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Strange Brew: How the Tea Party Distorts the Constitution

Constitutional Accountability Center has launched a series of articles, here at Text & History, which examines claims made by the Tea Party and its most prominent allies about the Constitution and put them to the test against the Constitution’s text and history.

The series, entitled Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party, draws upon the words of our nation’s charter, constitutional debates and other legislative history, and the best constitutional scholarship available. The goal of the series is to ensure that, as Americans engage in conversations and debates about the Constitution, we are all on the same page about what our Constitution says and what it doesn’t.

Our Strange Brew series was launched with the release of a new CAC Issue Brief entitled “Setting the Record Straight: The Tea Party and the Constitutional Powers of the Federal Government.” This Issue Brief, written by CAC’s Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra and CAC’s Human and Civil Rights Director David Gans, takes on the Tea Partiers’ central claim: that our country’s Founders established a sharply limited, weak national government, incapable of addressing national problems like the health care crisis in America.  The entries in these series are presented below in chronological order. 

The State of Utah v. Mike Lee (R-UT)

April 30, 2012

Senator Lee is once again wrong about the Constitution and the meaning of federalism, as a brief signed by his home state of Utah in the case of U.S. v. Morrison indicates.

The Heritage Foundation Takes on the Tea Party as the CPAC Curtain Rises

February 9, 2012

While the Heritage Foundation factsheet on nullification is encouraging, it will be interesting to see how their takedown of nullification is received at the Conservative Political Action Conference today where the 10th Amendment Center is planning to screen a movie promoting the idea of nullification. This will be an ideal test for determining if conservatives will choose to adhere to the Constitution’s text and history or will instead blithely embrace the fairy tales about the Constitution being peddled by the tea party.  

Senator Mike Lee: Constitutional Charlatan

February 1, 2012

With friends like Senator Mike Lee, the Constitution needs no enemies.

Perfecting the Declaration: The Text and History of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

November 16, 2011

There are few areas of the law as deeply polarizing and emotionally heated as the application of the Constitution’s guarantee of the equal protection of the laws to all persons.  What is lost – all too often – in this heated and polarized discussion is the text and history of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause itself, along with the full sweep of our constitutional history: the principle of equality first stated in the Declaration of Independence, perfected in the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and further illuminated in the Nineteenth Amendment and other Amendments.

Taking the Tenth Amendment Seriously

August 30, 2011

Tea partiers have a complicated relationship with the Constitution. They frequently profess their love for the document, yet they also seek to fundamentally alter it, for example by eliminating birthright citizenship and by inserting a crippling balanced budget amendment. However, one section of the document that tea partiers appear to be absolutely smitten with is the Tenth Amendment.  Unfortunately, their boundless adoration for the Amendment seems to have prevented them from reading it very carefully.

Strange Brew: Tea Partiers’ Vision of the Constitution Says More About Their Policy Views Than It Does About the Constitution

January 19, 2011

With House Republicans set to begin their attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Dick Armey, the Republican former House Majority Leader and current chair of FreedomWorks, has some advice for the tea party Congress as its members arrive in Washington . . .. Look to the Constitution to govern your policy.”

Strange Brew: Senator Mike Lee’s Misguided Balanced Budget Amendment

July 5, 2011

Senator Mike Lee's "cut, cap, and balance" pledge holds the full faith and credit of the United States of America hostage to a misguided effort to dramatically change the Constitution.  What Lee is not telling America is that his proposed Amendment represents a stark departure from our constitutional order.

Why Can’t “Constitutional Conservatives” Get the Constitution Right?

May 23, 2011

What’s not harmless is the effort by “constitutional conservatives” to claim the Constitution without having any idea what’s in the document.

Remembering the Civil War in the Tea Party Age

March 4, 2011

In the current age of Tea Party nostalgia for our "original" Constitution, coupled with calls for state secession and nullification of federal laws, our nation's history in the immediate pre-civil War period is a useful reminder of the "more perfect union" we live in today. No one should "celebrate" a war that took such a horrible toll in American lives. But as the nation marks the sesquicentennial of beginning of that War, we should remember what the Civil War was all about.

Stop Talking About Broccoli

February 4, 2011

From district court judges to the Senators at this week's Judiciary Committee hearing on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, it seems no one can talk about health care reform without mentioning broccoli.

Do Serious Conservatives Really Endorse Sen. Mike Lee’s Extreme Constitutional Views?

February 1, 2011

The decision by Senate Republicans to place freshman Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) on the Senate Judiciary Committee, breaking their own rule against two Republicans from the same state serving on the same committee (Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is a long-serving member of the Committee), raises the following question: do serious conservatives really want to affiliate themselves with Mike Lee’s wacky views of the Constitution?

The Unbearable Lightness of Bachmann

January 25, 2011

Bachmann's story has more shameful errors than one can recount, but the most disturbing thing about her speech is that these errors appear deliberate, in service of a whitewashed, Tea Party vision of the American founding, where the Founders could do no wrong. 

The Tea Party, Once Again, Has History All Wrong: The True Story of the Seventeenth Amendment and Federalism

November 12, 2010

Tea Partiers love the Constitution, except for the parts they want to jettison.  In fact, time and again, when they claim they want to restore our Founders’ Constitution, this means repealing Amendments that “We the People” have added to the Constitution over the last two centuries.

Article V Amnesia: The Tea Party Pretends To Know Better Than Our Nation’s Founders

September 10, 2010

The Tea Party, time and again, claims that it wants to restore our Founders’ Constitution by repealing the many Amendments that “We the People” have added to the Constitution over the last two centuries. The latest example comes from Florida, where Steve Southerland, a Tea Party candidate running for Congress, has been calling for repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. Rather than argue that the Seventeenth Amendment was unwise – a hard claim to justify, given that when the Amendment shifted the selection of U.S. senators from state legislatures directly to the people, it enhanced democracy and provided a more direct link between citizens and their representatives – Southerland simply denounces the fact of the change.

Strange Brew: Mike Lee and the "Enclave Clause"

August 2, 2010

This is the tenth installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s new series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Strange Brew: The Tea Party’s Constitution Features Less Democracy, More Corruption

July 29, 2010

This is the ninth installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s new series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Strange Brew: The Tea Party, Elena Kagan, and the Declaration of Independence

July 28, 2010

This is the eighth installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s new series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Strange Brew: The Tea Party and Federalism, Nullification and Secession

July 27, 2010

This is the seventh installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s new series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Strange Brew: The Tea Party Mocks The Founders' Stance on Armed Rebellion

July 26, 2010

This is the sixth installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s new series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Strange Brew: Immigration and the Tea Party’s Efforts to Deny the Constitution’s Guarantee of Birthright Citizenship

July 22, 2010

This is the fourth installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Turning a Blind Eye to the Constitution: The Tea Party and the Power of the Federal Government to Protect Civil Rights

July 21, 2010

This is the third installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s new series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Strange Brew: The Tea Party’s Errant Constitutional Attacks on Health Care Reform

July 20, 2010

This is the second installment of Constitutional Accountability Center’s new series, ‘Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party,’ exploring the Tea Party’s erroneous claims about the Constitution’s text and history.

Strange Brew: The Constitution According to the Tea Party

July 19, 2010

To mark this year’s Independence Day, the Tea Party went back to school to study the Constitution as part of a growing effort to use the document to wage political battle—particularly over the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court—and to elect leaders who will remain faithful to the Constitution and its principles. As an organization dedicated to the text and history of the Constitution, Constitutional Accountability Center salutes this effort, at least in the abstract. We think the Constitution should frame our political debates and should be followed by our leaders, whatever their political stripe. But if the Tea Party wants to be taken seriously—and if it wants the media to continue fawning over it for its purported love for the Constitution—it should at least be required to make plausible claims about the words and meaning of our Nation’s charter.