September 17 is Constitution Day (thanks, Sen. Robert Byrd!) and that means it's time to take the constitution back, progressive-style!
Mother Jones describes the game-plan:
[T]his week, the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center and the People for the American Way Foundation, among others, launched a new project called Constitutional Progressives, with the intent of trying to correct the record. Doug Kendall, one of the main instigators of the project and head of the CAC, said in a conference call this week that they've decided to fight back because, "It seems tea party thinks the entire 20th century is unconstitutional."
Mother Jones wrote about fears of a Tea Party takeover of civics classes back in May.
Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post adds:
[A] coalition of liberal groups has begun making an important, two-part argument: first, that a progressive government agenda is consistent with constitutional values; and second, that the constitutional conservative approach represents a dangerous retrenchment of the government's role.
Marcus really wants her constitution back. Or rather, she wants progressives to be able to lay claim to that holy document as well. After all, somebody interpreted the thing when they passed all that good stuff (during the 20th century) that conservatives hate. Maybe those sombodies were progressives!
Marcus goes on, worriedly:
The constitutional conservative vision…sees a hobbled federal government limited to a few basic activities, such as national defense and immigration. The 10th Amendment, reserving to states the powers not granted to the federal government, would be put on steroids. The commerce clause, giving the federal government the authority to regulate commerce among the states, would be drastically diminished.
Certainly, there's a legitimate debate about the proper role of the federal government and the scope of federal vs. state power. But that is a different argument than the one long thought settled during the New Deal: that the Constitution grants the federal government power to regulate a broad array of activities in the national interest.
Both articles have lists of the the things Tea Partiers will surely abolish if they finish their takeover of America. After all, says the Center for American Progress:
In the Tea Party's America, families must mortgage their home to pay for their mother's end-of-life care. Higher education is a luxury reserved almost exclusively to the very rich. Rotten meat ships to supermarkets nationwide without a national agency to inspect it. Fathers compete with their adolescent children for sub-minimum wage jobs. And our national leaders are utterly powerless to do a thing.
No matter what you think of Tea Partiers, it's frustrating that there's always a convenient no-backsies clause in the progressive constitution. Adding government is the only proper, non-radical interpretation.