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Would today's tea party have opposed the US Constitution?

The states-rights, neo-secessionist, small-government ideologues who seem to have taken over the Republican Party might have a coherent political philosophy. But their views align less with the constitutional framers than with their opponents, the Antifederalists.

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One of the drums that the tea party beats again and again is that the Founders favored limited government because they thought the power of taxation was an essential tool of despotism. They argue that our current government, with its large and growing debt and with its tendency toward what some conservatives see as socialism, violates the small-government Constitution created by the Founders.

So concerned are the newly elected tea party members in Congress that they have threatened to bring the government to a standstill in the next couple of months by voting against a bill to raise the US debt ceiling, which caps the amount of money that the federal government is allowed to borrow.

With increasing frequency since budget deficits started soaring under George W. Bush, Congress has repeatedly raised the debt ceiling to avoid default and the temporary shut-down of the federal government, both of which threaten serious long-term economic consequences. But tea party proponents have argued that the debt must be contained as a first engagement in a longer battle to lower taxes, diminish federal expenditures, and return the federal government to the size and purpose intended by the Founders.

Tea partiers are today's Antifederalists


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