The Tea Party is an interesting group. Entering the American political landscape after the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama, the Tea Party (an acronym for Taxed enough already), as part of their argument, is determined to make several amendment changes to the United States Constitution. Like many patriotic Americans, they view the Constitution as a sacred document which was designed to serve as the bedrock of our government while protecting the rights and liberties of the people it was created to defend. However, for those individuals who do not believe that a party with such a short history is incapable of igniting the forces of a system which can make such changes a reality, maybe they should reconsider their beliefs.
What should be of interest to those of us living outside of Tea Party activism, is what amendments they want to change, why they want these amendments to change, and the methods they use in which to implement such changes. In a story by New York Times writer Adam Liptak completed in 2010, Tea Partiers have a particular interest in the limitation of Congressional powers involving the 10th Amendment. However, additional interviews with CNN and NPR go even further. Members also envision changes in the 14th Amendment which provides automatic citizenship to those born in the United States, the 17th Amendment which defines the direct election of senators (Tea Partiers would rather have this power returned to the state legislatures as provided before in Article I, section 3), the Fifth Amendment which addresses the government’s confiscation of private property, and of course, the Second Amendment which focuses on gun rights, respectively.
According to the NPR article, many Tea Party activists who were interviewed admittedly did not study the Constitution verbatim, but were “well aware of [their] history” (pg. 2). Curiously, the same notation was also made in both the New York Times and CNN articles as well. What the party believes is of the utmost importance is that the Constitution be interpreted as written by the Founders. And while most Americans do not know the Constitution word-for-word, several of the scholars within each of the articles agree that a possession of such knowledge is somewhat irrelevant. Again, what makes all of this particularly fascinating because the method in which the Tea Party is making itself heard—by effectively using the political system to make its platform well known to the public and more importantly, government officials.
Noting all of the above and realizing first-hand that change in government can and will happen, the question is whether the Tea Party’s methods will affects decision-making in our government. According to the Times article, University of Texas law professor, Sanford Levinson, notes that the Constitution as a whole “is open to interpretation by anybody, in what I sometimes call the lawyerhood of all citizens” and that “anybody in a bar can get into a shouting argument over what equal protection means, or the right to free speech” (pg. 1). However, Larry D. Kramer, Dean of Stanford Law School stated in The Valparaiso University Law Review in 2006 that “basically, it’s the idea that final authority to control the interpretation and implementation of constitutional law resides at all times in the community in an active sense” (pg. 1).
To prove the effectiveness of activism for change by the people, Professor Levinson points to the 2008 Supreme Court ruling protecting Second Amendment rights involving individual gun ownership. After its ruling, the Court made clear that it would not be hearing any cases involving Second Amendment ownership anytime in the near future.
While historically, there have always been groups which question the limitation of power at the Federal level involving the states and individual privacy and protections (i.e., abolitionists, militias, civil rights, etc.), it would be unwise of any informed American to believe that groups such as the Tea Party cannot provide implement some type of impact on our Supreme Court, Congress, and even the Presidency.