“Standing Up For Democracy”: Bush 4th Circuit Judge Warns Conservative Lawyers Away From The ‘Tea Party Constitution’
Fourth Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, one of President George W. Bush’s five finalists for the Supreme Court seat that eventually went to Chief Justice Roberts, has emerged as one of the most outspoken conservative opponents of efforts to toss out the nearly 200 years of precedent establishing that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. As Wilkinson warned in an op-ed last March, “the prospect of judges’ striking down commercial regulation on ill-defined and subjective bases is a prescription for economic chaosthat the framers, in a simpler time, had the good sense to head off.”
At a recent gathering of one of the nation’s leading conservative lawyers’ groups, Judge Wilkinson offered a similar warning — telling the gathered group of conservatives to back off efforts to constitutionalize Tea Party ideology:
And last month, receiving the Federalist Society’s Lifetime Service Award at Georgetown University, Judge Wilkinson hinted that the high court he nearly joined should think twice before striking down the symbol of everything contemporary conservatives revile—the health care overhaul President Barack Obama signed into law over near-unanimous Republican opposition.
“It may of course seem tempting to press the advantage when one seemingly has a judicial majority at hand. But this wheel shall turn,” Judge Wilkinson said. “Lasting credibility on an issue such as judicial restraint requires us to practice it, as the old saying goes, when the shoe pinches as well as when it comforts.” . . .
“It is also one thing to welcome the Tea Party as a political movement, quite another to embrace a Tea Party Constitution. Political disputation and constitutional debate are simply different things, and it does our democracy no favors to confuse one with the other.”
Wilkinson deserves a lot of credit for standing up for democracy at a time when his fellow conservatives have largely abandoned it in favor of what the judge describes as an effort to “press one’s views into our fundamental charter such that our opponents are left with no quarter and are defeated not in the temporary sense of a political ebb and flow, but in the more absolute tones of constitutional condemnation.”
Moreover, there should be no doubt that Tea Party constitutionalists are calling for a sweeping attack on American democracy. As a Center For American Progress report explained last September, a short list of laws that leading Tea Party lawmakers claim are unconstitutional includes Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, children’s health insurance, and other health care programs, all federal education programs, all federal antipoverty programs, federal disaster relief, federal food safety inspections and other food safety programs, national child labor laws, the minimum wage, overtime, and other federal labor protections and many federal civil rights laws.
By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, May 4, 2012
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