What The Tea Party Believes, What The Founders Believed

I've not been a follower of the Tea Party, so I do not profess to know what they think, but I have studied the Constitutional debates, and feel confident that Peter Berkowitz is misstating the views of the authors of The Federalist Papers:

Whether members have read much or little of The Federalist, the tea party movement's focus on keeping government within bounds and answerable to the people reflects the devotion to limited government embodied in the Constitution. One reason this is poorly understood among our best educated citizens is that American politics is poorly taught at the universities that credentialed them. Indeed, even as the tea party calls for the return to constitutional basics, our universities neglect The Federalist and its classic exposition of constitutional principles.

It seems to me it is Mr. Berkowitz who has neglected the Federalist Papers and the thoughts of the authors. Indeed, I would think that a review of Alexander Hamilton's defense of the First Bank of the United States should be added to Mr. Berkowitz's reading material:

[I]t appears to the Secretary of the Treasury that this general principle is inherent in the very definition of government, and essential to every step of progress to be made by that of the United States, namely: That every power vested in a government is in its nature sovereign, and includes, by force of the term, a right to employ all the means requisite and fairly applicable to the attainment of the ends of such power, and which are not precluded by restrictions and exceptions specified in the Constitution, or not immoral, or not contrary to the essential ends of political society.

This principle, in its application to government in general, would be admitted as an axiom; and it will be incumbent upon those who may incline to deny it, to prove a distinction, and to show that a rule which, in the general system of things, is essential to the preservation of the social order, is inapplicable to the United States.

[. . .] If it would be necessary to bring proof to a proposition so clear, as that which affirms that the powers of the federal government, as to its objects, were sovereign, there is a clause of its Constitution which would be decisive. It is that which declares that the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance of it, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority, shall be the serene law of the land. The power which can create the supreme law of the land in any case, is doubtless sovereign as to such case.

Mr. Berkowitz and the Tea Party will need to find its champions for limited government from persons who did not author The Federalist Papers.

Speaking for me only

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    So it's all the universities' fault? (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Cream City on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 11:01:58 AM EST
    And specifically, apparently, the history and poli sci departments who do, repeat do, teach the courses that discuss the Federalist Papers?  Well, now we know who to put in handcuffs and cart away.

    It couldn't be the fault of the conservative assault on general education requirements for those courses.  (The business sector wants all colleges to turn into vocational schools.)  

    By this reasoning, maybe the thing to do is to penalize -- more handcuffs! more prisons! -- all students who got A's and B's in those courses but reward all those who flunked those courses . . . because the latter clearly were not inculcated in wrong thinking about the Federalist Papers, so those students must be the bright ones.  For being the Do-Nothings now.

    And by that thinking, the best students are the ones who don't even buy the books (a more common excuse than you would imagine) -- and then flunk.

    The mind reels.

    My civics instructor first year college (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 02:49:52 PM EST
    didn't go into the Federalist papers at all when he taught on the nation founders.  But he did work in the House as an aide at one time.  And he had this slide show that he showed us all about some legislation that he took a part in writing, lots of photos of him.  He was a devoted Republican and extremely vocal about letting me know he was, he was also my assigned mentor so I had no fun surviving him, but I played it up for all I was worth.  I think he was a bit a woman hater too, he didn't like my "attitude" though I was always respectful toward him, I just never was certain that he was better than I was and I guess it showed :)

    After the slide show he asked those in the lecture hall if there were any questions.  One of the full scholarship basketball players raised his hand.  When he was called on he asked, "Yeah, ummmm, who did you piss off to get here?"


    David Michael Green has something similar up (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by CMike on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 12:40:44 PM EST
    Green, at Regressive Antidote, in response to Berkowitz posted this without a date. I saw it yesterday:

    >>>>>Wull now, lemme see if I have this straight here:  A guy who is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution is warning us all of the dangers of higher education corrupting our politics?

    Um...  Okay!  That just makes perfect sense in our political times.

    For all his complaints about how little we know we all know about the Constitution, Pathetic Pete seems to have some serious omissions in his own education (or is that what we're supposed to aspire to in the Age of Palin?).  He doesn't seem to realize that the meaning of the Constitution and what it permits the government to do has been fought over from the beginning, starting with a debate between Washington and Hamilton versus Jefferson and Madison during the first presidency of the republic, over whether the Constitution allowed a federal bank.

    Were they poorly educated about American history, too?  Er, should I more properly ask, Were they poorly aware of what was going on in their own lives?

    Berkowitz writes that "the tea party movement has made its central goals abundantly clear. Activists and the sizeable swath of voters who sympathize with them want to reduce the massively ballooning national debt, cut runaway federal spending, keep taxes in check, reinvigorate the economy, and block the expansion of the state into citizens' lives".


    Do they want to cut federal spending on their Social Security checks?

    Their Medicare benefits?

    Do they want to cut federal spending on the military?

    Are they enraged at George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan for violating their deeply-held values?

    When he talks about blocking the expansion of the state into citizens' lives, is he supporting Roe v. Wade?  Calling for the repeal of the Patriot Act?  Standing firm for gay marriage?

    What the tea party possesses in idiotic hypocrisy is matched by its supporters' deceits.

    Including those of brilliant academics.

    ...Or, um, are they?<<<<<

    [reproduced here because there doesn't seem to be an archive for the weekly Regressive Watch  feature at Green's site.]

    Actually (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by kaleidescope on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 05:57:08 PM EST
    For all their veneration of the The Federalist, the teabaggers have more in common with the anti-federalists.  John Calhoun is their guru, not Alexander Hamilton, James Madison or Walt Whitman.

    I citae the ones (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 10:49:13 AM EST
    who won the debate, namely, the authors of the Federalist Papers.

    The losers in the debate (the ones who opposed ratification of the Constitution), the anti-Federalists, are not the "Founders" to my way of thinking.

    Not to mention that the last time (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by andgarden on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 11:18:02 AM EST
    a group of individuals got serious about "limited powers" and "states rights," they found themselves being desegregated by Federal troops. And the time before that, torched by the Union Army.

    TP is not about limited government (none / 0) (#5)
    by Xclusionary Rule 4ever on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 11:28:08 AM EST
    Perhaps certain small TP minorities of original Ron Paul tea partiers care about limited government, but the vast majority of teabaggers are simply mad that we have a half-black president.
    Conservatives are trying to spin this reemergence of the Klan as support for their small government, pro-business agenda. This was all orchestrated to whip up the base for this midterm election.

    Not true (none / 0) (#13)
    by Slado on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:34:35 AM EST
    Tea party is all about the size of government.

    Are some Tea Partiers racist?  Of course.

    Are some progressives communists?  Of course.

    Who cares?

    To try and lump an entire movement into one aspect of the fringe of that movement only shows that you're not open to another persons opinion.


    Did you not read your own Hamilton quote? (none / 0) (#7)
    by wefivekings on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 12:42:41 PM EST
    Hamilton himself argued for limited government in the very quotes you offer above:

    That every power vested in a government is in its nature sovereign, and includes, by force of the term, a right to employ all the means requisite and fairly applicable to the attainment of the ends of such power, and which are not precluded by restrictions and exceptions specified in the Constitution, or not immoral, or not contrary to the essential ends of political society.

    Hamilton was not arguing for an unlimited federal government, nor was he suggesting that the federal government was sovereign in all things.  He was simply arguing that, as to those powers vested in the federal government, and those powers only, the federal government should be deemed sovereign.

    I don't think even tea partiers would disagree with that.  Thus, contrary to your implication, they are as safe in quoting Hamilton as any other federalist.      

    In support of the First Bank of The US (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 01:27:27 PM EST
    Yep, a Tea Party tract indeed.

    You have got to be kidding me.


    So, specifically (none / 0) (#12)
    by NYShooter on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 07:31:43 PM EST
    what powers has The Government usurped
    that would be best left to individuals? (Corporations?)

    If the tea party candidates are typical (none / 0) (#10)
    by MO Blue on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 03:45:56 PM EST
    of the movement, it seems their credo is

    Big government for me and small government for thee.

    Plus (none / 0) (#14)
    by cal1942 on Tue Oct 19, 2010 at 01:55:51 PM EST
    "What the founders believed" is not only impossible because they had varying veiwpoints on so many issues, it's also extremely difficult to understand the world they inhabited.  

    They didn't think the way we think.  What preceded them was not what has preceded us.