But in one of the more remarkable aspects of this revival of interest among the citizenry of the meaning and purpose of the Constitution, it doesn’t matter what the Supremes think, or the elites, or the sickeningly condescending left who sneer at talk of the Tenth Amendment or strict constructionism. What matters is the effort itself — that people are becoming more engaged in what their government is up to than they have been in a very long time. For 60 years, we have largely accepted the justifications of our elites for expanding the size and reach of government. It’s been done in the name of “fairness,” or “social justice,” or “to help those less fortunate,” or “to level the playing field” in economic matters. All of these things are worthy goals. And to some degree or another, they may be necessary in a 21st-century industrialized democracy.
The forces of limited government have been on the run, because in this kind of battle there is no compromise solution. When it comes to the Supreme Court, there are winners and losers and that’s it. Federalism has been in retreat for the same reason. Such questions do not lend themselves to political solutions where each side gives a little and an agreement is reached. We’ve been involved in a war against the forces of expansion, and regardless of the reason or the cause, and no matter if the issue is “social justice” or some other noble undertaking, the result is the same: the Constitution being used not to define limits on power but to justify control over citizens.
This would certainly puzzle our ancestors, who were most concerned that the government they were creating would be constrained from imposing its will upon them. The whole point of the Bill of Rights was to codify the individual freedoms Americans thought important, preventing government from stepping over the line.
Today, such thinking is considered “selfish.” Well, the tea partiers and delegates here in New Orleans may not know Marbury v. Madison but they have some pretty strong ideas about personal liberty. They can also read. If their understanding of the nuances of constitutional law is deficient, there is nothing wrong with their ability to read and absorb a simple, straightforward document like the Constitution of the United States. They ask commonsense questions like where in our founding document is the government granted this power or that, and the reaction by the forces of unlimited expansion of government power is to pat them on the head and declare them unfit to think upon such matters.
Yet they are thinking about it and they are deadly serious. If there is one thing to take away from this conference, it is that there is a large segment of the populace who have been aroused — angered by what they perceive to be a government grown too big, too fast, and consequently spending us into oblivion.
A tipping point has been reached. Perhaps it should have been reached earlier. Maybe it’s unfair to the Democrats to single them out when both parties have done their best to grow government beyond the worst nightmares of the Founders and the Americans of the generation that birthed this nation. But regardless of fault, the interest in our founding document and people’s struggles to come to grips with its meaning in modern America is what is going to be one of the primary issues that candidates will have to address in November if they want to win.