The release of Sarah Palin’s book “Going Rogue” (HarperCollins, 2009) has brought out not only the Palin bashers, but also, of course, has increased chatter about whether she will be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012.
What’s missing so far in the “professional” chatter - which ranges from the snide and petty to the more substantive about her future - is whether she or any other potential candidate has grasped what conservative newspaper editor Seth Lipsky describes so astutely as America’s “constitutional moment.”
Thanks in great part to the new, alternative and social media, people are talking and writing about the Constitution - certainly more than I’ve seen in my lifetime.
Barry Goldwater, the first movement conservative to receive the Republican nomination for president, spoke of the Constitution frequently. It was a prime basis for his candidacy in our relatively nascent movement. He helped the movement coalesce into a political force.
Ronald Reagan managed to unite the three main elements of the conservative movement - economic, social and national defense conservatives - into a governing force. He, of course, for years before his successful run for president, trumpeted the Constitution and our founding principles as the basis of limited government.
George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congresses of Tom DeLay and J. Dennis Hastert neglected the Constitution, and set back the conservative movement because many of its leaders had become uncritical, sycophantic appendages of the Republican Party. Arguably, America wouldn’t have elected President Obama and the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid Congress had Republicans been better constitutionalists, which means the party of limited government.
Americans are concluding more and more that many of the current problems we face are caused by unrestrained and corrupt government. It is becoming apparent to millions of voters the solution lies in electing officials who understand, respect and abide by the Constitution as much as we citizens are expected to follow the law.
When else have so many people talked and written about things such as enumerated powers, the 10th Amendment, the limited powers of the president, and so on? Sure, our leaders have consistently let us down, but why?
People have already come around - and many others are starting - to conclude that our policy problems are a direct result of elected officials, judges and government bureaucrats having exceeded and abused constitutional authority.
The anti-incumbent rage of the tea parties and grass-roots uprisings are being fueled by many things. Americans are opposing major legislative initiatives such as Obamacare, cap and trade, and card check not just as bad policy, but are also increasingly viewing such policy choices through the text of the Constitution.
Mr. Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, felt compelled to reject - at least in word, but perhaps not deed - the liberal doctrine of a living Constitution. It was said by pollster extraordinaire Kellyanne Conway that we are all constitutional originalists now. The text of the Constitution has significance we have not seen in decades.
Far too few politicians and even judges are restrained by adhering to our paramount law. The solution to political corruption and unprecedented federal debt, it is becoming clearer, is a restoration of a constitutional, republican form of government.
Republican leaders are approaching the 2010 and 2012 elections believing they can win by being slightly less abusive and contemptuous of the Constitution than the Obama-Pelosi Democrats.
As assuredly as it has lost their majorities in the past after short stints, however, the Republican Party cannot hold a majority until leaders step forward with a message of more long-term meaning for conservatives, independents and even many Democrats, who comprise more than three-fourths of the population.
Conservatives and independents don’t see the next leaders coming from the political establishment, which is to blame for straying too far from our founding principles. Americans face a future of debt as far as one can see, or even national bankruptcy.
That dire scenario is where Obama-Pelosi Democrats are taking us. Mr. Obama has ignited interest in limited, constitutional government by showing how government runs in its absence. It’s too bad the current Republican leadership is unequipped to turn that into a principled, long-term restoration of limited government.
Thanks to new, alternative and social media, we now know the dinosaur media are diabolically part of the problem. The dinosaur media and the political establishment continue to spurn the grass roots’ interest in constitutionally limited government as mere anger, racism or anti-intellectualism, thereby attacking the principles, motives and intelligence of those and only those who know their true motives as good and noble.
There are those who depict constitutionalists as a fringe element, such as ridiculing tea-party participants as “tea baggers” (the political establishment apparently finds the freedom of assembly unbecoming).
In anticipation of the battle over limited, constitutional government, the left has already developed another pejorative term, “Tenthers.” If the 10th Amendment is actually mocked, what is the fate of the other nine Amendments in the Bill of Rights? Expect the political establishment to side with leftists here, too.
The presidential candidate in 2012 who best articulates the positive message of a Reagan, with its emphasis on how and why the Constitution limits federal powers, will distance himself or herself from the pack.
People, however, aren’t looking merely for Reagan “me-too” leaders. Reagan spoke of our founding principles. New leaders must speak of the Constitution, not just Reagan, as their point of reference. Carbon copies have far less resolution and definition than the original.
Political movements are not static. They coalesce and even recoalesce. Right now, a powerful movement of this constitutional moment is coalescing. Any candidate not appealing to the heightened sense and awareness Americans now have about limited government by thinking, speaking and acting consistent with the Constitution is missing the tide.
Richard A. Viguerie pioneered the use of direct mail in politics and has been called “one of the creators of the modern conservative movement” by The Nation magazine.