Sometimes people lash out at us Tenthers because they’re scared.  They have some preconceived notion of the kinds of things we support, or oppose.  Others are just ignorant.  They feel that devolving power outside of DC means that the things they love cannot be done.  It’s the feds or bust!  That’s their view.  And still others who attack people as being Tenthers do so because they’re just good old-fashioned hypocrites.  They hate Constitutional limits sometimes and gladly praise them at other times.

In all these cases, people are using the word “Tenther” as a slur, of sorts.  If that’s the case, I say bring on the attacks!

But, I digress.


The most prominent example of someone who’s scared is Rachel Maddow.  Ok, well…she’s probably not frightened herself and is likely just a fear monger, but her M.O. is to play off the fear of others who are.  In this case, people like Rachel like to conflate support for limiting federal power with racism, support of slavery, and other nefarious causes.

America has a horrible history with hatred based on race.  From the slaughter of countless indigenous Indians, to slavery, discrimination against Irish, Jews and others – this country has not been a shining example of love, peace and freedom over the years.  And add to that the fact that some prominent people in favor of racial segregation in the mid-20th century used the Tenther tool of Nullification to back up their views – and you’ve got a recipe for some legitimate fear.

I won’t get into all the little details right here.  But, to be clear, American Indians weren’t killed in large numbers due to federalism.  Nullification wasn’t used by people to defend slavery.  It was used by abolitionists.  And those who advocated for these principles to defend the morally reprehensible practice of segregation were not only an anomaly, they were just plain wrong.


Then we have the ignorant types who think that being a Tenther is bad because it would eliminate some favorite program of theirs.  There’s certainly some fear at play in this group as well, but I think it’s primarily because they’re simply misinformed.

Most of the times, these folks will cite a list of programs that would be ended under our so-called “radical” view of the 10th Amendment.  They then end it there as if the only way to run virtually any program that helps people is through the good graces of the politicians in Washington DC.

Never will you hear them saying things like, “These Tenthers want to eliminate social security.  While I think it’s better to have this done by the Federal government, those who are in favor of this as a government program shouldn’t worry as much as some tell you to – because under the Tenther view, such programs could be carried out by the states.”

No, they never say that.  They also never seem to even think that the market could do a better job than the government at whatever program they’re worried about losing, but, that’s a different conversation altogether.

Either way, they’re either blind or ignorant to the fact that someone or something else could possibly do what they want done.


Finally, we have the fakes.  These are the people that rail on Tenthers as evil, or scary, or dangerous to the status quo on the one hand, but use the same talking points on the other.

Nan Aron is one of these.  She’s the founder and president of Alliance for Justice, “a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society.”

In general, these are not bad goals at all (depending on how they’re accomplished, of course!)

But in the Huffington Post yesterday, Aron wrote an alarmist piece about Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito talking, tongue-in-cheek, about the 10th Amendment.  Here’s what Alito had to say in a recent speech:

“It is hard not to notice that Congress’ powers are limited.  And you will see there is an amendment that comes right after the First Amendment, and there’s another that comes after the Ninth Amendment. Those are just a couple of examples.”

Not a thumping level of support for the 10th, but at least the guy acknowledged it.  But this one line set Aron on fire.  Her article seems to be intended to serve as a warning to people that Alito is a) a Tenther and b) this is something every good person should fear.

The idea that Alito is a strict constitutionalist Tenther is so laughable I won’t address it beyond this: Sam sounds like a Tenther when his political opponents are in power, but like the national Republican party, he rarely holds to that rhetoric when decision-time comes.

On point B, Aron fits into the first two categories.  She not only sounds frightened, but also comes across as ignorant to the fact that maybe the federal government isn’t the best organization to do the things she cherishes so deeply.  Here’s an excerpt:

The Tenthers rely on a pinched and largely discredited interpretation of the Tenth Amendment, which would have the effect of rendering invalid almost all of the social, economic, and civil rights progress of the past century. If they had their way, the federal government would be severely weakened and programs like Social Security, Medicare, worker health and safety regulations, environmental controls, and much more would be gone.

Of course, she added a little fear mongering to the mix too, with this:

For those of us who cherish the rights and progress won with so much effort from the New Deal to today, that quote from Alito’s speech isn’t just a throw-away line for the edification of a sympathetic crowd — it’s a threat.  

The real kicker in Nan’s article was her attack on Alito for even talking about Federalism. First, here’s what he said:

“The arguments [by Obama’s solicitors general] begin to suggest a vision of society in which the federal government towers over people, and federalism offers no refuge. Government follows every move, and takes away control of religious institutions. This is not America, or the society our Constitution contemplates.”

And Aron’s response:

This kind of fevered language is often heard on Fox News, right-wing radio, or from the mouths of Tea Party candidates. But this is a justice of the Supreme Court laying out an agenda that is indistinguishable from that expressed by the growing Tenther movement.

These are all very interesting viewpoints from a lady who runs an organization that made very similar statements to Alito’s when Bush was in office.  They produced a fantastic video a few years ago titled “The Government Makes Mistakes.”  My favorite line was this: “If the government were never wrong, we wouldn’t need rights.”

Obviously then, Aron has some healthy distrust of government power – and wants that power limited.  So do I.

But here’s the kicker.  She wasn’t just doing this kind of thing when Bush was in power.  Today, a featured campaign on her website is opposition to HR5, the Republican-backed tort reform bill. This is something that a good Tenther would certainly oppose as well.  Here’s the statement from Aron’s organization:

[HR5] raises serious federalism concerns. In our legal system, states have historically been allowed to craft laws allowing injured victims to seek compensation in court.  This legislation upends that federal/state balance by explicitly preempting state tort law, denying states the freedom to create their own approach to malpractice and to decide what’s in the best interests of the people living in their state.

That’s a pretty solid viewpoint on HR5.  We’ve run similar analysis here as well. It sounds to me like Nan Aron is in serious danger of becoming a Tenther herself.  Actually, I think she’s already there when it’s to oppose programs that don’t fit in her political worldview.  But she, like many others on both sides of the aisle get cloudy in the head when it’s their guy doing wrong.

The sad state of affairs in this country is that no one really cares about the 10th amendment – or the Constitution as a whole.  Well, except when it furthers their own political agenda.

Then again, there’s some of us out here who have the Constitution itself as a political agenda.  With your help, our numbers will continue to grow, and the Nan Aron’s on the left and the right will be rendered irrelevant.

Michael Boldin

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