Donald Trump has been the Republican front-runner since August. He has maintained his lead despite blistering criticism from Democrats, fellow Republicans, and cable news pundits on a daily basis. One of the few famous individuals who has a firm grasp of Trump’s appeal is Rush Limbaugh. On Thursday he offered one of the clearest, most concise and plain-spoken explanations of the “Trump Coalition” to date.

Limbaugh said:

The Tea Party was not the result of some strategic plan launched by somebody out of nowhere. It was a spontaneous eruption of mostly people that had never been professionally, formally involved in politics before. It dates to the Obama stimulus deal in 2009 but really began to coalesce with Obamacare. Those two things sent the big message to the Tea Party people, what would become known as the Tea Party people. That is, there was no longer any concern for what this government was spending. There was no longer any concern for the danger that that was going to cause. …

The Tea Party had a lot of Democrats in it. The Tea Party had a lot of minorities. The Tea Party had a bunch of people from a cross section, a demographic cross section. But you don’t know that because you were told it was nothing but a malcontent conservatives and disaffected Republicans and what have you, because it was easier to criticize ’em that way.

There’s so many missed opportunities for the Republican Party here. It’s actually frightening to make a list of ’em all. The Republican Party could be owning the show. …

I know the Republican Party mocked the Tea Party. They worked with the Democrats and the media to smear them, just like is happening now with the Trump coalition. The key point here is who they are. As I have been trying to say, the majority of Trump’s support base are not Republican conservatives. There are a lot of them, but it’s not the majority.

I was at the original tea party rallies in Washington, D.C., and Rush is 100 percent correct. I worked at a conservative nonprofit organization and got to meet the waves of people who were entering the political realm for the first time. They seemed to innately know that America was at a dangerous crossroads.

The tea party had many people just like me — individuals whose conservatism is shaped by an understanding of free-market economics, documents like The Federalist Papers, and a fidelity to the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

However, the tea party also had plenty of people who have no time to be academics because they have two jobs to hold down, kids to get to soccer practice, and any number of other responsibilities. All they know is that powerful groups are trying to fundamentally transform America into something at odds with its founding.

Elitists in the nation’s capital scoffed at those they no-doubt viewed as “rabble.” I know because my job within Washington often brought me into contact with said elitists. One of my favorite stories involves getting into an argument with one well-connected Washington insider who said to me, “Do you know who I am?! I’m the maître d of the conservative movement!”

Ask yourself this question: How well has “the maître d of the conservative movement” and his friends done their job? I’d say, not too well.

The “Trump Coalition” is an odious group to Democrats and Republicans in Washington, which is ironic because they are responsible for its creation.

The “Trump Coalition” sees President Obama on the left saying things like the Islamic State group has nothing to do with Islam, and on the right they see Republican “leaders” who are really good at mumbling about the Constitution, but really bad at limiting the size of the federal government.

I wrote on Donald Trump in 2011 while people like “the maître d of the conservative movement” was heading panels at black tie events, which were little more than exercises in self-congratulation. It is now 2016, I left much of that world behind, and now sit with my popcorn as “the maître d” and his friends stew over the “Trump Coalition” they helped create.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

22 comments

  1. I think that Trump’s success among conservatives, despite all of the attacks on his conservatism or lack thereof, is due in large part to the realization that there are no such things as RINOs, only Republicans. For the longest time, people still wanted to believe that it was only a few dirty insiders standing in the way of the electorate and the accomplishment of the electorate’s desired goals and platforms. The last decade has shown that the rot is so thorough that, if anything, conservatives are the Republicans In Name Only.

    To a lot of people, Trump represents the last best hope of the electorate to bypass beltway insiders on the chance that maybe maybe maybe their voice will have been heard and they will begin to see some of the changes they want. It may be more parochial and smack of authoritarianism more than some conservatives and libertarian leaning folks are comfortable with, but I think the American electorate desperately wants a Dad to come in and say “Time to pick up your damn toys.”

    It is like that moment in every sitcom where the teen freaks out because his friends decided to throw a party at his or her house when the parents are out of town and things have gotten out of hand and the place is getting wrecked, then the dad comes home, yells, and throws all of the other kids out; the dad may ground the kid, but the mess gets cleaned up, the kid realizes things could’ve been worse and the dad actually saved him from the worst case scenario by coming home just in time, and once the lessons have been learned, things can start getting back to normal.

    1. The weird thing is, I do have sympathy for some of the spineless Republicans in Congress. America got itself addicted to an ever-expanding government, and now they’ve been tasked with ending the addiction. We have tens-of-millions of addicts who don’t want their drugs taken away.

      Say Democrats want to allot $5 billion more to [Department X] in 2017 than was budgeted for 2016. Republicans counter with spending $4 billion more on [Department X] than 2016. Democrats then cut campaign ads saying Republicans “cut” funding by said department by $1 billion dollars. And people believe it.

      The culture is so lost and confused that getting things back on track is a herculean task. People seem to put all their faith in one man every four years, when the problems are so deep and so complex that it will take an entire cultural shift before they are honestly addressed.

    2. Baseline budgeting is the goddamn devil.

      When I see Republicans play game with budgeting like that, I just say to myself, “Okay, this is why I’m moving off into the mountains and never coming down.”

  2. Frankly, I see Trump’s appeal being based largely on “He tells us what we want to hear” and then being absorbed into the cult of personality, where it’s suddenly okay to voice a previously rejected opinion so long as he’s the one voicing it. I agree that Trump’s coalition isn’t just self-identified conservatives, but as I poke around conservative hangouts online, that’s where I’ll be approaching the following rant from.

    I’ve been poking around Twitter feeds and seeing a lot of criticism towards Rush for how he handled Trump. Looks like a lot of it is because he’s soft-peddled Trump’s various attacks on Cruz, with “I’m sure he didn’t really mean it” talk. I can’t speak for that, as I stopped listening to Rush when he kept defending Trump simply for bashing the Establishment and treating every attack on him as the doings of the Establishment. The guy had gotten on his high horse so many times (like on Rubio for Gang of 8), but he looks the other way for all of Trump’s past liberal positions? Sorry, no sell. I try to give candidates the benefit of the doubt and a chance to explain a change in policy; Trump’s “I support those conservative positions now, so shut up” approach is not an explanation and wouldn’t have flied with Rush if another candidate did it. (I seem to recall a fair amount of Rush skepticism towards McCain’s sudden interest in securing the border during the 2008 primaries, though I admit, I might be misremembering this. ) ‘Course, Rush is hardly the only one to fall into this trap. Look at Palin. I don’t trash someone simply for supporting a candidate I don’t like, but you’ll excuse me if I roll my eyes at her claim that Trump will end crony capitalism on the same day that Trump went all in for ethanol. And I remember a lot of that “cuckservative/GOPe” crap popping up on various outlets. “You’re not a true conservative if you don’t agree with us… but you’re also not a true conservative if you point out our guy’s past positions, so shut up.” Look, I don’t begrudge someone who genuinely supports Trump, but I do begrudge people who lectured others about what the proper position is and then moved the goalposts the moment it suited them.

    Don’t get me wrong. I mock the Trump coalition. I’m a snarker; it’s what I do, but I don’t take it personally. But I truly despise the GOP Establishment (both for helping to enable this nonsense and for a host of other reasons). They beg for votes in 2010, 2012, and 2014, saying, “Vote for us, and we’ll stop Obama.” They win in 2010 and 2014, then they do jack and squat in regards to that (while throwing away possible victories and not holding Obama accountable for his abuses, probably because some clueless consultant who watches MSNBC keeps telling them the American people won’t like them opposing Obama policies). Remember when Boehner resigned and whined about “bewaring false prophets” (all while ignoring the big promises he made in 2010)? I get that the GOP Congress doesn’t have the numbers to override an Obama veto and needs the White House to affect true change, but the running strategy is awful and downright Sisyphean: “Vote for us next time so we can stop the policies we promised to stop last time.” Hey, I’m glad that Congress finally forced Obama to veto an Obamacare repeal and basically put the screws in ‘im for supporting unpopular policy, but it’s something that should’ve been done *a year ago* when they took over the Senate.

    You can see the games they’re playing right now, too. They publicly side against Cruz because they hate him; they also spend money on ads to knock Rubio and are apparently going to start on the others. There are two running theories from what I’ve seen. One, they’re trying to cozy up to Trump ’cause they think he’s gonna win and that they can work with him. (“Here’s the plan: let’s hope he eats us last and doesn’t work with all those Democrats he supported.”) Two, they want to take out all the non-Jeb candidates to set up a two man race, as if Jeb, the weenie with the second most unfavorable ratings, can beat anyone at this point. Jeb couldn’t win a race if he was the only one on the ballot. (I’ve also seen it suggested that the Establishment is playing reverse-psychology in the hopes that their support hurts Trump. ‘Course, no one I talked to took that theory seriously. Why should they? It’d be overly complicated and, let’s be honest, still too clever for them. But I guarantee, if a Cruz win in Iowa causes Trump’s polls to crash, the Establishment will claim this was their plan all along and take credit for “destroying Trump.”)

    And, if I may ask, can I reserve just a little bit of extra hate for Jeb here in this ever-growing rant? His entire candidacy has arguably enabled Trump with his “but it’s my turn dammit” antics and pettiness. That in itself I wouldn’t complain too much about, but the way Jeb’s been harassing Rubio is out of line. Candidates always smack each other around, but whereas Cruz/Trump, Cruz/Rubio, and Rubio/Christie are about trying to eliminate serious rivals, Jeb is just engaging in a petty vendetta against his former protégé because Rubio didn’t believe it was Jeb’s turn and ended up outpacing him. Rubio has been damaged (because of both the Jeb attacks and a host of other reasons), but he still has a better chance of winning than Jeb ever will. But Jeb just won’t man up and ride off into the sunset. Dubya is a guy you can criticize a lot for, but I still respected him; I have zero respect for Jeb. I do have a little sympathy for George P. Bush right now because when the dust settles, others in the party are going to want to punish someone for damaging Rubio’s chances, and they won’t be able to punish Jeb.

    Suffice to say, America deserves better than Obama, Hillary, Sanders, Congressional Democrats, and the GOP Establishment. Trump is not better and not just because of his liberal history. His policies are predicated on telling people what they want to hear and lacking proper details. (I am weary of any candidate who says, “I’ll tell you how I’ll implement my grands plans, but only after I’m elected.” I don’t like that crap with candidates I do support; why the hell would I like it otherwise?) And there’s also the simple fact that Trump regularly flips out on any criticism sent his way. Calling out a biased media shill is fine; insulting people who ask legitimate policy questions is not, as it points to massive thin-skin. (We’re seven years into one thin-skinned president; we don’t need another.) Cruz and Rubio aren’t perfect, but they’re better than that, which is why I’d support either of them. Whatever happens in 2016, though, I have the feeling the people will be paying for the leaders’ mistakes, which should make 2018 and 2020 even more chaotic.

    Phew, I think I got a little off track with that long but extremely cathartic rant (that last little bit of pessimism notwithstanding). Feel free to post a Marvel story sometime, Doug, so I can go back to my usual snarking.

    1. “I see Trump’s appeal being based largely on ‘He tells us what we want to hear’ and then being absorbed into the cult of personality, where it’s suddenly okay to voice a previously rejected opinion so long as he’s the one voicing it.”

      This is spot-on. His most ardent followers rival or surpass Obama’s in terms of their ability to ignore unpleasant truths. Even Hillary’s supporters cannot hide the look of disgust in their faces when one notes the “women’s champion” tried to destroy the lives of her husband’s accusers. You can see it in their eyes that deep down they know the truth.

      “I’ve been poking around Twitter feeds and seeing a lot of criticism towards Rush for how he handled Trump.”

      It bothered me the way he handled Trump since August. A lot. I lost a good deal of respect for him, and it pains me to say that. He played the “Ted Cruz” game where every time Trump went over the line he would just sort of shrug his shoulders and smile. I thought I heard that Limbaugh and Trump may golf together on occasion. I wouldn’t be surprised.

      “The guy had gotten on his high horse so many times (like on Rubio for Gang of 8), but he looks the other way for all of Trump’s past liberal positions? Sorry, no sell.”

      This one really irritated me, and not just the comments about Rubio. I am not a fan of Jeb Bush, but Jeb Bush never donated to Hillary Clinton. Trump did! And the only possible excuse is that, “Well, he’s a crony capitalist.” So Jeb Bush is the worst guy in the world, but Trump can donate to Clinton and be a crony capitalist and it’s no big deal. Say it ain’t so, Rush. Say it ain’t so…

      “Rubio has been damaged (because of both the Jeb attacks and a host of other reasons), but he still has a better chance of winning than Jeb ever will.”

      I have made no secret of my support for Rubio. I still firmly believe he is the only Republican who can win the general election. He’s smart, articulate, good-looking, bi-lingual, people genuinely like him, socially conservative but not Huckabee-weird in a way the media could use it against him, tough on defense, a free-market guy, and young.

      I honestly think he learned his lesson on immigration thing. I think he tried in good faith to work with the Democrats and they stabbed him in the back. And he’s paid for it ever since. Even at the time he was doing it he said he knew it was risky, which shows how much the issue means to him. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to hold the immigration issue against the guy whose parents immigrated from Communist Cuba. I’m just not.

      In full disclosure, my wife’s family got the heck out of Communist China (legally), so that’s another reason why I’m a bit prickly on the immigration issue.

      To me, the federal government created the immigration problem. For decades the feds winked at illegal immigrants with a “Come on in!” smile off to the side, and now suddenly it’s “amnesty” if you don’t think someone who raised a family here for 20 years should be booted back to Mexico. I’m not on board with that. That’s not right, and I don’t care if someone calls me a “fake” conservative.

    2. It amuses me, though, that a Trump supporter might call you or me or anyone else a fake conservative, while propping up not only a guy with Trump’s history but a guy who said the other day how you sometimes have to work with the very establishment that he had been railing against for months to get support.

      As for Rubio, I’m more in Cruz’s camp at the moment, but I like him. He’s very good in speeches, interviews, and debates with details and personable touches. I would very much prefer a primary of just Cruz and Rubio (and maybe Christie because he can hold his own in a debate). That would be very fun and informative… instead of the bloated clown show going on now.

    3. Did you hear Trump in Iowa saying he could stand in the middle of the street and just shoot someone and it wouldn’t alter his supporters’ opinion of him? Telling.

      Cruz makes sense to me. I can respect that. He’s conservative and the rest of his colleagues in the senate basically have zero love for him. Those are some legitimate “anti-establishment” credentials, even if I personally think it says something about a man if peers who are as conservative as he is don’t like him.

      Personally, I think he takes “calculating” to the next level. He isn’t corrupt like the Clintons, but he is just as ambitious. Everyone on stage obviously is über-ambitious, but with him I get this vibe that he craves that power in a weird way.

    4. 1) Yeah, I heard about the 5th Avenue shooting spree thing. I’m not sure which is weirder: that Trump said it or that his supporters were coming up with excuses for what he said. I kinda see what he was getting at (“my supporters are super devoted to me”), but it was such a bizarre analogy and a real slam on his own supporters (who have clearly not been fazed by that).

      2) As for Cruz, I can see the problems others have with him. That’s a guy that burn bridges while fighting for his positions. Admirable (well, at least if you support his positions, anyway), but obviously problematic when seeking the big job. I’ve seen others suggest this, and it’s true: Cruz is Trump-lite; he’s just been completely consistent about his political positions and capable of being coherent in a speech. I will say that watching some of his speeches and appearances, he comes across as more likable than I thought he’d be from reading quotes or transcripts, though no one can compare to Rubio in this regard.

      Personally, even though I back Cruz more right now, I can see Rubio getting the nomination. He’s certainly been pretty crafty, watching Cruz and Trump go at it while he picks up endorsements, rallies supporters, and talks policy. If the stories about his new momentum are true, he could place strongly next week and be in a position to challenge the front-runner (either Trump or Cruz depending on Iowa) in NH.

      “Everyone on stage obviously is über-ambitious, but with him I get this vibe that he craves that power in a weird way.”

      Did you see that video of 18-year-old Cruz joking about world domination? He really is ambitious! 😉

    5. “Did you see that video of 18-year-old Cruz joking about world domination? He really is ambitious!”

      I was hoping you saw that! Haha! The timing of that video to make the rounds today was amazing. I’m telling you, he was joking in that video…but he really wasn’t.

  3. I would’ve been a fan of Cruz in the past, but I’m a Trump supporter. Here’s the Trump thing in a nutshell.

    There’s one issue that’s currently more important for this country’s future than all the others put together: immigration. You can’t have a universal democracy with birthright citizenship if you’re going to have open borders. If you’re going to let every citizen vote, and let practically anyone (or at least anyone’s kids) be a citizen, then you have to control who can be here.

    Different kinds of people vote differently, and you’re not going to change that. Asians, Middle Easterners, Hispanics/South Americans, and black people will all vote Democrat in varying high percentages, and there’s nothing you can do about that (unless you import small numbers, assimilate them thoroughly, and wait 3-4 generations, which isn’t going to happen).

    To make a very rough sketch of voting patterns of groups: There’s a reason South America is run by dictatorships and socialism — that’s what South Americans want. If you give them the vote, they’ll vote for socialism every time. American blacks are largely tribalistic, and will vote for whoever promises the most stuff for black people. Asians are generally characterized by family selfishness and will vote for whoever will give their family something. The only people who will ever vote for a right-wing agenda in large (i.e. >50%) numbers are those of European descent, or those who are so assimilated that they may as well be (a process we’re actively discouraging by allowing far too much immigration).

    Immigration is bringing in >90% people who belong to groups who vote heavily Democrat. Experience tells us that these patterns remain for many generations, usually indefinitely. Thus, sooner or later, immigration will mean that there won’t be enough people who will even consider a Republican candidate for a Republican candidate to ever win again. The whole country will eventually end up in the situation that California is currently in — there are a lot of conservative people, but they never, ever win an election, because there’s a solid enough base of left-wingers that their wishes are irrelevant. At that point, there’s no hope left except total collapse, because no sane policy can ever be enacted.

    Starting from this point, if you’re a right-wing person, you know what a Republican, even a “conservative” Republican, will do. He’ll talk a great game (to the base, making sure not to say so to the whole country too loudly) about a wall, about closing the borders, about restricting immigration, etc. Then, if elected, he’ll do nothing. If anything, he’ll toss around the idea of amnesty. If you’re lucky, he won’t support amnesty when it’s proposed. The Republican (and conservative) strategy for my entire lifetime has been “lose with dignity.” We never, ever win a significant battle. We get excited when, occasionally, we don’t lose something, but generally the Republican party is just a speed bump for the liberals, and after about 20 years they’ll adopt a given liberal policy as their own. (I suspect the 2016 candidate will be the last Republican candidate ever to openly be against gay marriage, for example. Soon support for gay marriage will be de rigeur for Republican candidates just like you can’t meaningfully be against feminism now. Pretty soon repealing Obamacare will be as unthinkable as eliminating welfare.) GWB, as much as I liked him, enacted far more liberal than conservative policies — and the liberal policies will stick, whereas things like the tax cuts are already gone. As far as his impact on the country, he may as well have been a centrist Democrat.

    This happens on the immigration issue specifically, it seems, due to a split between the desires of the base and the desires of the donors to the Republican party. I didn’t previously believe that Republican candidates did the will of the donors without worrying about the voter base, but the immigration issue has made it pretty clear that the Republican establishment hates Cruz and especially Trump, and is full of open borders fanatics (including, unfortunately, Paul Ryan, who I otherwise like) despite the base wanting the borders closed. And, if you look at the track record, well, it speaks for itself, doesn’t it? The problem is that if you defy the donors (who love open borders due to cheap labor benefiting their businesses), you lose their money and support, and that hurts your ability to campaign. If you screw the voter base, well, what are they going to do? Vote for the Democrat?

    Enter Trump. Trump doesn’t need the establishment (who are open borders enthusiasts, probably to make the donors happy) and he doesn’t need the donors’ money. Thus, when he says he’ll take action on the immigration issue, he may actually do it. It comes down to this: Trump may build the wall, he may end birthright citizenship, he may restrict legal immigration, and he may take meaningful action to deport illegals. Any of these would be the greatest conservative achievement in my lifetime. He’s already done more to advance these causes than any candidate I’ve ever seen. No one else will give more than a token effort to any of these. We know the establishment candidates (and probably Cruz due to his still needing donor money) won’t do what we want on the most important issue. We don’t know that Trump won’t. That’s the best deal we’ve been offered in a long time.

    If we don’t take action on immigration, the Republican party will either no longer exist or become what may as well be the center-left party within our lifetimes. There will no longer be any chance of any meaningful conservative reform until a serious collapse happens. Trump is, in a lot of ways, our last chance to avoid inevitable collapse. Compared to that, none of the other issues matter.

    1. “Trump may build the wall.”

      How? The House of Representatives has the power of the purse. If he is elected, then he needs to work with Congress.

      “He may end birthright citizenship.”

      How? Again, this is not power he would have as commander in chief. He would need the help of a lot of congressmen.

      “He may restrict legal immigration…”

      Unless he becomes a dictator, he does not have the power to override existing legislation.

      “He may take meaningful action to deport illegals.”

      This he can do. If we simply enforced existing laws on immigration, it would solve 90 percent of the problem.

      I’m not sure why Trump, who has held every position under the sun, would suddenly keep his word on immigration if elected president. My guess is that the author of “The Art of the Deal” would make many deals that you do not like, and then when you complained he would call you stupid for not recognizing how awesome his deal was for America.

      The only way Trump could deliver on half of his promises would be if he became the “Republican Obama” and just ran roughshod over the Constitution. If that’s where we are as a nation, then we might as well go crawling back to England and say they were right all along.

    2. Well, first, I mean that he could spearhead these ideas and stand behind them, and put competent people on them. That’s more than any other Republican I’ve ever seen has ever done. But certainly he can go farther.

      It’s pretty well established at this point that presidents can do all sorts of extra-Constitutional things. The current president committed acts of war against a sovereign nation without authorization from Congress, for example, something explicitly forbidden by the Constitution itself, and faced nothing harsher than minor grumbling for it. Trump would be an ostensible Republican, so of course the media would scream bloody murder, but he’s already shown that that tactic is less effective against someone who doesn’t back down immediately.

      Building a wall is a far smaller project than starting a war. I think it can probably be done without Congress’s approval. Birthright citizenship is in a legal gray area as I understand it; there may be space there to make changes, though I wouldn’t know the exact means. Restricting legal immigration could be done by reorganizing the priorities of various departments which would be under his purview, similar to deportations. Maybe he couldn’t institute a ban on X group, but he could greatly increase background check intensity such that a much smaller number of people could be vetted per year, or something like that. It would still be much more legitimate than Obama’s de facto amnesty.

      I think the cat’s out of the bag about a “Republican Obama.” Disregarding the Constitution is like using mustard gas; we can’t afford to say it’s beneath us to retaliate in kind. I used to think that way, but it’s been pointed out to me that if we refuse to use the enemy’s methods just because we’d rather they not be used, then we’ll consistently lose, as in fact we have been for as long as I’ve been alive. If we have to use distasteful means which the enemy has already been using to defeat them, so be it. It wasn’t our idea, and if they lay down those weapons then we should, too, but not before.

      As far as Trump’s likely behavior, sure, he would probably be unsatisfactory in many ways. I don’t even think it’s greater than 75% that he would make an attempt to follow through on the immigration policies he’s advocated. But there has never been a presidential candidate in my lifetime who actually had the guts to say the things Trump’s been saying, i.e. sane things, about immigration. And we already know that none of the others will do anything about it, we have enough knives sticking out of our backs to know that for sure.

    3. Disregarding the Constitution is like using mustard gas; we can’t afford to say it’s beneath us to retaliate in kind.

      That says it all right there. Once you admit that shredding the Constitution to achieve political ends is merely “equal retaliation,” then the debate is over. I will kindly bow out and simply ask others imagine such a precedent being set and then fast-forward 100 years into the future.

  4. Not really a Tea Party fan. I find their refusal to compromise on any issue unhelpful, and I’ve never been really sure of the whole “original Constitution” thing. The world’s a vastly different place than it was in the 1700s and we’re needing to deal with stuff that no one could’ve imagined back then. Besides, the “elastic clause,” and all the stuff used for making amendments was there from the beginning; so, the original intent of the Constitution was that it would be a living document and be amended over time. (Granted, the Constitution shouldn’t change into something completely different, but there seems to be little agreement where that line should be drawn, and less interest in discussing it.)

    Of course, politically I’m a moderate and strongly question both right and left extremes, since it seems to me that both sides are more interested in “winning” and implementing their ideas, rather then collaborating to try and make the best possible decisions, even if the best answer come from the opposite side. So, I’m hardly the best person to ask for support on the movement. Still, it’s interesting to hear about the Tea Party’s origins from the perspective of those who have close alignment with it or were involved when it was forming.

    Not really a Donald Trump fan, either. I don’t appreciate his public persona, and I don’t think his resume shows any qualifications for the presidency. I actually don’t really like any of the candidates and am trying to figure out which one(s”) is dislike the least.

    1. “Besides, the ‘elastic clause,’ and all the stuff used for making amendments was there from the beginning; so, the original intent of the Constitution was that it would be a living document and be amended over time.”

      When we’re talking about the Constitution, it is best we be precise. “Elastic clause” is misleading, as Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is specifically referring to those powers enumerated to the federal government.

      It reads: “Congress shall have Power To … make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

      It really is not good enough to use vague terms like “stuff” that is different now than it was in the 1700’s. Show me a specific example where “stuff” from today requires us to view the Constitution as a “living” document.

      Here’s one for you: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      Whether it’s 1788 or 2016, that is cut-and-dry. But I suppose if I saw it as a “living” document I could say, “Well, we need religion more than ever! So therefore, the living constitution really means that it’s totally cool to dibble-dabble in religion because we’re living in a godless America in decline. ‘Dibble-dabbling’ is not the same as ‘establishing.’ No. Seriously, guys. Trust me.”

      Do you see how dangerous it is to say that the words mean whatever it is we want them to mean? If that is the case, then why even have a constitution in the first place?

      As you said, there is an amendment process. If the world is so radically different now than it was in 1788, then follow the established steps for amending the Constitution.

    2. Let me preface this by saying I’m a layperson when it comes to legal stuff, so if I’m incorrect on the mechanics, I apologize.

      “It really is not good enough to use vague terms like ‘stuff’ that is different now than it was in the 1700’s. Show me a specific example where “stuff” from today requires us to view the Constitution as a “living” document.”

      I’ve always assumed that the Internet is an example. It’d changed the way we communicate, affected how we think and use copyrights, and is something that has no analog in the 18th century, so how could a legal framework be made to address all the issues that something like that brings up?

      However, I wasn’t saying that we should be changing the Constitution on a regular basis because we can, or that even all changes to our laws/legal system/whatever need Constitutional amendments. I was only advocating that the Constitution was designed to be amended when needed (emphasis on the “when needed” part) and that that’s not a bad thing in and of itself (the potential for problems is if its misused).
      (By the way, good job actually citing the original text. I was trying to work off memory what what I knew.)

      “Here’s one for you: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

      “Whether it’s 1788 or 2016, that is cut-and-dry. But I suppose if I saw it as a “living” document I could say, ‘Well, we need religion more than ever!'”

      Well, I guess, but if its “cut-and-dry,” then there’s no need for to make an amendment in the first place. Why change it? I’d only advocate for amendment if it can be proven that there’s a need that the current setup isn’t covering or is inadequate for. And judging when the time for that is is the tricky part that I’m afraid no one person has the single answer to, even among those trying to do the best job.

      “As you said, there is an amendment process. If the world is so radically different now than it was in 1788, then follow the established steps for amending the Constitution.”

      I agree absolutely. It’s very difficult to made amendments, and that’s the way it should be. It shouldn’t be done lightly or easily, but it has its place.

      As I said in my previous comment: “Granted, the Constitution shouldn’t change into something completely different…” Agreeing how to go about making amendments (or any new legal stuff, for that matter) is never going have total consensus, since people have different opinions on what the best thing is to do. The best we the private citizens can do is vote for people who we think are in the right, and pray that those in power are wise enough to know when changes are needed and when to let well alone.

    3. Let me preface this by saying I’m a layperson when it comes to legal stuff, so if I’m incorrect on the mechanics, I apologize.

      No need to apologize. I’m not a lawyer, either. 🙂 But that’s the great thing about the Constitution — you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it or the limits it places on the federal government. That’s why a lot of politicians actually hate the document.

      I’ll address your points one-by-one.

      1. The Internet: Again, here is what the Constitution actually says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

      The internet is just a different platform for delivering speech and does nothing to change the content. Whether I am talking to you in person, handing you a pamphlet, expressing myself on the radio, or using this blog…the First Amendment still applies. The government cannot shut down WordPress or my blog because it doesn’t like what I am saying. Also, enforcing copyright laws has nothing to do with abridging freedom of speech. The ability to enforce copyright laws in a digital age is a different issue than the government saying, “This douglasernstblog guy is a thorn in our side. Find a way to shut him down.”

      2. Amending the Constitution: Your follow up response indicates I made my point about the “living constitution” being the escape hatch for people who want to amend the Constitution, but know their efforts would fail.

      It’s much easier for lawyers to pick apart the meaning of “prohibiting” than it is to amend the Constitution. Remember Bill Clinton’s, “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” statement? That’s what politicians with legal backgrounds try to do to the Constitution when it stands in the way of their master plans.

      Do a little experiment over the course of the next ten years: Every time you hear someone talk about the living constitution, find out what the practical effect of believing their “new interpretation” on [Issue X] would be. I would be willing to bet that 10 out of 10 times the “new interpretation” would give the federal government more power over your daily life.

  5. It’s sounds to me like you’re taking it on as a general rule of thumb that changes rarely lead to anything good, where I’d be one to say: “They want to change something? Let’s talk about it first and determine if it’s a good idea or not before saying yes or no.” The two viewpoints balance each other out, so I’d say that we need both positions among voters and civil servants.

    “Your follow up response indicates I made my point about the ‘living constitution’ being the escape hatch for people who want to amend the Constitution, but know their efforts would fail.”

    Living document or not, any amendments have to go through the same ratification process, regardless of the reasoning behind the idea in the first place. So, how is it an escape hatch?

    I’d also point out that the Constitution, in addition to defining the limits of the Federal gov.’s power, also outlines the gov. structure, so not everything in it is tied into citizen’s rights. Also, if I recall my history correctly, the Bill of Rights were the first amendments to the Constitution, made with the express purpose of further defining the rights of the people, not for mutating the US into something different.

    For that matter, many of the others didn’t have a negative effect and even were changes for the better. Amendment 12 covered the mechanics of the election process and 20 and 25 refined the details of the president and vice-president’s terms and emergency succession, 15 and 19 ensured that everyone had the right to vote.

    So, not all changes were about affecting day-to-day life. Besides, logically, just because some people would misuse the amending process, doesn’t mean that all of them will. On the same note, just because many proposed amendments are bad ideas doesn’t mean that some of them would be useful or beneficial.

    “Every time you hear someone talk about the living constitution, find out what the practical effect of believing their “new interpretation” on [Issue X] would be.”

    I’ll try to keep that in mind. Even if you can’t influence the decision, thinking critically about what’s going in in legislation is a good idea.

    For what it’s worth, even if I don’t entirely agree with you, I think I at least have a better understanding of your position.

    1. “Living document or not, any amendments have to go through the same ratification process, regardless of the reasoning behind the idea in the first place. So, how is it an escape hatch?”

      You’re missing the point, my friend. 🙂 The whole point of calling it a “living constitution” is because they don’t go through the amendment process. That’s why the government uses the commerce clause as an excuse to control…basically everything. That’s how you get judges who say, “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life an substance.”

      Seriously. Think about that. What heck heck is is a “penumbra … formed by emanations”? They are literally inventing “rights” out of thin air to get what they want. That is a recipe for tyranny.

      I have zero problem amending the Constitution. That is the correct way to bring about change. I have a huge problem with any argument that takes seriously “penumbras … formed by emanations.”

    2. “The whole point of calling it a “living constitution” is because they don’t go through the amendment process.”

      I guess that the people you’re talking about have a different idea of “living document” then I was thinking of. I was equating the term with the idea of amendments in general (and assuming that the process used was the current one with all the checks and balances). No wonder I was having trouble following what you were saying; we were applying different definitions to the same phrase.

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