This Wednesday, I will be giving a talk at NYU Law School on the Tea Party Movement and Popular Constitutionalism. The talk will be at 11 AM in Vanderbilt Hall, Room 202. NYU Professor Roderick Hills will comment on my presentation, and there will also be questions from the audience until around 12:30 or so.
I previously wrote about the Tea Party as a popular constitutionalist movement in this article. In my talk, I will explain why the Tea Party qualifies a popular constitutionalist movement despite the fact that that concept has previously been used mostly to describe movements on the political left and assess its main strengths and weaknesses. Like previous popular constitutionalist movements, the Tea Party has not avoided such problems as the impact of widespread political ignorance.
I will also suggest why its impact is likely to be a net positive on balance – including from the standpoint of the mostly left of center advocates of popular constitutionalism, a point I first developed in the article linked above. Given that it was inevitable that the combination of Obama’s policies and a deep recession would produce a right-wing populist reaction, it is far better that it has produced a movement primarily focused on limiting federal power and spending than one focused on racial resentment or xenophobia, as was often the case in previous American history and in many European countries today. In addition, the movement’s emphasis on limiting federal power could potentially increase democratic accountability in government – a central objective of many advocates of popular constitutionalism.
UPDATE: In this 2010 post, I discussed claims that the Tea Party’s real agenda is racism.