After almost three years of intense, often rancorous debate, our Founding Fathers come up with the best of compromises: we would be established as a republic with each state given all rights not assigned to the federal government by the Constitution. HOWEVER, to preserve the rights of individuals, the first ten amendments – the Bill of Rights – were written into the Constitution.
By crafting this compromise, the Founders wanted to give states the freedom to govern themselves and thus avoid the centralization of power in the federal government. At the same time, the rights of each individual were deemed paramount such that they could not be overridden by state-level legislation. Simple put, the rights of an individual trumped states’ rights.
Given this introduction, what are we to make of the Tea Party’s clamoring for “smaller government”? The view held here is that what this group of conservatives really want it not just smaller government, but WEAKER government, especially at the federal level. Even more specifically, the Tea Party-types want a weaker federal government that lacks the power to force upon states, rights that should, per the Constitution, belong to individuals, especially minorities. Put another way, the Tea Partyers very much want a reversal of what the Founders had in mind – as stated above, the rights of individuals to trump states’ rights. The Tea Party-types want it the other way around.
If this line of thinking had been allowed to stand, there never would have been the likes of the Brown vs. Kansas State Board of Education and Roe vs. Wade court decisions, nor would there have been passage of the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts, and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Conservatives like those in the Tea Party have not taken any of this lying down. They have gained control of many state legislatures* and begun to enact bills that cut away at the court decisions and laws cited in the preceding paragraph. Draconian measures to limit a women’s right to an abortion are one example. Excessive demands for voter IDs are another; advertised as the means of preventing voter fraud which in fact, occurs at such low levels as to be insignificant when it comes to determining the outcome of elections, especially national ones. Taking these state-level actions into account, a case can be made that the Tea Party wants the federal government to stop infringing on states’ rights so that any state can discriminate against whichever group of individuals it chooses. Seen in this light, the Tea Party members are neither patriotic nor the great defenders of the Constitution they profess to be.
*See “Why state elections matter” posted on this blogsite in March 2013.