The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Drew Courtney or Miranda Blue
202-467-4999 /

Reading Between the Lines: The Tea Party's Real Constitutional Philosophy


Despite all
the hype, the Tea Party is not a "populist,"
"libertarian," or "constitutionalist" movement. Rather,
it is a movement of grassroots frustration that has been co-opted by wealthy
corporate interests to fight against
the historic victories of Populism, against
the key movements for civil liberties and civil rights, and against modern constitutional principles,
argues a new report by Jamie Raskin of People For the American Way.

As the
newly-empowered House GOP takes to the House floor to read the Constitution in
its entirety, Raskin's report questions the Tea Party movement's
asserted allegiance to the text and history of the Constitution, its claim to
champion the liberty of the people, and its identification with earlier
populist movements. "Americans who still love the promise of political
democracy, the real Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the progress of human
liberty and equality should carefully read the fine print, as well as
between the lines, before they drink the tea being served at this party,"
Raskin writes.

Raskin, a
Senior Fellow at People For the American Way, is also a Maryland State Senator
and a professor of constitutional law at American
University's Washington
college of Law.

The report, Corporate
Infusion: What the Tea Party's Really Serving America
discusses the modern Tea Party movement's history and track record,

  • advocating in the 2010 elections for repeal of
    the 17th Amendment--popular election of U.S. Senators--a key victory
    of American Populism in the last century;
  • advocating in the 2010 elections for repeal of
    the 16th Amendment and attacking the federal power to impose an
    income tax, which is essential to modern democracy;
  • fighting the 14th Amendment's
    guarantees of equal protection and birthright citizenship and arguing for
    repeal of parts of the 14th Amendment, including its crucial
    first sentence;
  • asserting the unconstitutionality of the Civil
    Rights Act of 1964 and defending the right of private establishments to
    discriminate on the basis of race and other arbitrary factors;
  • advocating for
    a return to the gold standard and thus assailing another great victory of
    the Populist movement for working people;
  • opposing the reproductive rights of women and the
    civil rights and liberties of gay and lesbian citizens; and
  • calling for ever more "deregulation"
    and generating a host of silly and false political issues, like
    allegations about the president's citizenship and religion, while
    ignoring and obscuring gigantic corporate scandals and crimes of our
    times, including the multi-trillion dollar sub-prime mortgage scam, the BP
    oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the lethal collapse of Massey
    Coal's mines in West Virginia.

Constitution reflects the American people's historic fight for a strong
democracy, civil liberties and the common good," said Raskin.
"Although the Tea Party has been billed as embracing all of those values,
it has been co-opted and channeled to fight for the power of big corporations, not
the rights of the American people. We should take a close look at what the Tea
Party's words about the Constitution really mean."

Responding to the planned Constitutional
"read-out" by the Republican majority in the House of
Representatives on Thursday, Raskin said: "It's a fine idea to
celebrate and study the Constitution, but the document they're reading
aloud is about two minutes longer than the one the Tea Party supports.
And what does it mean to read the Establishment Clause out loud when you support
the teaching of creationism in our public schools? Or to repeat the words
'due process,' 'liberty' and 'equal protection' but deny their application to
all citizens? Or to read the Commerce Clause and the necessary and proper
clause but deny their use in advancing the public health and welfare? It's one
thing to read the Constitution, quite another to defend its meaning."

The full report can be found at:

People For the American Way works to build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. We fight against right-wing extremism and the injustice it fosters.

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