Let’s face it, the TEA movement has become a major force within American politics. Either directly or indirectly, the TEA movement has gotten people up and moving. It has given them a sense of ability to chart the course of the nation.
Many people who have never before been involved in politics in any way, have taken to the streets in protest. Many more, who never watched the evening news for more than a weather report, are now committed news watchers.
There have been many positive aspects of the TEA movement. But like many past movements and causes. Many of the TEA followers are just that, followers. They have picked up the language, with no real understanding of what it is they are saying. Probably the most used phrase by many who consider themselves members of the TEA movement is, “UNCONSTITUTIONAL”.
This one word has become both chant and defence mechanism. It has become the beginning and the ending argument for some who will tell you they are conservative. Many within the TEA movement will tell you that,”if it ain’t in the Constitution,then we don’t need it”. Unconstitutional has now taken on the job of shield and sword. It is used to strike at your political foe, and to deflect any need of discussion.
Too often those wielding this sword and shield are doing so merely to strike at a law that they personally don’t care for. Maybe a tax or the prohibition of some act that they favor. So immediately this tax or prohibition becomes unconstitutional. Unfortunately many of the people wielding this sword and shield can never actually get past quoting the first and second amendments. I have actually seen this used as little more than a parlor trick.
The Constitution is a governing document, not a document of laws. The few times that laws have been added to the Constitution in the form of amendments they have been detrimental to the nation.
The first such “LAW” was the 16th Amendment which imposed an income tax. This may have been and still is the worse legislation to ever come out of Washington. This was the beginning of power mad politicians. The tax code has allowed political leaders to cement their power. Income tax had been determined unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, so congress did an end around. In a future post I plan on delving deeper into this.
The second such “LAW” was the 17th Amendment. This law changed the way Senators were selected. The orignal intent was to have Senators selected by state legislatures, and in so doing making them the representatives of all the people of their states in Washington. By having them elected by popular vote, we have created another class of vote seekers, who will work for the state, only if it will get them re-elected.
The next such “LAW” was the 18th Amendment. This was the prohibition of alcohol. The Federal government had no power to make anything illegal within the states. This is not the role of the Constitution. The Constitution is a road map on how government is to govern. It has no part to play in local mores. Any such law must be passed by local governance. That is as long as the laws do not conflict with the Constitution. We need only look to the fact that this Amendment was repealed to see that it was a mistake. Not because the prohibition of alcohol was wrong but because it could not be done on a federal level.
I do think it important to point out that these three Amendments were proposed and added between 1909 and 1919. This was the era of progressivism’s birth.
The 22nd Amendment limiting the President to two terms is also an unconstitutional “LAW”. It completely removed the balance of powers within the three branches and robbed the executive branch of much of its original power.
These examples show what can happen when the Constitution is used as a document of laws. When government over reaches the boundaries of the Constitution, then the document is no longer able to restrain government, which was and is its original intent.
Also when we run around calling out “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” at every law passed by our local governing bodies, we weaken the meaning of the word. Trust me, there are plenty of unconstitutional laws on the books. And we should work to remove them. But to do so, we must first understand the document. We must respect the document. We must never “USE” the document, but instead, we must exercise our rights. For that is the true value and intent of the Constitution. It is the guarantor of our Liberty. But it is not an agent of lawlessness, and should never be used as such.