Viewpoint: Tea party doesn’t understand US Constitution adequately

Recently, while chatting with an old friend and enjoying a cream cheese bagel at a student-filled, bustling Panera Bread, school, sports and other noteworthy events of the sort worked their way into our conversation. This normally happens with college students trying to impress the other about what they’ve learned or read in their spare time.

Somewhere in between Lance Armstrong and predictions for President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the discussion geared toward one of my favorite subjects: economics.

As I walked out of the café trying to dismiss the statements my friend made about Obama and his “band of liberals” (in which category I’m sure I had been placed), I concluded he had joined the “dark side”: the tea party, a group who often seems to confuse pre-Constitution sentiments with the Founding Fathers’ actual intent when creating the Constitution.

Furthermore, the tea party has created an entire faction of ill-educated conservatives who have taken the founders’ intent entirely out of context, which has historically been a key component in interpreting the Constitution.

Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel to the Constitutional Accountability Center, said a number of tea party leaders, from Herman Cain to John Boehner, have quoted pre-Constitution documents such as the Declaration of Independence while referencing the Constitution, giving many followers the false sense that the Founding Fathers and the Constitution are against a strong national government.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry went so far as to call Ben Bernanke’s actions at the federal reserve “near treasonous,” all while states were busy filing suits against the federal government for Congress’ passage of universal healthcare, which was for the most part, ruled constitutional and supported by Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative.

The grim reality is that we had a document similar to the one many tea party members insist that the Constitution is. The Articles of Confederation were articles that were intended to establish a “firm league of friendship” among the states that were members of the union at the time.

Events in the early years of the nation exposed the fact that the nation needed more than a league of friendship if it was to continue to exist. It needed a stronger central government.

These ideas are expressed not only all throughout the Constitution, but in the Federalist Papers, which help to shed light on the founders’ intent for the Constitution.

As one’s undergraduate years are undoubtedly a few of the most important years in students’ lives, it is essential they do not allow themselves to be misled by the common rhetoric of leaders who may have hidden agendas.

After all, a “band of miseducated conservatives” might be just as bad as one composed of liberals.

Reubin Turner is an Edmond, Okla. junior and an economics major. Reubin is the co-editor of Focus magazine, a sister publication of the Baylor Lariat.