The US constitution has its quirks but it is crystal clear on one issue: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," begins the first amendment, adopted in 1791. But more than 200 years later, its meaning appears to be lost on Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party favourite running for a US Senate seat.At a debate today for the Delaware Senate seat once occupied by Vice President Joe Biden, O'Donnell appeared to be nonplussed by the wording of the first amendment, repeatedly returning to the subject and sounding incredulous after her Democratic opponent Chris Coons attempted to explain it to her.From the Guardian. Rather strange. It gets better, though, because the teabaggers, for the most part, subscribe to a school of constitutional thought known as originalism, the idea that when interpreting the Constitution, every effort should be made to see what the Founding Fathers intended when they wrote it. Well, in this case we have some good evidence for the intention:
When Coons told her the text of the constitution prohibited government from establishing any religion, O'Donnell replied in apparent bewilderment: "You're telling me that's in the first amendment?"
Not only is the first amendment perhaps the most famous part of the constitution but the "establishment clause", as it is known, is the subject of legal precedent stretching back into the 19th century. No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson, one of the constitution's authors, declared the clause's aim to build "a wall of separation between church and state".My emphasis. Things are going to get rather interesting for some of these people when they find themselves actually getting elected (and I suspect far to many of them will for my liking). Gwynne Dyer thinks, though, that this might not be the disaster that some fear:
From the Georgia Straight. Essentially, Dyer thinks that the teabaggers will show their true colours, yet be unable to actually accomplish anything:
If all of the retired white people vote, and only the usual midterm proportion of all the other demographics does, then the Democrats will lose both houses of Congress.
So why isn’t Obama more worried about it?
He will certainly regret that so many long-serving Democratic senators and congressmen are going to lose their seats this autumn, but it really does not much matter to him who controls the Congress for the next two years.
He can’t hope to get any more legislation even through the current Congress since the Democrats lost their “super-majority” of 60 seats in the Senate last January, so what’s the difference?
Nor does Obama actually have to get more legislation through Congress right now. It would be nice to have a tough climate-change bill, no doubt, but from a political point of view, there is no new law that he simply must pass before he faces reelection himself in 2012.
Indeed, he stands a very good chance of winning a second term in 2012, in large part because of what is going to happen this November.
Dyer also points out that any ridiculous piece of legislation that they come up with, even if it passes both houses of Congress, is subject to presidential veto. The one thing he does not mention is that if the Republicans get supermajorities in both houses, they will be able to override his veto. Hopefully -- and probably -- that won't happen.
Getting majorities in both houses of Congress will leave the Republicans nowhere to hide on the critical issue of cutting the huge federal deficit. They have already said that they will not raise taxes—even for those earning more than $250,000 a year—and they have pledged not to cut defence spending.
What’s left? The only other big-ticket items in the budget are entitlements: health care and pensions.
The United States has not yet gone through the painful debate about how to tame the deficit that has already happened in most European countries, but it will have to do so soon.
That poses a particular problem for Republicans, because if they will not raise taxes on the rich or cut defence spending, then they have to support brutal cuts in health care and pensions or lose all credibility as deficit-cutters.
But cutting entitlements would alienate the Republicans’ own most important demographic: older white people. They will not risk that.