Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement

Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement

by Michael Patrick Leahy
     
 

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Today's Tea Party activists are motivated by the same ideological desires as our nation's Founding Fathers, argues Michael Patrick Leahy in this illuminating work of political history.

Today's political class—in both parties and at all levels of government—shows a blatant disregard for both the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution. More and more

Overview

Today's Tea Party activists are motivated by the same ideological desires as our nation's Founding Fathers, argues Michael Patrick Leahy in this illuminating work of political history.

Today's political class—in both parties and at all levels of government—shows a blatant disregard for both the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution. More and more Americans are fed up, and from this sweeping sense of discontent and anger the Tea Party movement has emerged, revitalizing the spirit of constitutionalist activism in the conservative world.

According to author and Tea Party activist Michael Patrick Leahy, a similar lack of accountability ignited our nation's Founding Fathers, and they were motivated by the same ideological desires: to constitutionally limit government, ensure fiscal responsibility, and defend individual liberty. These imperatives were at the heart of what he calls a "covenant of liberty," which undergirds our written Constitution. Leahy traces these ideas to the libertarian traditions of the English Civil War. He explains why they were on the minds of Americans at the birth of the republic, and how they passed down largely intact from generation to generation, were broken by a corrupted political class, and have been rediscovered by the modern Tea Party movement.

According to Leahy, the American constitutional covenant consists of four unwritten promises that most citizens continue to regard as crucial to our government's legitimacy. The story of how this covenant evolved and how its fundamental promises were broken forms the core of this unique and original work of political history.

As Leahy shows, the first promise—to abide by the written words of the Constitution—was broken before the ink was dry on the nation's founding documents. The second—to refrain from interfering in private economic matters—was broken by the Republican Party in the 1860s. The third—to honor the customs, traditions, and principles that made up the "fiscal constitution"—was broken by Herbert Hoover 143 years after the establishment of our republic, a sad rupture conducted on an even grander scale by his successors, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing through the administration of Barack Obama.

The breaking of these promises greatly accelerated the natural tendency of governments to centralize and consolidate power at the expense of individual liberty. Had not the fourth and final promise—that members of the legislative branch would exercise thoughtful deliberation while giving respectful consideration to the views of their constituents—been broken in such a disdainful and audacious manner in early 2009, the grassroots activists who came to make up the Tea Party would never have been impelled to take action.

Drawing on his personal experience as the organizer of the online conservative community that launched the Tea Party movement in February 2009, Leahy documents how the timeless principles of American constitutionalism have been used to grow one of the most active and influential movements in American history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Leahy, an early activist and new media champion of the Tea Party, systematically and reasonably defends the movement as more than a flash in the pan, and suggests that it has its roots in the limited government ethos of Jefferson and the founding fathers. According to Leahy, the federal government has historically broken four key promises that the founders agreed to in principle: to abide by the written words of the Constitution; refrain from interfering with free markets; uphold the traditions and customs of the “fiscal constitution”; and commit to thoughtful deliberation in Congress. Leahy (Rules for Conservative Radicals) pinpoints when each of these promises of the “secular covenant” were broken and its consequences. The book describes how the current movement began with CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli’s “rant heard round the world” about TARP bailouts, which led to hundreds of rallies in April 2009, and election of candidates in 2010. Though thick with references, statistics, and stories from the 1600s to the present, the book is peppered with vivid character descriptions. However, Leahy meanders rather than focusing on the topic of each chapter. Substantial enough to be a primer on the movement, the book may convince skeptical readers to see the benefits of less government and more free markets. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident. (Mar.)
Ambassador John Bolton
No political movement in recent memory has had the immediate impact of the Tea Party. Leahy lucidly explains both the historical and philosophical roots of the Tea Party, providing a useful guide both to his contemporaries and to future historians.
Ambassador - John Bolton
No political movement in recent memory has had the immediate impact of the Tea Party. Leahy lucidly explains both the historical and philosophical roots of the Tea Party, providing a useful guide both to his contemporaries and to future historians.
Michael Barone
In Covenant of Liberty, tea party leader Michael Patrick Leahy shows how the tea partiers have reinjected the ideas and principles of the Founding Fathers into political discourse--and the revolutionary effect they have had.”
Randy E. Barnett
An elegantly written and clear-eyed portrait of the centuries-long struggle to constitutionally protect individual liberty from a governing class who would, in the name of of the “public interest,” harness the power of the state for private gain.
Richard E. Wagner
Concise, illuminating history...Leahy explains how the modern Tea Party offers a path to recapture the liberties that our constitutional republic was founded to secure.
Kirkus Reviews
A prominent Tea Party voice examines the roots of modern conservative populism. Leahy begins his identification of the ideological forebears of the Tea Party in 17th-century England with John Lilburne, fierce opponent of the absolutism of both Charles I and Cromwell and a champion of individual liberty who prefigured American colonials like Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. England's famed jurist Edward Coke and philosopher John Locke helped supply the intellectual framework that informed the American Revolution, inspiring the likes of Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Through these men Leahy (Rules for Conservative Radicals, 2009, etc.) traces the various philosophical threads woven into the Constitution, all intended to safeguard individual freedom against the encroachments of a centralized government. From the time of the document's ratification, though, Leahy's story is one of almost unrelenting constitutional apostasy. He starts with Hamilton, according to the author the first of our leaders who didn't feel especially bound by the secular covenant of the Constitution. Expanding federal control, selecting economic winners and losers, intruding into private lives, ignoring the Constitution's written words, failing "to honor the customs, traditions and principles that comprised the ‘fiscal constitution,' " Hamilton's successors have been as varied as Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover and FDR. LBJ, Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have continued the project of undermining the Constitution, treating it as outdated, inefficient or simply inconvenient. There's a more complicated political and intellectual history than Leahy presents here, but his goal is neither nuance nor completeness. Rather, it's to draw a straight line from the past to today's Tea Party, whose emergence he briefly discusses. Effectively establishes the ideological bona fides of a movement too easily caricatured.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062066336
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/20/2012
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

Randy E. Barnett
An elegantly written and clear-eyed portrait of the centuries-long struggle to constitutionally protect individual liberty from a governing class who would, in the name of of the “public interest,” harness the power of the state for private gain.
Michael Barone
In Covenant of Liberty, tea party leader Michael Patrick Leahy shows how the tea partiers have reinjected the ideas and principles of the Founding Fathers into political discourse—and the revolutionary effect they have had.”
Richard E. Wagner
Concise, illuminating history...Leahy explains how the modern Tea Party offers a path to recapture the liberties that our constitutional republic was founded to secure.
Ambassador John Bolton
No political movement in recent memory has had the immediate impact of the Tea Party. Leahy lucidly explains both the historical and philosophical roots of the Tea Party, providing a useful guide both to his contemporaries and to future historians.

Meet the Author

Michael Patrick Leahy is an innovative leader in both the tactics and strategy of grassroots conservative new-media activism. As cofounder of Top Conservatives on Twitter, Leahy helped to form the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition. With a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford, he has more than two decades of private-sector experience in technology and communications. He is the author of several books, including Rules for Conservative Radicals. He lives in Tennessee.

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