Ralph Benko

An old acquaintance of mine, a passionate progressive, gave away the game in a recent conversation when he said, contemptuously, “Your people (by which he meant the Tea Party) are idiots for fetishizing the Constitution.  Everybody knows that it’s just an artifact.”  A stunning proposition and stated with such refreshing candor. 

Does the Constitution still matter? Time Magazine asked that question in a recent cover story featuring a half-shredded copy of our national charter. 

Cat’s out of the bag?

The Time story had consequences. Will history record it as the provocation, the spark that lit a fuse, of a kind of new American revolution?  It moved Federalist Society founder/Bradley Foundation Genius Award winner, and former Congressman, David McIntosh into a primary election to unseat Republican Old Bull Dan Burton, in Indiana.

What matters is: why… and how?

Two races are going to matter in 2012.  One is, of course, the race for the presidency.  But the president only can navigate in the political space defined by Congress.  The other, and more important, race is the struggle for control of the national legislature.  Is it going to be politics as usual?   Or is it going to be an extension of the 2010 Tea Party Patriot-inflected populist struggle to constrain the powers of the ruling elite and re-assert the representative nature of government.

McIntosh, while an unflinching conservative, is featuring a populist, rather than conservative, theme:  “send me as your messenger to ‘take our message, our voices, the news, that the people are back in charge to every corridor and back room in Washington.’”  He seems to be challenging the incumbent not as bad but as a remnant, almost regal, of a past, now irrelevant, political epoch:  that of the Imperial Congress. That era’s over.

McIntosh features a neglected icon, the Oath of Office, in his stump speech.

When you sent me to Congress last time, I took a sacred oath under the Capital Dome and inside every courthouse in my District:

‘I, David McIntosh, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same….  So help me God.’

That oath to support and defend our great Constitution is the first and most important duty of our elected officials. Because it is the Constitution that guarantees our freedoms.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.