In the scramble amongst the Republican candidates for 2012, there has been a lot more discussion of the Constitution than in previous elections. Congressman Ron Paul‘s criticism of both Democrats and his fellow Republicans has been their failure to follow the Constitution, either through bloated social programs or endless wars. His campaign message in Congress and in Presidential campaigns has essentially been that of the Tenth Amendment Center – the Constitution every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses.
Even before the 2010 Congressional elections, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was often found questioning the constitutionality of many actions by the federal government and the Federal Reserve. The Tea Party faction of the Republicans brought more attention to the issue, as did Dennis Kucinich and other Democrats questioning Obama’s constitutional authority in sending US forces to serve under foreign command via UN and NATO actions in Libya.
In one of the Republican debates this year, even Newt Gingrich, who as House Speaker had often increased federal government power during the Clinton administration, brought up the Tenth Amendment specifically when discussing job creation. Mitt Romney, whose state health care program as Governor of Massachusetts served as a model for ObamaCare, was quick to point out that RomneyCare was a state program, while such actions are not constitutionally sanctioned for the federal government. Even incumbent Barack Obama faces a little publicized primary challenge from Randall Terry, who has specifically reached out to Tea Party conservatives on his campaign site.
Constitutionalists throughout the nation should be excited to see federal office seekers bringing up the Constitution…right? Wrong! How often have we seen Congressional and Presidential candidates keep their promises on cutting spending, getting our country out of wars, reducing regulations and promoting liberty? What has their track record been? One could do a search of campaign and inaugural quotes from both Bushes, Clinton, Obama, Reagan, and others to show the answer. Even when they mean what they say, there is too much necessary “compromise” to get any real work done at the federal level.
Even the authors of the original Nullification resolutions in Virginia and Kentucky found themselves being necessarily challenged by the states during their presidencies. The New England states produced John Adams, who was responsible for the Alien and Sedition Acts, which provoked Jefferson and Madison to write the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions in the first place. And yet, it was the New England states that found it necessary to nullify Jefferson’ embargo in 1807. Opposition to the War of 1812 during Madison’s presidency, while not as forceful as previous Nullification efforts, was also centered in the New England states, resulting in the Hartford Convention. Perhaps the phenomenon of “Selective Tenthers” existed since the early days of the Republic, but that’s one for another article and a wiser mind than mine.
So, with presidential primaries being pushed earlier and earlier in the year, yes, it is important to vote for the person we believe will show the most respect for our liberty. However, with state and local offices across the country still undecided in 2011 and 2012, it is more important to vote for state, county and municipal officials willing to buck the statist trend and make it a priority to keep the federal government accountable. For history has not shown they are willing to put checks on their own power.