Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The State, the Tea Party, and the Constitution

\I think that it's funny that Libertarians and Tea Party folks should be so set on folks obeying the Constitution, with the intent being to stymie the growth of the State. The reason is simple: the Constitution was written by people who wanted a stronger State in the first place, who wanted a stronger centralized government than they originally had. Before the Constitution, we had the Articles of the Confederation, under which there wasn't any strong central authority overseeing the new States, although there was a Confederal congress. Many people were fine with this. However, a group of folks who tended to be better off and were well organized, didn't like this situation, and were in fact afraid that popular democracy could lead to citizens in general imposing initiatives to redistribute wealth. So, they agitated for a good deal of power to be taken from the States and turned over to a centralized entity, now known as the Federal Government, which in turn was ruled by a President. The President wasn't directly elected by the people, and neither was the Senate . Only the House of Representatives in the original scheme was, and even then there were various poll taxes in some areas.

The Constitution, the foundation of the Federal Government, was and is a Statist document, created for the purpose of establishing a strong State above local state governments. The only reason why it's no longer seen as this is because when power shifted from the Federalist Party to the Jeffersonian Democrats they imposed a different interpretation of what the Constitution meant, one that biased the local States against the Federal Government. Instead of States having to justify their freedom to make policy to the Federal government, their reading of the Constitution changed that to argue that the opposite should happen. This, arguably, was a distortion of the original system, and was opposed pretty heavily both by folks associated with the Federalist Party and the later the Republican Party, both of whom favored a centralized Federal Government. It was only in the New Deal era, and in the post-war world, where Democrats came up with an interpretation of government that approved active intervention and yet did not rest on the principle of centralization. Only then did some Republicans, and conservatives in general, start to turn away from the notion of a centralized, active, Federal Government as a whole. In a way the original Neo-conservatives of the post-war world, those folks associated with William F. Buckley, who supported a strong State, albeit not an outright welfare state, were the true continuers of the Republican and Federalist tradition.

The Southern Strategy that Nixon wrought, and that Reagan helped to bring home, is the real source of the Tea Party's Republicanism, not the original Federalist Party or the original Constitutional thought. This, ironically, is a Democratic conception of what government should look like, inherited from the Old South. But there's a difference. The original Democratic reinterpretation of the Constitution was done in order to gum up the works and to promote stasis on the Federal level so that the States themselves could have more power. The problem these days is that while the works of the Federal government are gummed up pretty well, the States haven't had a corresponding rise in power, and issues exist which effect the States just as much as the country as whole that attention and nothing is being done about it. No one in government has the power, or the initiative, to do so, and the Tea Party folks are less than forthcoming about local solutions to things like unemployment. That is not how the strategy was originally intended to work. The founders of the Democratic Party were not so stupid as to think that society could get along without some form of government to help meet common needs and necessities.

If the Tea Party truly wants to see the Constitution being honored, they'd go back to a strategy like that of JFK, who skillfully blended Republican ideas with activist, Democratic, government and values. But that's unlikely to happen any time soon.

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