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The Tea Party, the government shutdown, and Obamacare

Lawrence Rosenthal
Publication date: 
Tue, 15 Oct 2013
Obamacare has been the bête-noire of the Tea Party movement since its founding in February 2009. The current Tea Party tactic — shutting down the federal government unless Obamacare, currently being implemented, is defunded, delayed, or repealed — had its origin in the movement’s disruption of Congressional Town Hall meetings in summer 2009.
Beyond its bombastic rhetoric and tactics, the Tea Party’s view of Obamacare is part and parcel of a theory of the US Constitution. This theory emerges from the ‘state-rights’ tradition in US history, and is expressed in the urgent conviction that the size of the US federal government and, in particular, liberal social policy, are destructive of the fundamental premises of the Constitution.
Objection to Obamacare is based on a notion that both benefits and political rights per se are zero-sum commodities. This is a theory that at once interprets the Tea Party’s fierce sense of dispossession, and forms a constitutional principle that rationalizes such extreme measures as the current government shutdown and the threat of default later in the month if Obamacare is not scrapped.