Tea Party evangelists claim the Constitution as their sacred text. Why that’s wrong.
Since winning the Republican senate primary in Delaware last month, Christine O’Donnell has not had trouble getting noticed. When the Tea Party icon admitted to “dabbl[ing] into witchcraft” as a youngster, the press went wild. When she revealed that she was “not a witch” after all, the response was rabid. O’Donnell has fudged her academic credentials, defaulted on her mortgage, sued a former employer, and campaigned against masturbation, and her efforts have been rewarded with round-the-clock coverage. Yet few observers seem to have given her views on the United States Constitution the same level of consideration. Which is too bad, because O’Donnell’s Tea Party take on our founding text is as unusual as her stance on autoeroticism. Except that it could actually have consequences.
Last month, the candidate spoke to 2,000 right-wing activists at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. She wore a black suit and pearls, and swept on stage to the sound of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Most of the speech was unremarkable: a laundry list of conservative platitudes. But near the end she veered into stranger—and more revealing—territory. O’Donnell once told voters that her “No. 1” qualification for the Senate is an eight-day course she took at a conservative think tank in 2002. Now she was revisiting its subject: the Constitution.
The Founders’ masterpiece, O’Donnell said, isn’t just a legal document; it’s a “covenant” based on “divine principles.” For decades, she continued, the agents of “anti-Americanism” who dominate “the D.C. cocktail crowd” have disrespected the hallowed document. But now, finally, in the “darker days” of the Obama administration, “the Constitution is making a comeback.” Like the “chosen people of Israel,” who “cycle[d] through periods of blessing and suffering,” the Tea Party has rediscovered America’s version of “the Hebrew Scriptures” and led the country into “a season of constitutional repentance.” Going forward, O’Donnell declared, Republicans must champion the “American values” enshrined in our sacred text. “There are more of us than there are of them,” she concluded.