Despite the resurgent tingles up the legs of numerous liberal commentators — and even a smattering of conservative pundits — President Barack Obama is anything but a comeback kid. No amount of yelping among the ever-shrinking liberal ranks can make it so.
For the moment, there is only one genuine comeback kid on the American block: the U.S. Constitution. And the mighty resurgence of interest in that document, along with a new call for a return to constitutional fealty, is brought to us all by liberty guys and gals reincarnate: the Tea Parties.
Liberty’s spirit began to rise anew as an ultra-frustrated Rick Santelli issued an extemporaneous call on the floor of the New York stock exchange for modern Tea Parties. His rallying cry against the collectivist economic policies of the new administration was immediately dubbed “the shout heard ‘round the world.”
By spring of ’09, Santelli’s rhetorical call to arms had received its response: tax-day Tea Party rallies in 306 cities, drawing more than 250,000 Americans out of normative nonchalance and into the arena of patriotic protest.
The Tea Partiers were either ignored or scorned and mocked by mainstream media buffoons. But in less than two years, individual grassroots American citizens mounted the most formidable political movement seen in this country since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Tea Party activists, once the collective butt of puerile, adolescent humor, are now honored guests in the media halls that first scorned them. Many members of Congress who arrogantly rebuffed Tea Partiers’ valid questions at summer townhalls now find themselves unemployed — grateful only that tar and feathers are no longer the tools of a disgruntled citizenry.
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) will head the newly formed Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. And the cry of the Tea Party Express these past two years — “Flip this House!” — has become a reality. But at the heart of all the national hoopla, in the bosom of every Tea Party protest, is our true comeback kid, the Constitution of the United States of America.
I’ve spent a great amount of time over the past 18 months among Tea Party activists, interviewing many. I’ve talked to Americans from different regions of the country — old and young, rich and poor, black and white, union and non-union. To be sure, there is among Tea Partiers a mountain of economic angst and disgust for both parties’ profligate ways. But the real glue that holds all these disparate folks together — the reason they will not just go away — is their bedrock respect for the Constitution.
It has not been lost on this monumental grassroots movement that lawmakers of both political parties have either ignored or defied constitutional limits on their powers for going on a century now. And for those taking to the streets in protest, our government’s growing tyranny is the primary driver of disgust. Suddenly, Americans are buying and carrying around pocket copies of the nation’s treasured document. All across the land, ordinary citizens are attending classes on the Constitution.
And, due entirely to all-American Tea Party activism, everyone who is anyone is talking and writing about the U.S. Constitution. One would need to be a ninny living under a big rock in the San Francisco Bay not to notice that on every network the Constitution has become the topic du jour. One would need blinders the size of Mount Rushmore not to see that Constitutional commentary has become downright ubiquitous in both the dead-tree media and the new media.