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Monday, February 19, 2018

There’s a new-old word in town this election season, and it can tell us a lot about American politics today: “Constitutionalist.”

Animated cartoon villain and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has most closely associated himself with the Constitutionalist label (despite being born in Canada, which would disqualify him from the presidency according to strict Constitutionalists). When Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis was arrested for refusing to give out marriage licenses to a gay couple, Cruz called upon “every Believer, every Constitutionalist, every lover of liberty to stand with Kim Davis.” Glenn Beck, who has endorsed Cruz for the presidency, called Cruz a “true Constitutionalist” based partly on the folk tale that the Texas senator had memorized the Constitution at age 13.

All this talk of Constitutionalism implies, and purposefully so, that conservative firebrands like Cruz are motivated solely by a commitment to upholding the Constitution, while liberals who support universal healthcare, regulations on the financial industry, and gay marriage are supporting “judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny.” These progressive policies are held up as examples of government overreach. Really, they’re just policies that conservatives hate.

But what does Constitutionalism entail? The ideology draws from a hodgepodge of states’ rights, anti-abortionist, evangelical Christian, libertarian, and isolationist foreign policy beliefs. The Constitutional Party, founded in 1991 as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, is said to embody these beliefs, and its views largely follow those espoused in the Constitutionalist Manifesto.

The manifesto, published by Eagle Forum, a conservative interest group founded by Phyllis Schlafly, reveals a great deal. Amid all the rambling about the evils of the liberal culture war, and the judges whose decisions have supposedly violated Constitutional amendments, there is one clear target for Constitutionalists: anyone — and any idea, really — who deviates from their specific brand of Christian dogma.

“A ‘pluralism’ or ‘diversity’ of world views cannot provide a solid, workable foundation for our Constitution,” the proclamation says — despite demographic trends that indicate they might have some trouble headed their way.

A strong Christian identity is so central to Constitutionalists’ political identities that Wisconsin’s Constitution Party chairman dedicated an article to defending what would be, by any other name, a theocracy. The Constitution Party of Wisconsin describes itself as “a totally pro-life, liberty and traditional marriage/values party whose goal is to get Godly constitutionally-minded people into office at the local, state and federal levels. CPoW officers and candidates will never compromise on either God’s word or the Constitution.”

“These “Reconstructionist” judges (popularly labeled “liberals” and “judicial activists”) and their postmodernist allies throughout American culture must be repelled. The responsibility for such a counter-attack falls on us Constitutionalists (popularly known as “conservatives” and “judicial restraintists”),” reads another part of the Constitutionalist Manifesto. The proclamation is fixated on this specific interpretation of the Constitution — one that, unsurprisingly, holds up Christianity as the ultimate source of all legal authority.

Daniel Levin, a professor at the University of Utah, best summarized the Constitutionalist craze sweeping the conservative American electorate over a decade ago. American Constitutionalism was a “contemporary folk appropriation of classic liberal thought combined with the American tradition of frontier individualism,” according to a scholarly essay he published early 2001. Classic liberal thought, formulated predominantly by British philosopher John Locke, was among the first to articulate the notion of popular sovereignty as a way of securing power in the hands of the people. Rule by consent, a key aspect of the American Revolution, was informed by the writings of Locke and other Enlightenment Age philosophers.

But Constitutionalists have taken the concept of consent to extremes, arguing that government actions like moving off the gold standard and instituting a federal income tax have violated the government’s own legitimacy and infringed upon the individual freedoms of Americans. While Locke argued for personal freedom, especially vis-a-vis his ideological opponent, Thomas Hobbes, he also argued for a social contract, whereby individuals agree to a surrender some of their freedoms for the greater good of society. “Though men, when they enter into society, give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society,” he wrote in section 131 of his Second Treatise, “with an intention in every one the better to preserve himself, his liberty and property; (for no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse).”

While Constitutionalist theory is rooted in history, their emphasis on frontier individualism has increasingly become a powerful force for Constitutionalists, who distrust the United Nations and other major global institutions that formed the post-war world order.

This is just the kind of Christian paranoia that Ted Cruz uses to make up his base. “Cruz wants to ‘restore’ the United States to what he believes is its original identity: a Christian nation,” wrote John Fea, an American history professor at Messiah College, in a critique of his political objectives.

At one point, individualism was simply an appeal to the American tradition of the lone frontiersman — far beyond the reach of a tyrannical, coastal federal government — who was free to practice his Christian faith and lead a homestead for his family. But this country has no frontier beyond which there remains unclaimed land waiting for the arrival of white homesteaders moving west. That moment — just like the political dominance of white, heterosexual, religious Christianity — has long faded.

The Constitution Party has unequivocally opposed gay marriage and advocated ending tax breaks given to married gay couples. Citing the 10th Amendment, which states that Congress can’t take power not given to it under the Constitution, adherents of Constitutionalism have argued that marriage is a specifically Christian institution. “No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted,” read the Party’s family principles page. “We are opposed to any judicial ruling or amending the U.S. Constitution or any state constitution re-defining marriage with any definition other than the Biblical standard.”

Of course, progress on these issues is the sin of a federal government which “has been gradually perverted into a socialist machine for federal control in the domestic affairs of the states, a favorite talking point for conservatives when the Supreme Court rules against them.

If Constitutionalism — at least, as the term is currently defined — is a bit of a paradox, that’s by design. Many of its social and political positions are the result of misreadings of political theory and, more important, are politically untenable today.

Unrealistic demands like rolling back gay rights, pulling the country out of international institutions and radically shrinking the size of the federal government may be seductive to conservative voters, but those voters are being sold a bill of goods: Constitutionalists unwillingness to “compromise” — to govern — lies at the heart of the Republican obstructionism slowly destroying the party.

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70 Responses to Ted Cruz Calls Himself A ‘Constitutionalist’ — It’s A Loaded Term

  1. If Cruz was an actual constitutionalist he wouldn’t be a wingnut evangelical Christian.
    … or pretending to be.

    None of the framers had any time for religion, and regarded it with great suspicion.

    • Ted Cruz views the Constitution in the same way he does the bible; something that’s open to interpretation and can mean anything he wants it to mean.

  2. It’s interesting that the 10th Amendment doesn’t mention that powers not given to the federal government reset to God. It mentions only the states and the people.

    • I wonder if these self proclaimed Constitutionalists are aware that there are 4543 words in the original, unamended Constitution, including the signatures and not one of them is Christianity, Jesus or bible. “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” – James Madison [Letter objecting to the use of government land for churches, 1803]”

    • YEs, but the left wing doesn’t believe we have the ability to govern ourselves. They forget what “democracy” actually means, which, I believe, is government belonging to the people (all the people) and not to one specific group!

      • Are you saying Americans can’t govern Americans as Americans? We have to govern Texans as Texans only, never as Americans? We have all agreed to certain common standards, like equality before the law. And when some of us step over the line and say there are some who don’t deserve that equality, then naturally they get slapped back to sense. Gays are also Americans and have all the rights of Americans. And Baptists and Catholics and Muslims all have the equal rights to worship as they wish and as they have been taught. But out in the market place, you have no right to say we don’t serve Baptists, or Muslims, or gays, because they are all equally Americans and the government can’t see any difference. Not allowed to see any difference!

        • Tom: You misunderstood me. The GOP doesn’t want to govern for the people (meaning us)….they want to govern for the good of the corporations and the high-paid lobbyists that they employ. They have done NOTHING this pasts 7+ years that would benefit any of us individually and have only blocked everything possible. This is NOT a democracy wherein WE own the government, which is what the Constitution says…..our government is being taken over by the 1% and they will do nothing for you and I unless it benefits that group.

  3. Enough of the bullshit trying to define or explain what a ‘Constitutionalist’ is and how this might apply to Cruz, okay? For this reason only. He is a Christian Dominionist just like his father. Cruz believes in the teachings of RJ or JR Rushdoony. Dominionists believe that America should be governed completely in all areas, legal, civil and Federal by Biblical law. Period. And they mean Old Testament Law. No one ever dares to question Cruz about this. No one ever dares question Cruz about his complete acceptance of the endorsement of that crazy SOB pastor who claims the Bible demands the death of homosexuals. But they pile on Trump for going easy on the KKK. Hey, I despise Trump and Cruz and Rubio and the religious right. I support Sanders here. But Cruz is a time bomb and a real threat and danger. I’m not paranoid. But please stop letting him off easy with all the twisted and garbled discussion about being a Constitutionalist, Originalist, etc. It’s all a smokescreen. Okay…time for some light reading and reruns of Bill Maher and John Oliver. 🙂

    • “He is a Christian Dominionist just like his father.” That in a nutshell, or in Cruz’ case a nutsack, is why he would be even more dangerous than the conman grifter Trump.

    • In that sense, his ideas are much closer to those embraced and promoted by the Daesh, than what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

  4. I would not be surprised if many conservatives interpret the term “constitutionalist” in a way that goes far beyond the interpretation of the word and spirit enshrined in the Constitution. For them, separation of Church and State is just a bump on the road to be ignored or removed. Citizenship is something that can be amended, when it allows undesirables to have the same rights as white conservatives. Equality for them means surrendering alternative values, and embracing theirs. Last, but not least, it also means the ability of the descendants of the wealthy white landowners that once determined what was best for the citizens of this country, and our future, to rise again.

  5. If you want a good feeling for the supporters of Sharia law in the Muslim World, here is a Christian example. Both believe that that document is God given and immutable. That it was not really written by men and subject to change and interpretation. And that it is the universal law for everyone, except, of course, for those who see it differently. They are infidels and unworthy of any consideration and subject only to destruction now and hell in the next world.
    The majority of people are much more reasonable, understand it is only for those who fall under it. Who by alleigence and birth have chosen to live under it, and that the best minds understand there are many forms and adaptations necessary for mere mortals to even try to live up to God’s law.

  6. Except for the minor detail that he is not eligible for the office of President, not being a “natural born citizen” having been born in Canada, with a US Citizen mother. Strange how the Constitution’s exception for non natural born citizens being those who were residents of what was to become the US for 15 years, and alive at the time of the adoption of the Constitution. Those non natural born citizens died a long time ago. Obviously, there could not be any qualified natural born citizens in the US for at least 35 years, therefor, the exception set out.

    Obviously, Ted is a “Consitutionalist” only when it is to his perceived advantage. He is not when it works against him, such as running for President as a non natural born citizen. That clause appears only when dealing with the office of President, and Vice President.


  7. Maybe we should go back to at least one of the beliefs of our founding fathers and get rid of our standing army. You never here Cruz or any other of the Cons support that little fact. I find it funny how the conservatives pick and choose from the beliefs of our founders.

  8. Cruz can’t call himself a “constitutionalist” while he doesn’t know what is in the Constitution. There is no where in it that indicates a person can be “Natural Born Citizen” in two different countries at the same time. NO WHERE.

    • If he was born in Europe, his parents would have had to get him a green card to get him back into the U.S. Since he was born in Canada, his parents just drove him across the border showing their ID cards. It wasn’t until 1986 a law was passed that allowed military children born overseas natural born citizenship and it does not include children born before 1986. Cruz is very afraid of this law coming up because it guarantees he’s not a natural born citizen.

      • Nick…I was in Alberta and BC back in August and September 2000. What you say is quite true. If you are American, when you cross from the Canadian border in Alberta into Montana, the Canadian border checkpoints do check your passport.

        Cruz didn’t have any parent in the military. And, if his mother voted ever in an Alberta election, she had to do so as a Canadian citizen.

        • This is why Cruz would be far worse of a republican nominee and would automatically give the democrats the presidential election.

          • You are right Nick. If there is anyone thinking Cruz can be sworn-in as President, Dems will keep quiet, not take him to court and let him go and repeal every word of ACA, appoint a new Justice to the bench, abolish IRS etc.etc. while his eligibility to be president is in question, must give themselves another thought.

          • I’ve been keeping my eye on the SC and the Republican Sen. Grassley. This ancient relic of the 1950s should be held accountable for his deliberate reinterpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The Republicans accuse President Obama of overstepping his authority? Really? When it was Mitch McConnell in the 3rd month of a brand new presidency in March 2009 who said, “We will get rid of Obama.” This is what comes of allowing men in the GOP to get away with sedition and attempting to be the ONLY party in government.

            Cruz isn’t eligible, Trump has 159 pending lawsuits and Rubio is part of the Miami Syndicate like Rick Scott, JEB and it goes all the way back to Nixon and his buddy Bebe Reboso.

            The ACA is law. So is Roe vs. Wade…Notice how it is always Republican men who are the most vocal about repealing every law except Citizens United? That reeks of violation of the oaths of office they all swore to which includes upholding the laws passed by Congress. According to the right wing anarchists and Republicans…They can repeal laws only THEY don’t like. At some point, it may be time to add a “Write Out” next to “Write In” on election ballots to get rid of these national disgraces.

        • Back in the 60’s I knew a Fulbright scholar who met and married a Hungarian refugee, who was also a doctor. They tried for years to get him in as a refugee or as a immigrant. She finally came back alone so their children would be citizens (have to be here 2 years if only one parent is a US citizen.) and she finally did get him in with a senator inervening. But she really feared here children would grow up stateless, which is a fate not to be wished upon anyone.

          • I know what you mean. Back in ’87 I worked for a chemical company that hired an employee from India on a green card. The scientist had to renew the green card because he was not a conditional citizen. I recall that in 1987, even if you had a sponsor for your green card, you still had a long, long wait to apply for U.S. Citizenship.

    • There is no where in the constitution that defines what a natural born citizen is. that is something that is entirely defined by law. And currently the law says you are a citizen by either being born an American or being naturalized. You are a US citizen by birth by being born here, or being born with two US ciitzens as parents, or by being born with one US citizen as a parent and living here a minimum of 2 years before age 21. According to our law, since he completed one of those, and was not naturalized, he is a US citizen which was not by naturalization but by birth, which makes him “natural born” as opposed to a naturalized citizen. And except for being president, there is no other classification of “natural born.” Although if a naturalized citizen commits certain crimes he can be deported. A citizen by birth cannot even be deported.

      • This issue is to be sorted out by the Supreme Court once and for all. It is not something anyone can take it so lightly. The Supreme Court is there for very complicated issues like this one.

        • Actually the laws have been on the books a long time. And they are really well established. Since there are only two ways of becoming a citizen, by birth or by naturalization. It follows that any way that involves birth, must be what they meant. And if it ever does get to the Supreme Court, bet they rule the same way. It is not that important of point, as you seem to feel. Remember the first 12 presidents were all born British subjects (British for British citizens.

          • Sorry, we don’t live depending on assumptions. Let the Supreme Court tell us or clarify on the issue. There is nothing wrong with that.

  9. Since Christianity has thousands of denominations, which one does Cruz intend to impose? And where is this Ok in the Constitution? He is a particularly dangerous charlatan.

    • The joke is he was born in Calgary Alberta. When I visited friends in Calgary, I was shocked at how legal prostitution is there. The red light district is located near the Eau Claire Market..not far from the Calgary Stampede Fair Grounds in the heart of the city.

      The Constitution states that a president must be a natural born citizen.

  10. Well sure Cruz is a “Constitutionalist” …He’s a Republican. Don’t you guys and gals ever get it? In GOPspeak, the Constitutionism is Canadian, not American.

    Right now, the same spiteful little anarchists who are embarrassed about the attempt by Canada and Texas to take over federal land so they can drill for oil on them and those so called federalist ranchers going to jail, your card carrying anti-government bulls and cows are hot to start reducing the balance between federal and state government. Do that and Texas will do what they did in NB…take land for “interstate projects” by eminent domain. If you know anything about the GOP, you know their penchant for reinventing and reinterpreting the Constitution …to their advantage.

  11. Gee, I thought our country was owned by ALL American citizens, not just one group of uber-religious individuals. What happened to the Constitution and the “of the people, by the people and FOR the people.” Apparently, the Constitutionalists don’t believe that we’re intelligent enough to take care of ourselves, worship as we please, marry whomever we wish, and live in peace and liberty. They aspire to take it all away from us….Cruz wants to abolish the IRS, (where does the money come to run this country), do away with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (so we can be overrun by unscrupulous credit card companies and banks), abolish the Commerce Department and the Energy Department (so he can run the country through the rich oil, coal, and whatever industries). It doesn’t matter that the American people don’t want these departments to be abolished….they were established for the American people, not a group of people who have NO cares what we want. And, what happened to being able to worship as you please be it Methodist, Protestant, Presbyterian, Catholic, Jewish, Atheists, Muslim, or whatever religion the individual chooses to practice? They want nothing but to push their evangelical Christian beliefs on ALL of us despite what we want! It’s pretty sad that these people don’t see what they are trying to accomplish and we don’t see what damage they can do to our way of life as we know it now! I’m scared to death, and others should be too!

  12. I like how the anti-Cruz Leftist crowd will virtually contort themselves into pretzels in their vain efforts of perpetuating their campaign of lies & misinformation against Cruz, while conveniently blind eyeing the fact they themselves represent the actual threat to our nation”s constitutional Republic & especially religious liberty.

    • Here are some facts, he has never really worked in the private sector so how is he an outsider. He is married to Wall St. and has had no problems using that connection. He is not a leader in the senate or in the party and in fact very few elected members of government have anything nice to say about him. So tell me how is he going to get anything done. He doesn’t play well with others. The left is the one supporting freedom from religion, not the right.

    • Um, Cruz is not a “constitutionalist.” He’s just the guy who thinks if he says it enough then it must be true. Under a strict interpretation of the constitution, he would not be a natural born citizen and is therefore ineligible to be president.

      Nobody is attacking religion on the left. Religion is not the only right in the constitution. We also have this thing called the 5th and 14th amendments. I know, strict “constitutionalists” forget about those alot since they don’t further the Cruz bottomline.

    • Chris
      Rock basically said it correctly. ‘There
      is nothing a white man with a nickel hates worse than a black man with a
      quarter’. By the same token, you hate
      the intelligent black man who made law review at Harvard. He can teach law. You can barely spell it. He knows the law. You couldn’t read it and explain anything
      about it, even the preamble.
      Typical. My daughter, about to take the LSATS can quote
      more law than you.

    • Except it’s not. Constitutionalists are a cult financed by the Kochs and they believe in only their own narrow interpretation of the Constitution. Militia types, sheriffs, ex-military and other strange bedfellows are all linked via internet and ready to roll when they get the call (think Bundy Ranch Standoff and Malheur Wildlife Refuge Occupation). Having a President that is part of an on call militia is an invitation for the nation to take a flying leap into a bottomless pit of facism. Sound far-fetched? Just google it.

  13. The
    one thing I got from a last interview with Justice Scalia was on abortion. He did not like Roe V Wade and it had
    nothing to do with his opinions on abortion.
    The point of his objection was it had nothing to DO with whether it is
    wrong or right but that abortion is not a constitutional issue and never should
    have been heard. THAT is true
    constitution logic. Interpret not add to
    or change. Our constitution has nothing
    to do with any religion. It is about
    governance and rights. I am a protestant
    Baptist but I do not want them or my religion in my politics. You have religions who deny choice for women
    down to birth control but hide decades of abuse of its children, the latest in
    Altoona, PA and raise up the ones who hid it and protected the
    perpetrators. Religious hypocrisy at its

  14. I’ve been hearing the party was destroying itself for over 30 years. Meanwhile they’ve taken full control of 24 states and 31 states have Republican governors. There are more Republicans in office at the local state and federal level than any time since the late 20s. I wish Republicans were destroying themselves. The evidence just isn’t there.

    • They are getting elected any which way they can (redistricting, the Supreme Court on Bush vs. Gore in 2000, rigging voting machines, etc.) and then passing ALEC laws like the Voter ID Law which is meant to disenfranchise the poor, elderly, student…anybody but Republicans. They have a dangerous agenda that is built on a premise of lies, greed and arrogance. They are winning and it is scary as hell.

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