Is Your Candidate Really a…?
I was recently approached by fervent supporters of a candidate for U.S. Senate. They claimed that my opinion mattered greatly, that my endorsement of their opposition was a heart-breaking travesty, that their candidate was the "most conservative" candidate in the state, that their candidate was "a constitutionalist" and that I must publicly announce my support for his candidacy immediately, lest risk losing whatever respect they had for me.
The campaign rhetoric appears to have been ratcheted several notches in local and state races. The state of the economy has much to do with this. There is a lot at stake this go around.
My response to this triumvirate of passionate supporters was twofold: What made them think that I supported their opposition? What makes their candidate a "conservative constitutionalist"?
They had surmised my support for "the other guy" because I had interviewed him three times and their candidate only once. They had no answer for the second question other than to say: "He is against abortion and he is an attorney who believes in property rights and the right to bear arms."
Is that all it takes these days to be "the most conservative" and a "constitutional" candidate?
Their candidate has no voting record as he has never held a political position and has never been forced to cast a vote. That doesn't make him unworthy of running for or of winning a U.S. Senate seat; but it does make me pause and wonder, how do voters conclude a candidate is conservative when there is no record to analyze, and just what exactly makes a candidate a "constitutionalist?"
The easy answer, and probably the most accurate, is that no one knows for sure. The popularity of the TEA Party crusade has forced all Republicans (and some Democrats) to lean more to the right with their rhetoric than they might have in past elections.
Conservatism usually defines one’s stance on taxes, property rights, and the role of government in a capitalist economy. Constitutionalism is generally defined as one’s position on the government’s right to infringe on our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Everyone wants a piece of the TEA Party uprising. Everyone wants to capture those vociferous voters who have had enough. Everyone wants to ingratiate themselves with citizens guaranteed to get out the vote. The TEA Party (un)organization has become a convenient and easily accessible source of votes for wannabe politicians.
It is tempting to sponge off the movement. Everyone is invited to the party. The TEA Party phenomenon accepts all races, religions, and genders so long as they know the mantra, "Down with tyrannical and centralized government."
All a candidate has to do is show up to a rally and hold a sign depicting President Barack Obama as anyone of several historical socialists or communists. Doing so makes the candidate an instant constitutionalist. That appears to be the extent of the vetting process for voters tied to the TEA Party movement.
Or is it?
Those close to the TEA Party movement confide that they are extremely skeptical of candidates who claim to be constitutionalists. The first question they will ask the self-proclaimed constitutionalist is: "Do you view yourself as having any constitutional responsibility?" If the candidate answers in the affirmative, a follow up question of "what responsibility do you have?" usually trips the candidate.
Lennie Thompson's refusal to accept federal grants is an example of a local politician exercising his constitutional responsibility. His acceptance of schemes that strip residents of property rights is not.
Jim Rutledge and his camp eagerly declare that he is a strict constitutionalist. If that is so, a salient question would be whether or not candidate Rutledge believes that the federal government has the right to tax and redistribute wealth through Social Security and Medicare?
The answer will separate the righteous from the licentious.