If We Have an Imperfect Constitution, Should We Settle for Remarkably Timid Reform? Reflections Generated by the General Phenomenon of “Tea Party Constitutionalism” and Randy Barnett’s Particular Proposal for a “Repeal Amendment”

Levinson, Sanford | March 27, 2011

There is, of course, no single template for “Tea Party Constitutionalism,” given that it is a large, somewhat inchoate movement that inevitably contains different, often conflicting, strains. As someone from Texas, I am tempted to focus on some of the more extreme ideas associated with various politicians wishing to take advantage of the anger projected by many Tea Partiers toward the national government. Thus at least two candidates for the 2010 Republican nomination for the Texas governorship (including the ultimately successful incumbent, Rick Perry) endorsed or at least flirted with nineteenth century ideas of “nullification” and even secession as a potential response to what is perceived as an overreaching national government. More striking, presumably, was the proclamation by the (unsuccessful) Republican candidate for the Senate from Nevada, Sharron Angle: “Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in [the Constitution] for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government . . . . In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”