The Tea Party Express and the Meaning of Natural Law
On Friday, the Tea
Party Express stopped by in the little town of Hillsdale, MI. The tour bus’ journey across the United
States, which left Napa, CA on August 27, will arrive in Tampa, FL on September
12. There, it will host the first Tea
Party Presidential debate. Although
Hillsdale is technically a “city,” its homely closeness makes it more like a
hamlet than like the bustling streets of New York or D.C., a surprising stop
for a tour across the United States.
On another level, however, it is not at all surprising. As the Chairwoman of the Tea Party Express,
Amy Kramer, said, the Tea Party aims to “send a conservative to Washington,” in
2012. Hillsdale College foots the
conservative bill perfectly.
The college, which accepts no federal funds, stands nearly
alone in requiring all graduates to study the Constitution. The only other colleges that do this are
military academies: West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy. At Hillsdale, the most frequent debates do
not feature conservatives and liberals, or Republicans and Democrats, but
Protestants and Roman Catholics. Around
tables at the dining hall, amid the praises of C. S. Lewis, one might hear a
debate on Predestination, a conversation on the merits of dating, or the
occasional Irish drinking song.
At the Hillsdale rally, the crowd of about 250 people
listened to Congressman Tim Walberg, who tied the Tea Party to this conservatism. Regaling the spectators with memories of
Ronald Reagan, he insisted that “a republic must either preserve its virtue or
lose its liberty.” Sharon Angle, the
woman who nearly replaced Harry Reid in the United States Senate, also spoke at
the rally. Three Republicans, running in
the primary race to challenge Michigan’s Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow,
followed her up.
The most incisive speech, however, came from Hillsdale
College President Larry Arnn. Dr. Arnn
compared the Tea Party to the Republican Party, which also began as a
grassroots movement. According to
Hillsdale tradition, professors at the college traveled to Jackson, MI, forming a
political party to repeal the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854. As every good Hillsdale student knows, this
act flew in the face of the Northwest Ordinance and the Missouri Compromise, by
opening up Kansas and Nebraska to the expansion of slavery. By linking the Tea Party and the Republican
Party, Dr. Arnn compared Obama’s healthcare plan, which the Tea Party aims to
repeal, to this earlier unconstitutional act.
He did not mention whether universal healthcare ranks with slavery as an
equally heinous crime.
Dr. Arnn also spoke to the very nature of man. Recalling the words of James Madison in Federalist 51, he said
that “we must have government because we are not angels, but government must be
limited because those in government are not angels either.” Human beings share a nature, and a goal
toward which all strive. Each of us
lives for happiness, but our flaws keep us from achieving that happiness. If we follow our passions, we will not end up
happy, and we will harm everyone who gets in our way. So we need government to restrain our
Nevertheless, those who run this government share our human
flaws. The very law of nature entails
that they, too, must be limited. This
delicate balance, written into the meaning of government, expresses the Natural
Law. Seeing the flaws of individuals,
James Madison acknowledges that they must be restrained. But he also knows that the people who must
restrain them are also flawed. The
United States Constitution, by limiting the powers of the government, solves
this dilemma, fulfilling both Justice and Morality.
Natural Law applies an understanding of human nature to
problems of morality and the limits of laws imposed by government. Put another way, it shows us why some laws
are right or wrong, because men and women live in a certain way and ought to
live in another way. It empowers the scholar
to envision good laws that do not trample on other people’s rights.
Adhering to the principle of limited government, the Tea
Party speakers ignited the crowd by repeatedly promising that the American
people will “fire Obama” in 2012.
However the election turns out, it will hold the President accountable
to the desires of the people, limiting the restraining arm of government. In this way, the upcoming election will
adhere to Natural Law, as it gives hope to the Tea Party Express.