U.S. Intellectual History Blog

More on the Tea Party, History, and the Constitution

At the risk of being labeled an academic snob, here’s some more on the Tea Party’s abuse of history from my op-ed with the Christian Science Monitor published a few days ago:

“One of the drums that the tea party beats again and again is that the Founders favored limited government because they thought the power of taxation was an essential tool of despotism. They argue that our current government, with its large and growing debt and with its tendency toward what some conservatives see as socialism, violates the small-government Constitution created by the Founders. So concerned are the newly elected tea party members in Congress that they have threatened to bring the government to a standstill in the next couple of months by voting against a bill to raise the US debt ceiling, which caps the amount of money that the federal government is allowed to borrow. With increasing frequency since budget deficits started soaring under George W. Bush, Congress has repeatedly raised the debt ceiling to avoid default and the temporary shut-down of the federal government, both of which threaten serious long-term economic consequences. But tea party proponents have argued that the debt must be contained as a first engagement in a longer battle to lower taxes, diminish federal expenditures, and return the federal government to the size and purpose intended by the Founders. This argument is instructive, but not quite in the way that tea partiers imagine. Though the tea party’s philosophy is clear enough, it obscures a telling irony: Even though tea partiers appeal to the Constitution to support their position, they often sound more like Antifederalist opponents of the Constitution than the Constitution’s supporters.”

Read the rest here.