Constitutional Conservatives and the Tea Party

Today is Thursday, October 24, 2013

I’ve been watching the controversy over comments about the tea party being similar to the KKK–Grayson vs West on the cable news channels, for those who might not know that this has flared up. West is Black, a self-proclaimed ‘constitutional conservative’ and a tea party supporter, who has had political aspirations in the GOP. Grayson is a typical liberal politician who is often a ‘talking head’ on CNN and other cable outlets. Grayson likened the tea party to the KKK because of the constant racist insults from so many tea party supporters–calling him a Muslim because of his name, the Kenyan, singing ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ at tea party rallies, and these are probably the least offensive things that I’ve heard since Obama was elected. West took issue with the comparison to the KKK and Grayson won’t back down from the comment.

Although I’m not sure the tea party can be equated to the KKK, when they unfurl Confederate battle flags and promote a quasi-Christian, freakishly extreme, fundamentalism that denigrates gay people, demands that the Congress take the right to control women’s bodies and their family planning, rejects rational comprehensive immigration reform because of their xenophobia and jingoism, generally supports a very primitive social and cultural agenda, AND they insult the President with racial slurs, it’s hard for me to have any sympathy with true constitutional conservatives, like West, who align themselves with this GOP faction.

“Constitutional Conservative” is a euphemism for small government, deregulation of the economy and states’ rights. The term doesn’t–or shouldn’t–include racism, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia, none of which is codified in the Constitution, and where it WAS originally so codified, it has been amended to reflect American society as it changed over time. So, in my mind, a Constitutional Conservative should embrace the amendments that expand civil rights and extend everyone’s equality under the law. After all, those things are in the Constitution that we have today, and whether legal minds want to ‘loosely’ or ‘strictly’ interpret the Law, is not the point and is reserved for our Supreme Court and law schools. Whether conservative or liberal, there’s no chance of stripping the Constitution of its Amendments to return to the original document of 1789. If that’s what Constitutional Conservatives want, they’re delusional–as delusional as the tea party is.

In spite of this ‘conservatism’ that is focused on the role of government in the economy, there is an affinity with tea partiers’ social/cultural agenda.┬áThis is a huge part of my problem with the tea party–it isn’t just about ‘small government’ and less government involvement in the economy. There’s this idealized, romantic sense of some illusory golden age of America when we were fundamentalist christian, straight, white, Anglo-Saxon male-dominated with a completely laissez-faire economic system. However, I’m not about to support a u-turn to that kind of culture when we were isolationists, women, Indians, Blacks and gay people were second class citizens or worse and the economic cycles of boom-bust were so extreme it delayed our emergence as a world power until we adopted more rational economic policies and began expanding civil rights. I agree, we have to shrink the debt, but then let’s focus on that and leave these primitive social and cultural values in the dustbin of history.

This may require the Constitutional Conservatives and the moderate wing of the GOP to jettison the social-cultural extremists who want more on the agenda than economic reform. The ‘Dominionists’ in the tea party, for example, want to create something akin to a protestant Christian theocracy in order to protect ‘America’ from God’s punishment for things like women’s rights to determine their own lives and families, gay rights and marriage equality. Everything from hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes are blamed on liberal, secular cultural trends. If they can find a way to bring down the liberal, secular government, they’ll do it–Ted Cruz’s and Michelle Bachmann’s commentary on the October government shut-down and debt ceiling fiasco is proof positive.

So, OK, ‘Constitutional Conservatives’, let’s see you do your thing and help bring down the debt. Let’s streamline government so that it’s more efficient. Let’s work to improve the government that is of, by and for the people. Conservative is not anarchist. It’s not irrational belief and anti-intellectual. It’s not undemocratic in order to prove point or get your way. It’s not racist, homophobic or xenophobic. So, let’s see people like West, who clearly have clout and influence, step away from the medieval, religious agenda of what seems to be the majority of the tea partiers, and do something truly conservative and good for America. To launch a cultural war against an increasingly diverse American population to whom the secular liberals want to grant fully expanded civil rights under the law, is not ‘conservative.’ It’s reactionary and politically primitive.

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