Tea Party Patriots say they want the US to return to the principles of the Constitution. But the principles they cite tend to be more closely aligned to the Articles of Confederation which the Constitution replaced.
For example, unlike the Articles of Confederation which reserved power for the States, the Constitution gives expansive powers to the three branches of the federal government. Yet teabaggers continue to demand a “limited federal government,” and they support their flawed arguments with quotes attributed to our Founding Fathers.
Following claims that President Obama won re-election only as the result of the president promising free stuff to voters, teabaggers have been circulating a quote which they attribute to Benjamin Franklin: “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” However, this statement was never said or written by Benjamin Franklin. In fact, historians can only guess at the origin of the quote. It is somewhat similar to a statement by Alexis de Toqueville, a French historian, and by Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Scottish lawyer.
Of course, neither of these people had anything to do with the founding of our nation.
Another Tea Party favorite is Thomas Jefferson’s statement taken from a letter to John Adams, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” What the teabaggers fail to acknowledge is that, in the same letter, Jefferson admitted to being hyperbolic in reference to the Shays Rebellion, which resulted from a post Revolutionary War economic depression. “The want of facts worth communicating to you has occasioned me to give a little loose to dissertation. We must be contented to amuse, when we cannot inform.”
The Tea Party tends to think that the Constitution was the result of God’s will. However, it was the result of impassioned debate, argument and compromise. Jefferson, who was representing the US in France at the time of the Constitutional Convention was initially disappointed with the document. He did not like the omission of a declaration of rights that would guarantee “freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trial by jury.”
Unlike the Tea Party, the Founders viewed the Constitution as a start; a document that would continue to evolve. Jefferson told James Madison, “If they [Congress] approve the proposed Convention in all its parts. I shall concur in it cheerfully, in hopes that they will amend it whenever they shall find it work wrong.”
Take that 2nd Amendment absolutists!
In fact, the Founding Fathers and the Tea Party couldn’t be more opposite. While the Founding Fathers relied upon reason and education, the Tea Party relies upon lies, ignorance and fear. While the Fathers demanded separation of church and state, the Tea Party wants to establish a Christian theocracy. While the Fathers believed in compromise, the Tea Party rejects it.
However, I do believe The Tea Party may yet serve a purpose. Americans may yet see its extreme views as so repulsive that it causes our nation to return to the principles of reason and compromise.