Newsday reports that Wendy Long, a former law clerk to tenther Justice Clarence Thomas who is best known for spearheading several inaccurate race baiting attacks against Justice Sonia Sotomayor during Sotomayor’s confirmation process, is considering running for Senate against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) this year. Long, however, is not simply significant for her racially-questionable attacks on Sotomayor. She would also be the latest GOP Senate candidate to bring both genuine legal credentials and a deeply radical tenther vision of the Constitution to the race.
In 2008, Long penned a book review which not only slams the late Justice Thurgood Marshall’s rather banal statement that the original Constitution was a flawed document because it allowed slavery and discrimination, it also embraces one of her former boss’ most radical views — praising an opinion by Justice Thomas which would lead to everything from national child labor laws to the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters being declared unconstitutional. Sadly, such bizarre distortions of the Constitution has become increasingly common on the campaign trial in the post-Tea Party era:
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a former law clerk to Justice Samuel Alito, shares Long and Thomas’ radical belief that national child labor laws violate the Constitution. He’s also claimed that Medicare and Social Security — among many other things — are unconstitutional.
- Ted Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general and law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, proposed using an unconstitutional backdoor method to get states to nullify the Affordable Care Act and he co-authored a white paper advocating a reading of the Constitution that would eliminate Medicaid and most federal education funding.
- Joe Miller, a Yale law grad and former federal magistrate judge, ran for Senate in 2010 on the platform that pretty much everything is unconstitutional — including Social Security, Medicare, the federal minimum wage, and unemployment benefits.
There is hardly an outpouring of support for this kind of candidate. Long is far from the favorite to win in a solid blue state like New York, especially after Gillibrand so recently spanked her GOP opponent during a cycle that otherwise favored Republicans. Likewise, the six outspoken tenther candidates who ran for Senate in 2010 massively underperformed the remainder of the GOP. Miller lost to a candidate whose name wasn’t even on the ballot. And Lee won in large part because he was able to manipulate the Utah’ GOP’s undemocratic method of choosing Senate candidates in order to get his name on the ballot in this blood red state.
Nevertheless, the emergence of multiple candidates who combine genuine legal credentials with a desire to declare nearly the entire Twentieth Century unconstitutional is a troubling trend, and one that could have long term consequences for American policy. Few Democratic officials have the same comfort discussing constitutional matters as a Mike Lee or a Wendy Long, even if Lee and Long are consistently wrong about how they read the Constitution. If this trend continues, it will mean that voters will receive a continuous diet of constitutional garbage with little constitutional reality presented to them as an alternative. And if only one side makes its case to the electorate, it won’t be long before the inmates take over the asylum.