April 1, 2010

Tea Partiers Draw Their Foot in the Sand

Hatched by Dafydd

In an event that has been widely reported by every member of the antique media -- well, actually the only place that seems to care enough even to mention it is Newsmax.com -- results from an online survey by ContractFromAmerica.com were released today as the Tea Party's "Contract From America."

Of course, since there is no national Tea Party authority, this is not a platform the same way that the 1994 Contract With America was, under the guiding hand of then-House Minority Leader Newt Gingrich and other congressional Republicans; but as the current Contract From America (CFA) was drafted via 365,000 responses to the website, what it lacks in political authority it regains as the manifesto of the Tea Parties' "popular front," a window into the heart and soul of a growing political movement.

Two of the three planks that dominate voting are predictable; but the winningest plank is the least effective but most interesting of all. In reverse order:

  1. "Demand a balanced budget: Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike."
  2. "Reject cap and trade: Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation's global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures."

And the third; what could it be? Killing ObamaCare? Deporting all illegal immigrants and half the legal ones as well? Banning abortion, divorce, and homosexuality? Requiring Christian prayer in the schools and making little girls wear burkas? Since the CFA wasn't snuck in as a poison pill by the Puffinstuffian Post, the answer is no; but I was fascinated to see what actually won -- and by a long margin too, 81%, versus 71% for number 2 and 70% for number 3:

  1. "Protect the Constitution: Require each bill to identity the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does."

I am under no illusion that this would in fact do anything significant. Bills in Congress already list bogus, ridiculous "provisions" -- most often "To regulate Commerce... among the several States" (article I, section 8). Even if this provision was enshrined in the sacred Constitution itself, it wouldn't change one jot or tittle of classical congressional corruption.

But what the winning plank tells us is that, contrary not only to charges by devious Democrats, ludicrous liberals, and lying lefties, but also by some confusticated conservatives, laughable libertarians, and even asinine anarchists, the Tea-Party popular front is neither "populist" nor "fascist" but simply constitutionalist.

I'm certain the drafters of this particular winning option are well aware it's legally meaningless, unlike the other two planks; but as a statement of first principles, it's priceless: More than anything else, the Tea Parties stand for a return to constitutional government, vigorous rejection of the populist tyranny of "Progressivism," and the repudiation of President Woodrow Wilson's condemnation of the United States Constitution as antiquated and too limiting of "progressive" and "populist" desires:

More than anyone, Woodrow Wilson advanced the new Progressive theory of human nature and human institutions and the corresponding Progressive critique of the principles of the American Founding and the Founders' Constitution. Wilson, who was president of Princeton and of the American Political Science Association before becoming President of the United States, was the first Chief Executive to openly criticize the Constitution, once comparing it to "political witchcraft." So hostile was he to the self evident truths of the Founding that in a 1911 address he remarked, "if you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface."

Wilson above all others deserves credit for the notion that the Constitution is a "living" or "evolving" document. As he wrote in 1908, "Government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin." Insisting that the Constitution does not contain any theories or principles, Wilson argued that the Constitution has a "natural evolution" and is "one thing in one age, another in another." "Living political constitutions," he wrote, "must be Darwinian in structure and in practice."

Aside from the arrogance of power the "Progressives" exhibit, both in content and even in their self-selected name, the claim that the Constitution is "Darwinian" is an insult to actual evolutionary biology. What Wilson tried, with some success, to foist upon America has nothing whatsoever to do with the principle of evolution by variation and natural selection:

  • The planks of Progressivism did not arise from small variations in existing principles of governance or government policy; they were radical, instantaneous revolutions never seen in nature, pronounced from on high by ivy-league theorists (led by Wilson himself, former president of Princeton University).
  • And they were never ratified by testing in the crucible of the real world (natural selection); they were imposed by force, with jackbooted thugs arresting anyone who resisted.

Michael Barone clearly places the Tea Party popular front on the side of the Founders, not their Progressive enemies:

Over the past 14 months, our political debate has been transformed into an argument between the heirs of two fundamental schools of political thought, the Founders and the Progressives. The Founders stood for the expansion of liberty and the Progressives for the expansion of government.

It's an argument that has been going on for a century but was largely dormant over the quarter-century of low-inflation economic growth that followed the Reagan tax cuts. It's been raised again by the expand-government policies of the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders.

Those policies, thoroughly in line with the Progressive tradition, have been advanced by liberal elites in government, media, think tanks and academia. The opposition, roughly in line with the Founders tradition, has been led by the non-elites who spontaneously flocked to tea parties and town halls. Republican politicians have been scrambling to lead these protesters.

Today's release of the Contract From America (though voting continues through Monday) should put paid to the cockamamie misapprehensions and deliberate misinterpretations of Tea-Party antagonists. It should... but of course it won't.

Those who intend to destroy it for political reasons certainly won't care that the movement itself has enunciated its own most important goals. And those dinosaurs still grimly hanging on since the Cretaceous epoch, locked into what they have believed since puberty -- those who simply cannot imagine a popular front opposing more bread and circuses from the government -- will never change their minds. For, with apologies to George R. Stewart, Men may go and come, but obduracy abides.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 1, 2010, at the time of 11:25 AM

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The following hissed in response by: AMR

My proposal was a balanced budget with-in 10 years with a reduction of 10% of the spending each of those years and a 4/5 vote requirement to over ride it. I would go for the 2/3 vote for a tax incfreass as well.

The above hissed in response by: AMR [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2010 12:01 PM

The following hissed in response by: AMR

My proposal was a balanced budget with-in 10 years with a reduction of 10% of the spending each of those years and a 4/5 vote requirement to over ride it. I would go for the 2/3 vote for a tax increase as well.

The above hissed in response by: AMR [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 4, 2010 12:01 PM

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