Archive for the ‘Tea Parties and the Constitution’ Category

I have to say, it was a much more enjoyable one than last year.

Last year, it was cold and wet.  As our local organizer said, “Thank God for some global warming, huh?”  Instead of being jammed into a small plaza in the new pseudo-downtown development, they managed to rent a bigger park.  Which also meant that we had a gorgeous view of the water.  Right on cue, the large sailing ship that does harbor cruises went by, cheering, waving, and blasting its horn.  (Our local Tea Party has a sailing ship on its logo.)

The news, of course, could be better.  Since last year’s tea party, the health care monstrosity passed.  On the other hand, Virginia is one of many states that is currently fighting the federal government, arguing that Washington has overstepped its bounds and that it is un-Constitutional to require someone to enter into a contract.  As one state delegate pointed out, in Virginia, that contract would be considered legally null, since it was coerced.

We’ll have to wait to see how that goes.  Washington can ignore or disparage the Tea Parties, but it’s going to have to do something to answer the states’ lawsuits.

I find it sadly amusing how much misinformation is spread in the MSM about the Tea Parties.

Members are disparaged as racist; when we got there tonight, the speaker was one on-fire black preacher (oh, my gosh, he was great!  I’ll post a link to the video when I find it.) who commented that at least they couldn’t call him “racist,” although he usually got called even worse things.  A few months back, I had to explain that word to my kids, when they overheard something about Tea Party people being racist.  Diva looked at me, gave that utterly disdainful look, tossed her locs, and snorted, “Well, that’s stupid!”  [If you have not read the “Cast” tab up top, my older two kids are black.  My DH and I are not.  I have my faults, but hating or looking down on people for the color of their skin is definitely not one of them.]

The sneer is repeated that the Tea Parties are too disparate in their ideologies.  Hmm, really?  Almost every sign I’ve seen at a Tea Party has been about several very specific issues:

  • government has gotten too big, grossly overstepping its Constitutional bounds
  • government has gotten too full of itself and forgotten that the people are supposed to be in charge
  • and government has got to live on a much tighter budget and stop making up its shortfalls by adding taxes.

I’d call that a pretty tight grouping of issues: government bloat, both ideological and fiscal.

Although there was a lot of applause tonight at our Tea Party for the state partial-birth abortion ban and in support of pro-life language, abortion has not been a major issue of the Tea Parties.  Why?  For the same reason slavery wasn’t dealt with at the Continental Congress: if the independence movement sank over slavery, then the moral victory on slavery would have meant absolutely nothing.  Currently, since the government thinks it’s God, there’s no way to fix abortion: the government has declared that abortion is fine because the government has declared that what science clearly proves is a separate life is not, according to the government, a life.

If the Tea Parties are the first step to reining the government back in, however, then the re-outlawing of abortion should follow.

It’s ok, though; my kids are homeschooled, so we’ve already had discussions about how the Founders emphasized that rights are from God, not the government.  Rights are also basic things (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) or ideas directly associated with protecting those three (freedom of speech, press, and religion; right to bear arms; right to peacably assemble; etc.) by discouraging government tyranny.  Rights are neither granted nor provided by government programs.

God is perfectly trustworthy and unchanging.  Government is neither.  I’d rather have my rights guaranteed by God, thanks.


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If I could draw editorial cartoons (which I can’t), I would draw Nancy Pelosi with a giant bottle of “snake oil health care” giving off noxious fumes, screaming for the children to, “Get your butts in here and take this!  It’s good for you!” while two scared-looking children (labelled as American tax payers and patients) hide around the corner.

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Well, I have to say I loved the reference to the Constitutional requirement that the president report to Congress regularly.  I guess President Obama does care about the Constitution.  Once in a while.

Before we get into this too far, I want to comment that it always makes me wonder what kind of parent would address and stamp a letter to the president complaining about Mommy or Daddy losing their job.  Or sending their allowance to the president for Haiti (hello?  Catholic Charities, Food for the Poor, any one of a dozen major charities… but the president?).  I think some people have a gross conceptual error when it comes to the president’s scope of responsibilities.

President Obama said some pretty things about dropping the partisanship (sure; you first, sir) and never giving up (except that he meant never giving up on things the American public has voiced its strong opposition to). 

“Jobs must be our focus in 2010…” … because we totally botched health care reform, the voters are all riled up, so forget about that, and let’s just move on!  Besides, we have other things to talk about!

  • In the middle of the usual platitudes, President Obama called for a “new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants… opening new areas of offshore drilling… clean coal… and a climate bill.”  Ok, I was with him until that last part, especially since the climate bill would probably try to shut down coal, nuclear, and oil completely.  And if he actually encourages coal, oil, and nuclear power, his base will be furious.
  • President Obama, offering a rare concrete goal, called for the U.S. to “double our exports over the next five years.”  And we’re going to do that how?  “Aggressively finding new markets” isn’t going to do it.  With living standards (and wages and environmental regulation) so low in India and China, how on earth are we going to compete on cost?  And where is this in the Constitution?!?
  • Child care tax credit: why?  What are we encouraging?  Double income families?  If that’s your choice, go ahead, but I don’t see why the tax payers ought to be underwriting it.
  • We need to “reward success” in schools and improve kids’ chances: Great idea!  So why, exactly, did he allow the killing of the highly successful (and financially efficient) D.C. voucher program?  Part of how we reward success (and punish failure) is with our feet; if you can’t leave the school for a different option, you really have no leverage, do you?
  • “We will step up the refinancing [of mortgages]…”: And this is in the Constitution where?
  • “I take my share of the blame for not explaining [health care reform] better…”: Um, no, the “better” he explained it, the more we all realized that this wasn’t the change we wanted.
  • President Obama promised to “crack down on equal pay laws…”  Sounds great, but what is equal?  How on earth are you going to tease out what part of the pay discrepancy was gender based and what was based on education, experience, ability, dedication, etc.?
  • Removing the ban on gays in the military: Bad idea.  Very bad idea.  The military isn’t just an office.  It is shared showers, open berthing spaces, etc.  How would you feel about being told your career could end if you showed discomfort or dislike at the idea of showering or changing clothes in front of someone who might be sexually eyeing you?  Sure, you could say I’m being unfair, that the homosexuals would be respectful… but would you encourage your teenage daughter to shower in front of a bunch of men you don’t know?  Of course not.  Because you don’t know.  Maybe it’s a great idea if you want to drive conservatives out of the military…
  • And all troops will be out of Iraq by the end of August.  Was this to appease the far left, or to try to make it up to the military for his other military proposal?

Yes, I disagreed with the wisdom or tone of most of what the President said (and I found his call for everyone else to “stop campaigning” laughable, coming from him).

Still, the hands-down worst part of the speech was the slam at the Supreme Court.  Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations could contribute to political campaigns.  President Obama strongly disagreed and called them out on national TV, while most of Congress stood, applauded, and glared at the justices.  Several of the justices looked shocked, the president’s “with all due deference” notwithstanding.  (That’s a more political version of the Southern, “Bless her heart…”  When someone says that, what follows will generally not be a compliment, as in, “Bless her heart, but she’s got less sense than a box of rocks!”)

The Supreme Court was designed the way it was to discourage political pressure or intereference in its deliberations.  Any former professor of Constitutional law that would criticize a Supreme Court decision while they sat there as a captive audience just doesn’t understand the Constitution.  The whole stunt smacks of Chicago politics, not the Constitution.

On a happier note, newly installed Virginia Governor McDonnell limited his response length and referenced the Constitution and the Founders for more than justifying his presence on TV tonight:

“The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper limited role of government at every level… Without reform, the excessive growth of government threatens our very liberty and prosperity.”

“Government closest to the people governs best.”

Government, in its box, at all levels.  Wow, what a concept.  It’s almost like he’s noticed the Tea Parties or read the Constitution and Founding Fathers or something.

President Obama offered Federal-Government-as-Savior.

Governor McDonnell offered the return to our founding principles.

The real measure of the state of our union will depend on which we choose.

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“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”
– James Madison (1751-1836), American statesman and fourth President of the United States of America.

This was the Quote of the Week on a homeschooler e-newsletter I get.  My husband’s comment was, “Yep.  We’re toast.”  Ok, he didn’t say “toast”, it was rather stronger than that, but you get the idea.

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As I mentioned at my What I’m Reading page (under the Library tab up there at the top of the blog header), one of the books I am working on is Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.  Time after time, I have heard people rave about how wonderful de Tocqueville’s commentary is, how prophetic, how insightful, etc.  Usually, he is trotted out to support the latest survey about why America is declining.  (A few years ago, a survey showed that Americans were increasingly solitary, no longer participating in as many clubs and organized social activities.  Commentators talked about how de Tocqueville had noted Americans’ proclivity to forming organizations as a key to American society.)

Anyone who reads the Bible regularly can tell you that your current circumstances color your reading.  Verses about suffering that you hardly noticed when things were going well suddenly seem to be key to the entire passage when you read them a few years later, after your life has taken a difficult turn.  The text has not changed, but our focus and predispositions have shifted from the last time we read it, and, consequently, we draw different lessons from the same truths.

Charles Wysocki Apple Butter Makers

The same thing can happen with our “reading” of history and historical documents.  Given the current turmoil of government takeovers of businesses, massive new taxes in Cap and Trade, rapidly rising unemployment, etc., it can be easy to look back and sigh, “If only things were like it was back then…”  I love Charles Wysocki’s art, but I also know (as did he) that things weren’t always all orderly farms and happy families.  We can learn from the past, but we cannot turn back the clock.  Change for change’s sake is a frequent cause of mischief and destruction in societies, but trying to pretend that nothing has changed, it can all be like it was, doesn’t do us any good, either.

The challenge of history is to understand both where it applies to our modern situation, and where it does not.

De Tocqueville came to America to study democracy.  France had had its own revolution and had become a democracy, but the reality had fallen short of the ideals.  America was different.  De Tocqueville was not interested in glossing over Americans’ faults: he quite bluntly points out Americans’ lack of manners and social graces, among other shortcomings in government and society.  But he did want to see what it was that was making America so successful and stable.  Why was America growing economically when France was not?  Why did America have an involved citizenry, when Europeans routinely lamented the lack of “popular feeling” in their own countries?  What, de Tocqueville asked in the introduction, could be taken as a lesson or a warning for the European democracies and those countries beginning the path to democracy?  What had the Americans done to make their democracy so successful, and what mistakes had they made that could grow into larger blemishes in the future?

He had not set himself a small project.  De Tocqueville wasn’t even in America for a full year (May 1831- Feb 1832).  His own background would seem to argue against any love of democracy: de Tocqueville was a nobleman and had lost relatives to the guillotine during the French Revolution.  Yet his insights are still read (or at least referred to), coming up on two centuries after his writing.  He seems to have had a truly inquisitive mind and keen understanding of people and politics, driven by a desire, perhaps, to bring back ideas helpful to his own country’s struggles with democracy.

(Please note: I will skip giving pages, as that would depend entirely on you having the same edition as I have, and I do not have an unabridged version.  So, I will instead make citations by book and chapter.)

The book opens with a discussion of where the Americans came from and their early history.  (As an American, I think de Tocqueville occasionally painted with too broad a brush for his European readers: I doubt the statement that all Americans shared the “same religion” would have gone over well with Pennsylvania Quakers, Virginia Anglicans, Maryland Catholics, Boston Unitarians, Rhode Island heretics kicked out of every other state, the not-infrequent Deists, and the infrequent Jews.) 

De Tocqueville opens a theme he will revisit throughout the book: what societal conditions encourage democracy, and vice versa?  He asserts that social democracy encourages political democracy.  Americans, he tells his readers, are more equal to each other economically than is normal in Europe; there is neither abject poverty nor grossly ostentatious wealth.  The weakness in this, however, is the danger that men will come to value something besides liberty:

There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which incites men to wish all to be powerful and honored.  This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attmpt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.  Not that those nations whose social condition is democratic naturally despise liberty; on the contrary, they have an instinctive love of it.  But liberty is not the chief and constant object of their desires; equality is their idol… (Part 1, chap. 3)

I read this and immediately thought of current political trends.  Remember the backlash crying for the retroactive (and therefore highly illegal) 90% tax on the AIG executives’ bonuses?  People seem all too willing to hand over to the government their money, right to bear arms, privacy, health decisions, even control of their thermostat… all to acheive equality.  We may all wind up miserable and hemmed into a tiny box of meaningless, gutted “freedom” with government-controlled light, heat, and medicine, but we’ll be miserable together, and misery loves company, right?

The way that Americans avoided falling under a despot in this manner, de Tocqueville says, was the strength of their morals and their local institutions, specifically the New England townships.  He discusses, at length, the proliferation of local officials and the involvement of the entire town in its own governance so that every citizen maintains an interest and hand in political affairs.  In spite of the obvious inefficiencies, de Tocqueville says that this decentralization is actually better for the managing of the government, since it involves every person in such a way that they put more energy into the country than would have happened otherwise.

The partisans of centralization in Europe are wont to maintain that the government can administer the affairs of each locality better than the citizens could do it for themselves: this may be true, when the central power is enlightened, and the local authorities are ignorant; when it is alert, and they are slow; when it is accustomed to act, and they to obey.  Indeed, it is evident that this double tendency must augment with the increase of centralization, and that the readiness of the one and the incapacity of the others must become more and more prominent.  But I deny that it is so, when the people are as enlightened, as awake to their own interests, and as accustomed to reflect on them, as the Americans are.  I am persuaded, on the contrary, that, in this case, the collective strength of the citizens will always conduce more efficaciously to the public welfare than the authority of the government.  (Part 1, chap. 5)

In short, de Tocqueville asserts that increasing centralization of power will force the national government to consider itself more enlightened, alert, and active, while simultaneously making the local powers more ignorant, slow, and obedient.  The politicians in Washington, DC, certainly think themselves more enlightened, etc., and the local governments are less and less influential on anything that really matters.  De Tocqueville’s prediction is here seen played out: centralization of power has made the local governments less capable, especially since local government is now largely seen as a stepping-stone to the real goal of playing on the national political stage.

Are Americans “accustomed to reflect” on their interests as they concern (or are concerned by) the government?  It would appear not.  The farther the government has gotten from the people, the more we seem inclined to vote based on soundbites, handsome appearance, and impossibly generous promises of government largesse.  Our true best interests (and those of our children) rarely enter into our calculations anymore when we step into the voting booth.

De Tocqueville would be amazed to see us here.  Speaking to his European readers, looking for answers to their own governmental conundrums and apathetic citizenry, de Tocqueville continues:

I know it is difficult to point out with certainty the means of arousing a sleeping population, and of giving it passions and knowledge which it does not possess; it is, I am well aware, an arduous task to persuade men to busy themselves about their own affairs. … But whenever a central administration affects completely to supersede the persons most interested, I believe that it is either misled, or desirous to mislead.  (Part 1, chap. 5)

Our national government seems increasingly interested in misleading, while most Americans content themselves with griping at the TV news, if they notice what’s going on at all in between the latest celebrity scandals.  The only solution de Tocqueville offers for our national apathy and ignorance is the return of power to more local governments.  When we can see our opinions mattering in important decisions, more of us will care again.

Given the sudden prevalence of 10th Amendment resolutions among the states, trying to put DC back in its Constitutional box, maybe there is hope for us yet.

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On July 4th, as a nation, we have an opportunity to review where we have come from.  The Founding Fathers left a plethora of writings and quotes that give us a window on some of their thoughts.  This is where they saw the United States of America coming from and going to… and leaves us a great deal to think about when considering where we are going and what we have made of their legacy.

The Founding Fathers were aware of their position as the witnesses to the birth of America.  Even in their lifetimes, many of the Founders were concerned that Americans had already started to forget the why and what of the Revolution.

Fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams lay dying at his home.  Reportedly, his last words were, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  Unfortunately, Jefferson had already died earlier that day.  Both men, knowing that they were near death, had struggled to hold on to see the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the country.

That July 4th, the last of the signers of the Declaration were gone.  What would the next generations make of America?



We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

– Declaration of Independence

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

– John Adams, 1814

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

– Thomas Jefferson

On every question of construction [of the Constitution] let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.

– Thomas Jefferson

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.  Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate for any other.

– John Adams

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent.  It is force.  Like fire, it is a troublesome servant and a fearful master.  Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

– George Washington

I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people’ (10th Amendment). To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specifically drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible to any definition.

– Thomas Jefferson

The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.

– Samuel Adams

When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.

– Benjamin Franklin

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds…[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers… And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for[ another]… till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery… And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

– Thomas Jefferson

Outside Independence Hall when the Constitutional Convention of 1787 ended, Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

– Benjamin Franklin

When the government fears the people there is liberty; when the people fear the government there is tyranny.

– Thomas Jefferson

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Yep.  I had a hot date tonight.  The DH and I had a simply marvelous dinner at the food court (sparing no expense), followed by the local live broadcast of Glenn Beck’s Common Sense Comedy Tour at a movie theater.

For the second half, Beck came out dressed in colonial costume.  He explained that we need to remember our Founding Fathers, to try to understand them.  These were men (and women) trying to do something that had never before been done.  They weren’t all famous or obviously important, but they all had parts to play.

I particularly enjoyed the story I will subtitle “Why You Should Not Mess With Housewyfs”.

Apparently, in the summer of 1776, the town crier read the new Declaration of Independence to a crowd of gathered New Yorkers in/near what is now Battery Park, at the south tip of the island.  It was well received, and several enthusiastic individuals decided that the nearby statue of King George on horseback needed to come down right away.  With a rope and a lot of eager hands to help, the statue came crashing down, breaking into pieces.

Of course, the Redcoats showed up pretty quickly and dispersed the crowd.

Watching from the back were seven women.  As the crowd departed, they got horses and carts.  Pulling up to the destroyed statue, they began loading the pieces into the carts.  The Redcoats demanded to know what they were doing.  “We’re just cleaning up the mess,” they replied.  Satisfied, the Redcoats let them load up the lead statue.

They drove the pieces to a helpful smith, but not to repair the statue.

To melt it down into more than 40,000 musket balls for the Continental Army.


(I found confirmation that at least part of the statue and the crowns decorating the fence posts were used by New Yorkers to make musket balls.  I did not find this exact story, so I can’t prove (or disprove) the historicity of it.  But colonial women had their own revolutionary streak, as evidenced in other incidents, so I think it’s perfectly plausible.)

The show was great, and will re-run on June 11th.  It wasn’t cheap ($20 each), but it was a lot of fun and encouraging.  Maybe more people will start thinking more about where our country started, where we’ve ended up going, and what we can each do to fix the disconnect between the two.

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