secular covenant whose terms we are bound to honor. The only way to change that covenant is to go through the amendment process as described in the document itself.

We support the repeal of any law not supported by the plain meaning of the Constitution. Yes, that does mean the repeal of many of the concepts of further federal government intrusion espoused by the New Deal, enlarged by the Great Society, embraced by the George W. Bush Administration, and taken into the stratosphere by the Obama Administration.

Your suggestion that the Tea Party might call for a do-over of the fourteenth amendment is an idea I’ve not seen suggested within the movement. To the contrary, we view the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments as shining examples of the Constitution at work as it was intended.

As for suggestions that judicial review be eliminated, this too is a concept I’ve not seen supported within the movement. In fact, it was the lack of judicial review in 1791 when Hamilton persuaded Congress to pass and Washington to sign the unconstitutional National Bank law that started us down the slippery slope of creating new powers for the federal government not contained in the plain words of the Constitution, as amended.

Is the concept of judicial review infallible? Certainly not.

I can point to at least three examples of Supreme Court decisions which, to me and most Tea Party supporters are Constitutional abominations:

1. Dred Scott v. Sanborn

2. Wickard v. Filburn

3. Kelo v. New London

But the Tea Party solution to fixing these bad decisions is not to reject the concept of judicial review, which provides a needed safeguard to executive and legislative overreach. The solution is political — elect a President who will nominate and Senate who will confirm Supreme Court justices who view the Constitutition properly and understand their role–justices like Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.

Finally, the problem with the First Congress and the Washington Administration lies primarily with the bad precedent set by the unconstitutional National Bank law. Remember, the supporters of that act were largely the same people who supported the unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts of the Adams Administration. Now there’s where we could have used judicial review!

Fortunately, the political process corrected some of those bad precedents when Jefferson was elected President in 1800, and voters “threw the Federalist bums out” of the House of Representatives in one of the most stunning political defeats in American history. Angry at the abuses of the Constitution perpetrated by the Federalists, the electorate turned a slight Federalist majority into a 2 to 1 Democrat-Republican Party majority.

Just as voters in 1800 called for a return to Constitutional principles, so too did voters in the 2010 election. Look for more of the same in 2012.

Michael Patrick Leahy is the editor of the Voices of the Tea Party e-book series and co-founder of Top Conservatives on Twitter and the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition. His new  e-book, I, Light Bulb: A Death Row Testimonial, will be published in July, 2011. His new book, Covenant of Liberty, will be published by Broadside Books in January, 2012. He can be reached on Twitter at @michaelpleahy .

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