You don’t have to look too closely to observe that there is a backlash currently playing out against the GOP from within the GOP. The most visible of these mini-revolts is the effort to oust longtime super-conservative Senator Orrin Hatch in Utah. That fight actually seeks to remove a man who was once endorsed by Ronald Reagan and who Mitt Romney said will be critical to his efforts to reform our nation’s tax system and entitlements.
The main objections to Hatch seem to be his centered around his “voting record” which includes such offenses as Medicare Part D, SCHIP, numerous votes to raise the debt ceiling and TARP. Those who oppose Hatch are not swayed by the fact that most republicans in Congress and the last three Republican Presidents all supported or voted for the very initiatives Hatch is being singled out for. From their perspective, Hatch is not a Conservative because of his past votes, even though he’s historically been considered one of the most conservative members of Congress and his votes align very well with the rest of the party.
Question: Who changed? Was it Hatch or the Republican party – and was that change good or bad??
Answer: The Republican Party changed and the change was definitely for the better!
In 2008 the Republican Party collectively came to the startling conclusion that the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be trusted to interpret the Constitution of the United States!
Prior to 2008 the Republican Party trusted the Supreme Court, but in 2008 became obvious to anyone with eyes that the federal government had so exceeded it’s constitutional authority that something had to be fundamentally wrong with out nation’s nine-member constitutional compass. It was no longer considered “good enough” for Supreme Court precedent to deem a law constitutional. Beginning in 2008 the Republican Party would take the initiative and determine independently what was constitutional and what was not.
Although most Tea Party activists weren’t aware of it at the time, the first shot in this counter-revolution was fired by Clarence Thomas in 1995. In that year the Supreme Court reviewed USA vs. Lopez, a case in which a high school senior named Alfonso Lopez was convicted of carrying an unloaded .38 caliber pistol into school in violation of the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 – passed by voice vote in the Senate, nearly unanimous vote in the House, and signed by Bush 41. The law made it a federal crime to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. The court (correctly) determined that the law violated the 10th amendment which restricts Congress from passing laws that are not explicitly authorized by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. Similar laws had been justified since 1937 under the “commerce claws,” but the court said the Gun Free School Zones Act went too far.
Clarence Thomas went further in his concurring opinion, explaining in excellent detail how the Supreme Court broke from strict constitutional interpretation (under duress) in 1937 and how a subsequent string of decisions had created a precedent stack which allowed the federal government to do whatever it wanted…effectively rendering the 10th amendment toothless!
In 2008 after Obama and the democrats in Congress went on an unprecedented spending spree followed by the blatantly unconstitutional power grab of ObamaCare, even regular voters realized something was amiss. Voters began asking hard questions about our constitutional checks and balances and whether the Supreme Court was working to check Congressional power. As it turns out, is wasn’t! Constitutional attorneys Morgan Philpot and Mike Lee articulated the problem eloquently to average voters and crystallized in voter’s minds the source of the problem. To our horror we realized that our party was actually complicit in allowing the encroachment to progress. Everyone had blood on his hands, even arch conservative Presidents like George Bush and Ronald Reagan!
Today the party is committed to correcting the problem and reversing our march away from the limitations expressed so plainly in the text of the constitution, but lost on the Justices of the Supreme Court (except of course Clarence Thomas). Republican voters have put Congress and the Court on notice that creative interpretation of the commerce clause will no longer be tolerated and that failure to return to the historical meaning of the document will result in ouster or worse.
Understanding the change that has now occurred in the party, is it fair to punish Republican Congressional leaders for their previous faith in the Supreme Court as “Constitutional compass” now that we and they have come to the conclusion that the Supreme Court is failing us? Should we blame our leaders for not coming to these conclusions sooner than we did? Should we throw out the entire Republican Party for being no smarter than the average voter before 2008?
On the contrary, I believe we should move forward with the understanding we have and assess our leaders based on their alignment with that understanding. If a Senator like Bob Bennett continues to think that “tweaks” and “band-aids” are sufficient to reform unconstitutional programs like Social Security and Medicare, then he should be fired! If on the other hand, a conservative like Orrin Hatch demonstrates an understanding of the current constitutional crisis and a willingness to press our agenda forward in spite of a few past votes which by today’s standards would not pass conservative muster but at the time were considered ‘conservative enough’, then I say ALL AHEAD FULL!!!
The party doesn’t have time to flagellate itself for not heeding Clarence Thomas’ warnings fifteen years sooner. Now is the time to act, not point fingers. It’s time we as Republicans realize that we can only win this war together and that the more time we waste fighting each other, the more time we give the Democrats to dig in and institutionalize their gains.