Sarah Palin used the phrase to campaign for limited government. Tea Party members call themselves constitutional conservatives. It is the new mantle in which Republican politicians are wrapping themselves. The challenge lies in understanding what, if anything, it actually means.
The phrase is used mainly in opposition: against health care reform; against the General Motors bailout; against President Obama’s policies. A year ago, conservatives focused on the gravity of economic problems. This election, their concern shifted to the danger represented by solutions.
The phrase is connected to a radical vision. It makes no mention of “We the people,” of forming “a more perfect union” or pursuing “the general welfare” — of equality arm in arm with liberty. Which Americans don’t want liberty, or support tyranny?
Justice Brennan summed up, “It is arrogant to pretend that from our vantage we can gauge accurately the intent of the framers on application of principle to specific, contemporary questions.”
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The Arrogance of the "Constitutional Conservatives."
Loved this piece in the NY Times today, which takes a look at the empty rhetoric of "Constitutional conservatives."