Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Specifically Do Tea Party Members Want When They Say to "Return to the Constitution"?

In their enthusiasm, Tea Party members may want to consider that several recent surveys found that about 1/3rd of those questioned identified themselves as either members of the party or leaning towards their views. Unless they can broaden their appeal to people from the center, they don't stand much of a chance of winning many elections. Those at the other end of the political spectrum have exactly the same problem.

Also, since one of their demands is that politicians follow the Constitution, it might help to commission someone to summarize just what they want politicians to do, beyond the few specific demands they've made (such as eliminating certain government agencies); or explain how politicians are *failing* to follow the Constitution; or both. It might be helpful to keep in mind that the Constitution went into effect in 1789 -- 221 years ago. The point is that for 221 years our courts at all levels and other legal scholars have pondered the meaning of the Constitution, often arriving at very different decisions from earlier ones.

That's not a political argument; the record is clear.

For example, in 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott decision that slaves were not citizens of the US so had no standing to sue. Further, the ruling said the Missouri Compromise and that Congress had no authority to forbid slavery. Compare that to the Plessy versus Ferguson ruling in 1896 (separate but equal) and the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education.

Or look at the complicated history of who has the right to vote. For example, *some* free Black men could vote in the late 1700's -- though after 1810 *none* could. But they had that right, if only temporarily and only in some places, *long* before, for instance, women of any color got the right to vote. A few women could vote before 1920, but many could not until that year.

So, when we say politicians should go back to the original Founding Fathers' meanings -- that would include a restriction on voting to White men 21 or older who owned property -- plus, somewhat confusingly, free Black males in certain places, too.

We should go back to that?

And, for that matter, to slavery? It took the Civil War and the 13th and 14th amendments to end it (1865 and 1868, respectively).

Surely those aren't goals of anyone affiliated with the Tea Party.