Monday, January 3, 2011

E.J. Dionne and the sacred Constitution

From its inception, the Tea Party movement has treated the nation's great founding document not as the collection of shrewd political compromises that it is but as the equivalent of sacred scripture.

Yet as Gordon Wood, the widely admired historian of the Revolutionary era has noted, we "can recognize the extraordinary character of the Founding Fathers while also knowing that those 18th-century political leaders were not outside history. . . . They were as enmeshed in historical circumstances as we are, they had no special divine insight into politics, and their thinking was certainly not free of passion, ignorance, and foolishness."

An examination of the Constitution that views it as something other than the books of Genesis or Leviticus would be good for the country.

I think Dionne makes some good points here. We do tend to revere the Founders on the level of demigods, but they were politicians and operators who made compromises.

On the other hand: the Constitution deserves respect and adherence not just because the dudes who created it were super-awesome, but *because it's the law of the land.* I think it grants the national government more power -- and, weirdly, the people more rights -- than Tea Partiers seem to think. It's a good debate to have!

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