Respecting the Tenth Amendment does not necessarily predispose allegiance to an economic theory. Thus both libertarians and socialists can enthusiastically agree that our national government is bound by strictly enumerated powers and save their blows for whether the sovereign states should adopt single payer health care schemes or operate liquor store monopolies.

Likewise political party is not the sine qua non of constitutional fidelity. Yes, certain factions in each can be fairly aligned with or against the Tenther movement. The Tea Party shares some contiguity with the Grand Old Party but by all accounts is more willing to defend our constitutional charter. The Occupy Wall Street movement overlaps the Democratic Party by sharing meaty bits of its Weltanschauung including a lack of sentimentality toward constitutional who-whats-its, and both claim Alec Baldwin as one of their own.

Among the viable Republican contenders for the presidential throne, Willard Mitt Romney is unapologetic in his total disregard for constitutional niceties. Mitt subrogates questions of constitutionality to claims of his management genius. Once upon a time, said Mitt, he was in favor of abolishing the Department of Education, because that position was “very popular with his base”. To Mitt’s credit it is only his base that has shifted; his constitutional promiscuity is firmly intact.

At any 20th century presidential debate Mitt Romney’s defense of federal social security would have been unremarkable. Not even Ronald Reagan attempted to dismantle the New Deal. But Mitt slept through the Great Awakening. Whether social security is or is not a Ponzi scheme is wholly beside the point. The income taxation powers created by the Sixteenth Amendment did not abrogate the Tenth Amendment’s limit on federal power. But this argument means nothing to those who favor Gallup over Madison.

Next year promises to be a banner year for the Tenth Amendment. Americans unacquainted with its elegance will be drawn by both the presidential contest and the U.S. Supreme Court calendar into distinct factions. The Madisonians will gather to defend our Founders’ enlightenment vision of a restrained federal polity; the Totalitarians will mob for an imperialWashington. It is instructive to conclude that the Republican nominee may associate more freely with the latter, even if you think he has good hair.

Benjamin Gross
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