Supreme Matters: Tea Parties and the Activism of Restraint

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Felix Frankfurter, Harvard Law School Pages: 5 (1425 words) Published: June 14, 2013

Ars Aequi september 2010



Supreme matterS: tea partieS and the activiSm of reStraint
Heather Kurzbauer*

According to recently released statistics, one-fifth of all US citizens are Tea Party Supporters: predominately white conservatives convinced of the ‘evils’ of the Obama administration.1 Taking their cue from the defining protest in American history, The Boston Tea Party of 1773 in which the slogan ‘no taxation without representation’ inspired the colonists to revolt against the British, today’s tea party proponents apply their heady brew of T.E.A. (Taxed Enough Already) protests to focus on the White House’s penchant for social spending, the perils of government controlled health care, not to speak of the menace of immigration. No tea-drinking pussycats, the growing legions of these supporters call for immediate political action to overturn federal legislation including the 2009-2010 Health Care reform bill and the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. Tea parties have gathered enormous momentum since 2009 with millions of frenzied supporters expected at cross-country rallies this summer. ‘Our idea is essentially to act as ferocious as we are about our government being fiscally responsible as we will about our political process.’2

European intellectuals, who once dismissed Tea Party proponents as silly US right-wingers with a laughable programme, have subdued their criticism as they deal with the results of recent elections in the Netherlands and Belgium. Agendas that once lurked beneath a murky surface are now the talk of the town in Amsterdam and Brussels. Breaking news on the infamous Huffington Post includes a call for advice on the part of a European Labour politician just in case the Tea Party movement gains momentum with Europe’s disgruntled right-wingers.3 With the rise of the right in Europe and Tea Party challenges in the US, the choice for consistent and fair-minded Supreme Court justices has become even more imperative.

Recently, Tea Party supporters have turned their attention to the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court On May 10, 2010, President Obama’s announced Solicitor General Elena Kagan as his Supreme Court nominee to replace John Paul Stevens. Immediately the quest for ‘who is Ms. Kagan’ in terms of legal and political stance roared into top gear. Every phrase that the former Harvard Law School Dean had published, pronounced or whispered was analyzed by the punditocracy. Is she an activist or restrained interpreter is the burning question. Will Ms. Kagan embrace the activism of liberals whose ‘living’ Constitution leads to an open interpretation of the sacred document or will Ms. Kagan take a restrained, literal approach to Constitutional interpretation? The New York Times provided a blow-by-blow description of Ms. Kagan’s 1983 Oxford graduate thesis in which Ms. Kagan’s statement, ‘it is not necessarily wrong or invalid’ for a judge ‘to try to mold and steer the law’ to support socially valid ends put her directly in the judicial activist camp. Other interpretations of the same thesis in the traditionally conservative Wall Street Journal * Mr.drs. H. Kurzbauer teaches common law related subjects at the University of Amsterdam Law Faculty. Like many a Tea Party proponent, she has been known to carry a copy of the US Constitution in her purse. Any further resemblance to Tea Party supporters ends there. 1 CBS News Poll, April 14, 2010. 2 stories/0210/32607. html#ixzz0r0pEmyVO, quote given by Mark Skoda, National Tea Party Convention 2010 organizer (lastly viewed on July 21, 2010). 3 See The Huffington Post, June 16, 2010. Post by Raymond Johansen, Party Secretary of the Norwegian Labour Party.

Today’s tea party proponents apply their heady brew of T.E.A. (Taxed Enough Already) protests to focus on the White House’s penchant for social spending, the perils of government controlled health care, not to speak of...
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