Friday, March 14, 2014

Tea Party Core Values

The last post at Right Detour noted the fifth anniversary of the tea party movement.

Republican politicians have been promising to uphold these values for decades only to renege on them once in office. Only the outrageous bailouts and stimulus packages of the liberal Bush and Obama administrations kindled the conservative populist movement known as the tea party. Politics is not longer business as usual for Democrats or Republicans.

All tea party groups share the same core values:

--Constitutionally limited government

--Free markets

--Fiscal responsibility

The next few posts here at Right Detour will briefly explore those core values.

The first, and most important, is constitutionally limited government.

First, some background.

Ironically, in the context of contemporary politics, the movement behind our current Constitution of 1787 sought a stronger government. It was driven by the conviction that our first constitution inadequately met the needs of the American people. Supporters of this new constitution argued for the need of a stronger government, yet also reassured more skeptical Americans that the new government created by this constitution would not threaten the sovereignty of the states or the liberties of the people.

That first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, operated between 1781 and 1789. That document created a "league of friendship" between the thirteen former colonies. Passage of any law required approval of the representatives of nine out of the thirteen states; revising the Articles through amendments required the approval of all thirteen. The states retained nearly complete sovereignty. The Articles gave no authority to the Congress to act directly on American citizens. Any policies of national import had to implemented through the states. Policies of foreign import could not be enforced. Foreign nations held us in contempt and closed off the Mississippi River and most of their ports to our commerce.

Compounding these difficulties were the governments of the states themselves. Reflecting on the experience of their colonial governments, state constitution makers created state governments with weak governors and ineffectual upper houses. The lower legislative chambers dominated most state governments during the immediate post-revolutionary period. Although the end of the war brought prosperity, the state governments created all sorts of mischief through interference with contracts, paper money schemes, suspension of debt collections, and discrimination against each other's commerce. Some American leaders even feared the breakup of the American people into four or five separate confederations. Such  a development would increase the susceptibility of Americans finding themselves once again subject to European powers.

The 1780s and 1790s witnessed constitutional revisions at both the state and national level. Our current constitution, placing the Articles of Confederation, resulted from that revision.

Alexander Hamilton addressed the readers of the four New York newspapers that began publishing a series of articles that became known as The Federalist:

"After an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting constitution [the Articles of Confederation], you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks of its own importance; comprehending in its consequence nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire, in many respects, the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved for the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political  constitutions, on accident and force. If there be any truth in that remark, the crisis, at which we are arrive, may with propriety be regarded as the era in which the decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act, may in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind."

We constitutional conservatives of the tea party movement also live in such an era, when President Barack Obama's promise of "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" threatens the constitutional, political, and economic order that we inherited from our forefathers.

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