Extreme constitutionalists

What is with the GOP Senate candidates this year? Do they not understand, or have they ever even read, the U.S. Constitution?

Most of them robotically follow the Tea Party playbook on messaging — using the same talking points across the country. You could be with Sharron Angle at a militia confab in northern Nevada or with Tom Tancredo at a mock-border rally in Colorado, and you’ll hear the same exact talking points spouted from their angry lips: “Take back the government,” “Reduce spending on programs for illegals,” “Abolish the Department of Education,” “Show me the birth certificate!” and my personal favorite, “Get back to the ideals of our Founding Fathers and protect the Constitution!”

Protect the Constitution — unless, of course, I can simply rewrite it to fit my personal extreme political beliefs.

Take Joe Miller in Alaska. He’s a strict constitutionalist except when it comes to free speech and freedom of the press. Last weekend, private guards hired by his campaign roughed up, detained and handcuffed (HANDCUFFFED!) a journalist from a respected Alaska online newspaper. Constitutional Ignorance: 1, Strict Constitutionalism: 0.

In a double-dip of hypocrisy, in also throwing overboard the whole Republican-Personal Responsibility mantra, Miller blamed everyone from the school district to the reporter for the obvious violation of civil rights instead of taking responsibility and apologizing. As more photos and video of the incident are released, it becomes more and more clear that Miller’s guards overstepped their authority. (By the way, anyone else notice the weird coincidence that Miller and all four of the guards were wearing the exact same outfit — black suit, white shirt, red tie?)

Now back to Tea Party constitutional experts. Take Delaware. Word is the most interesting Senate candidate in the country, former Wiccan and current Tea Party constitutional scholar Christine O’Donnell, now questions whether the U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state, and seems oblivious to the meaning or the existence of the First Amendment. Before an audience of students and scholars at Widener University law school, she asked: “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” (Associated Press, 10.19.2010). Constitutional Ignorance: 2, Strict Constitutionalism: 0.

Another noted Tea Party constitutional expert, Sarah Palin (#qwitterer), says America is “too chicken” to come out and support Tea Party candidates whom she describes as “strict constitutionalists.” She’s out there pounding away, even though many of the candidates she supports refuse to appear with her. Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California, Rick Perry in Texas, Angle in Nevada and even Miller in Alaska have refused to campaign with her.

Sarah the #Qwitterer might be right, but not for the reasons she thinks. We should be afraid, not of supporting extreme candidates like Miller and O’Donnell and Angle, but of what will happen to the Constitution if these folks are given the opportunity to “fix it.”

Follow David: @bluelinedd