It is interesting, how one document can have so much influence on everyday life, but still be forgotten and in the recesses of the mind of many. A document, that is from the late 1700’s, is probably the most talked about document throughout an entire country. The way people interpret it, can take up hours, and days to discuss and justify. According to some scholar’s, it is only meant to be interpreted by the Supreme Court. By others, it is recommended that any citizen should be able to talk about it and interpret it the way that they feel is best, whether it’s strictly as a traditionalist, or, a form of contemporary ratification.
Because of the Tea Party movement’s sudden popularity, this issue of interpretation is at the forefront of the American media. Members of the media present the issues brought up by this movement, and, either critique, or agree, with what is central to their ideals. According to Nathanial Persily, a law professor at Columbia and an editor of “Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy,” “The Tea Party movement is interesting in that there is a combination of localism, nativism and populism that we’ve seen at various points in America…It’s coalescing at a time when the government is growing to an unprecedented size” (Liptak). The Tea Party, aka, the people that complain of the government’s size, are debatably expanding Congress’s role by their interpretation of the Constitution and it’s ramifications. They are similar to Scalia in their “originalist,” interpretation of the document, but many would refer to their activism as, “popular originalism.”
According to Rebecca E. Zietlow, when she worked for the Florida Law Review the Tea Party practices, “’popular originalism,’ using popular constitutionalism – constitutional interpretation outside of the courts – to invoke originalism as interpretive method” (Zietlow). These two methods are very drastic; the originalist looks throughout history to determine what was original intent, much like Justice Scalia. While this happens, popular constitutionalists, study how the interpretation of the constitution has been influenced by historical developments and how they have been contemporarily ratified, so to speak (Zietlow). Because the Tea Party’s arguments align with popular originalism, they seemingly understand both Scalia and Brennan. They argue that there was original intent, while also understanding the fact that certain points in time, certain actions, change the interpretation of the intent to match the surrounding events.
Most importantly, members of Congress are the most active in the Tea Party movement, simply because they are the ones most directly responsible for “change.” Their roles leave them to be responsive to the situations going on with their constituencies, so their statements aligning with strict traditionalism do not match what they have to practice in order to continue being reelected. The difference between these members and conservative Justices is the fact that these justices do not need to respond to the influence people. The issue with Congress members interpreting the constitution so strictly is the fact that they have to appeal to the ever-changing opinion of the masses; this leads them to advise Scalia’s ways, but follow what Brennan says, not exactly practicing what they preach. Of course, according to Levinson, “Anybody in a bar can get into a shouting argument over what equal protection means, or the right to free speech,” which is lucky indeed that these screaming interpreters are elected into our Congress (Liptak).