Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Missing the Point

Peter Berkovitz in today's Wall Street Journal is not to be missed.  He catalogs the many ways in which the left's "commentariat" and their followers have completely missed the point of the last two years in American politics.  It would almost be funny--if it weren't so sad--to reflect on the ways that highly educated people can be so amazingly clueless and insular.  But then, what to expect?  They put all their stock in hope and hope and change and hope for change and "we are the change we've been waiting for" and sat comfy in the belief that they'd actually persuaded the American people to abandon two centuries and more of political tradition and ethos.  They thought that everything they held dear was now "beyond debate."  Guess not.  So now they find that they have persuaded no one of anything.  They've been talking to their friends, exploiting their usual constituents, forgetting that one particular constituency has the eternal problem (for them) of growing up, and blithely writing off the Tea Party movement as the province of hicks, losers and weirdos.  It's going to make for some messy accounting for them come election day.  
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I sent this letter to the Journal today:

Peter Berkowitz has correctly disagnosed the reasons for the failure of liberal politicians and academicians to understand the Tea Party movement. The millions of Americans who are protesting the fiscal irresponsibility of President Obama and congressional Democrats are truly more Federalist than anti-federalist. The reason is that the Constitution they are defending gave the federal government the power to "provide for the common defense" and "promote the general welfare," but not to redistribute income or to establish cradle-to-grave security.

While federal powers are "few and defined" and state powers are "numerous and indefinite," as James Madison observed in The Federalist, it is equally important to understand that the few federal powers that were conferred by the Constitution were not given with a grudging hand. The power to wage war and raise the resources to finance it are as broad as the circumstances require. And the most significant departure from the old Articles of Confederation that enables the national government to succeed in its limited tasks is that the states' approval is not required. The federal government derives its powers from the people, to whom its officers are alone accountable. And as liberal historians never tire of reminding us, the dominant interests in state government at the time of the founding were much more egalitarian than those at the national level.

The Tea Partiers know that a federal government that is restrained from putting a heavy and debiltating hand on commerce and trade is one with full power to defend the country. There is no inconsistency when the nature and extent of the powers granted are fully understood: full power for national security, reliance on the states for purely domestic purposes.

Richard Reeb, Ph.D.
Barstow College (retired)

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