Tuesday, 16 March 2010

New York Times: The Tea Party and the Constitution, 12/03/10

'Tea-ing Up the Constitution'

I realise we have moved away from Tea Party happenings lately but this week I came across this article on the New York Times which talks about the significance of Tea Partiers adopting the Constitution as part of their ideology:


The author of this piece, Adam Liptak, notes that,

'It is, of course, hard to say anything definitive about the Tea Party movement, a loose confederation of groups with no central leadership. But if there is a central theme to its understanding of the Constitution, it is that the nation’s founders knew what they were doing and that their work must be protected. “I think it’s some loose, ill-informed version of originalism, but it’s plausible,' said Professor Kramer.'

This version of 'originalism' suggests that the Constitutional text should be interpreted today as it was when it was written.
I found the data quoted below very interesting. The conservative, individualist reading of the Constitution is obviously very popular in the U.S, echoing strong patriotic values similar to Tea Party Movement characteristics.

'Surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University indicate that some 40 percent of Americans say the Supreme Court should employ originalism in interpreting the Constitution; slightly more say the court should take account of changing conditions.'

A good point that this article covers is that when the Constitution has been interpreted in American history, it is most often than not shaped by changing public opinion not a recurring progressive left or right majority. Nathaniel Persily, in the article however, suggests that The Tea Party Movement doesn't just adopt a single public 'ism' but many,

“The Tea Party movement is interesting in that there is a combination of localism, nativism and populism that we’ve seen at various points in America.”

Maybe this collection of 'isms' is another reason why the TPM is so hard to define and situate in American politics.

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