The Republican Party is host to the tenther movement – extreme form of “populist” outrage that says the Constitutionally ordained federal government is, well…unconstitutional. Somehow, and in some way, the federal government that was established to run the country in the post-Articles of Confederation world, has no legitimate right to run the country.
It is no surprise that tenthers have found their happy spot in the Republican ranks. The Republican Party has traditionally been the party of “smaller government” and Republican discourse in general has become ever shriller on the issue of federal interference in our lives, and in the “state business” of individual states. Even those Republicans who don’t drone on incessantly about states’ rights rail against big federal government and about being told what to do by that government.
The “tenthers” are crazy about the 10th Amendment (thus the name). The Tenth Amendment deals with states rights – that is, in a Constitutional sense – those rights which are not retained for the federal government. What is left over belongs to the states.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
The tenthers seem to think that pretty much everything is left over to the states. They take a very “minimalist” approach to the Constitution, one that seems a bit at odds with the ideas of some of the important authors of that document, including James Madison, who was very concerned about the threat to liberty posed by state legislatures.
Apparently, he was right to worry.
Though to be fair, even if he had managed to get the phrase “The states have no rights” into the Constitution, Republicans today would be interpreting that to mean the “federal government has no rights.”
Those pesky facts again.
It interests me that a group – I’m speaking of the Republicans a a whole here and not just tenthers – who are so interested in stripping down the powers of the federal government (and that is general Republican rhetoric since a black man was elected to be president) are so anxious and willing to interfere in the rights of other states.
Take California and Proposition 8. That’s supposed to be the business of California and of Californians if this whole states rights thing has any meaning at all, isn’t it? But conservatives shipped support INTO California to ensure that a segment of the population that they did not like was stripped of their constitutional rights. And in so doing – by their interpretation at any rate – stripped Californians of theirs. I’m thinking about all those Mormons, for example, and all that Mormon money – from Utah.
What does Utah have to do with California?
We might ask too, what do out-of-state Republican interests have to do with Iowa? Well, they don’t like Iowa’s judiciary. They say it fails THEIR purity test. It has to go, they say. They want Iowa to toe the line.
Where’s the tenther outrage? Or is it outrageous only if a black Democrat – who happens to head the Executive Branch of the constitutionally established federal government – wants the states to follow the constitution? The states have no rights if its something the Republicans want? Is that how this works?
The Iowa Independent reports that
James Bopp, Jr. — the Republican National Committeeman behind failed “Purity Test” and “Socialist” resolutions — filed a federal lawsuit this week in hopes of changing the judicial selection process in Iowa. The suit, filed on behalf of four state residents, charges that attorneys have too much influence in the selection process.
I don’t know…I just want to throw this thought out there…bounce it off the wall so to speak…but isn’t it IOWA’S business how they nominate their judiciary?
It’s not as if the system is a violation of the Constitution – national or state – it’s simply that Republicans don’t like that the system doesn’t force Iowans to nominate the kinds of judges they want.
In Bopp’s opinion, the nearly 50-year-old Iowa system provides “attorneys a stranglehold on the judiciary” while denying “ordinary voters” an equal voice.
My kingdom for populist outrage! Round up for locals and sue on their behalf. But do four Iowans rounded up for the purpose amount in any legitimate sense to “populist outrage” among Iowa voters over how the system is handled?
It seems to work pretty well for Iowans.
You all might remember Mr. Bopp
Bopp, who has also worked in Iowa on behalf of a state affiliate of a national anti-abortion group and a national anti-gay organization, is hardly a newcomer to politics or lawsuits in relation to election law. A key supporter of and advisor for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the 2008 presidential cycle, Bopp was also a key architect of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down limits on corporate spending in elections.
Bopp has represented anti-gay groups in Iowa, California and Maine, “petitioning that laws which require the groups to form Political Action Committees (PACs) and disclose their donors are unconstitutional.”
It doesn’t seem to matter that Bopp himself isn’t a citizen of any of the states he interferes with. He is, I am ashamed to say, a Hoosier, a Terre Haute, Indiana resident. Shouldn’t he be concerning himself with Indiana’s affairs? I mean, if the chief executive of the United States has no business worrying about what happens in say, Kentucky, what right does an Indiana lawyer have saying Iowa lawyers have no right to what happens in Iowa?
In point of fact, Republicans are more than happy to interfere in affairs of states not their own and they’re happy to have the federal government interfere as well if they can push their socially conservative agenda, and that is the business of James Bopp, Jr, who has served as general counsel for National Right to Life since 1978 and as the special counsel for Focus on the Family since 2004.
Yeah, I think you smell what I’m cooking here. Don’t be fooled. None of these people, the Republican Party as a whole or the tenthers as a group really want the federal government stripped of its powers – specifically its power to force states to toe the line – if that happened, a conservative-controlled federal government would have no ability to ram a socially conservative agenda down your throats. States Rights are only an issue because a black man – a Democrat – was elected president. Like the Tea Party, there was no Tenther movement before the Republicans were kicked out of office in 2008. Some states’ rights advocates like to claim as a genesis of their movement opposition to Bush’s unconstitutional attacks on individual freedoms after 9/11 but if so, they have been subsumed and their rhetoric along with them, by the Republican Party and its icons like Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle.
The Republican Pledge of America said,
We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored – particularly the Tenth Amendment, which grants that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Like the Tea Party, the tenther movement has become – however it originated – a reaction to Republican loss of control, a counter-revolutionary socially conservative force and not a radical revolutionary force, and one that pays no mind to the rights of states when it comes to standards of Republican purity.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.