A number of Minnesota Republicans, following Gov. Tim Pawlenty's lead, have taken to calling themselves “constitutional conservatives.” A more fitting label may be “constitutional fundamentalists.” Like the religious kind, these fundamentalists are highly suspicious of latter-day interpretations and adaptations of an ancient text.
Several speakers at the state Republican convention in Minneapolis Friday harkened to a need to, in the words of former state Rep. K. J. McDonald, "restore America to its original intent, as expressed in the Constitution." The nation's ills would be remedied, their argument goes, if federal government activity were restricted to the minimal role laid out in nation's founding charter as written in the late 18th century.
Constitutional fundamentalists want no more federal government involvement in health care, education, aid to the poor, and bank bailouts. As the GOP's Fourth Congressional District candidate Teresa Collett said Thursday, end government involvement in such extra-constitutional ventures, and "we will return to the free enterprise system, the crown jewel of the nation's success."
Fundamentalism of the religious kind often swells during times of stress and rapid change. If constitutional fundamentalism follows the same pattern, it could catch on this year -- despite the fact that the march of history is notoriously resistant to human efforts to slow it down.