Tea Party Nation Prez Wants to 'Rewrite' Constitution; Thinks Allowing Only Landowners to Vote 'Makes Sense'
When Tea Partiers talk about the U.S. Constitution, it's usually with a sense of veneration for a document that's seen to be divinely inspired, written by a group of seemingly infallible Founding Fathers. That sense of Constitutional mysticism, however, may only -- for at least one Tea Party leader -- extend to the document when useful for accusing liberals of violating it.
Judson Phillips, president of Tea Party Nation, just loves the United States Constitution -- except the parts he'd like to rewrite. Like Article III, for example, which establishes an appointed federal judiciary as a check against the occasional tyranny of the mob, and allows justices and judges the independence that comes from not having to suck up to corporate interests for campaign contributions, which is exactly what they'd have to do if they were elected officials, as Phillips thinks they should be. Instead of having the president -- the elected representative of the people -- appoint the Supreme Court, he'd prefer to have the dollars of oil magnate David Koch do it.
That's what Phillips said, in not so many words, on his Nov. 16 Tea Party Nation podcast:
"Article III needs to be rewritten....When Article III of the Constitution was written, the judiciary was considered to be the weakest branch of the government. But in 1803, the Supreme Court gave itself the powers to declare laws unconstitutional, and as soon as they did that, they suddenly became the most powerful branch. And, unfortunately, they have lifetime tenure, and what we have to do -- at least, this is my opinion, people may disagree with me and I'll certainly entertain other opinions -- but what I think we have to do is to rewrite Article III to make judges subject to a popular vote. Let 'em have six-year terms, just like United States senators do, and that will run all the way down from the justices on the Supreme Court down to federal district judges in your local hometown."
Even his guest, North Carolina Freedom president David DeGerolamo, took pause at that suggestion. "But you're making the assumption that the people will vote based on the most qualified person," DeGerolamo replied.
"Actually, the assumption I'm making," said Phillips, "is that it will put the fear of God into the judges, and that the next time the ACLU wants to come along with some lunatic proposal to let prisoners out or prevent reasonable restrictions on child molesters or things like that, these judges will think long and hard about signing, or, uh, finding for the ACLU when they have to face the voters in a couple of years."
This led DeGerolamo to concede that while elections may not be the best way to select judges, "I don't see any other choice."
But the real problem Phillips had with the judiciary was not its rulings on prison overcrowding or the privacy of felons; it was a federal court's stay of Arizona's law, passed earlier this year, that would allow local law enforcement to stop anyone who "looked" like they might be in the country without documentation and demand to see their papers. That was the discussion that led to Phillips' comments on Article III.
Of course, you can't actually "rewrite" any article of the Constitution; through a deliberately cumbersome process, amendments can be added to the Constitution that may nullify provisions of an article, or to codify rights not expressed in an article.
While the U.S. Constitution, as originally written, left it to the states to determine who is allowed to vote, Phillips contends that the colonial tradition of allowing only landowners to vote may not have been such a bad thing. As reported by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind at their site, Tea Party Nationalism, Phillips offered this: