For over a year, ThinkProgress has been tracking “tentherism”, the radical view that pretty much everything the federal government does is unconstitutional. A shockingly large number of the GOP’s Senate candidates this cycle embraced tentherism, proclaiming that essential programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and the federal minimum wage are all unconstitutional. Yet, even as Republicans as a whole rode the economic downturn to significant Congressional gains, the Party’s tenther slate massively underperformed:
- Joe Miller (R-AK), AKA “Mr. Noun, Verb, and Unconstitutional,” was probably this election’s most outspoken tenther. Miller claims that Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, minimum wage, Medicaid and federal child labor laws are all unconstitutional. Yet, despite running in blood-red Alaska, Miller is currently well behind a candidate whose name wasn’t even on the ballot.
- Sharron Angle (R-NV), also should have had an easy race again an unpopular incumbent running in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Yet after Angle claimed the Department of Education and membership in the United Nations are unconstitutional, Nevada’s voters decisively reelected Harry Reid.
- Ken Buck (R-CO), also embraces the tenther view that Pell Grants, student loan assistance, and other federal education programs are unconstitutional. He lost to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).
- John Raese (R-WV), holds the tenther view that the minimum wage is unconstitutional. Despite running in one of the three states where President Obama is most unpopular, Raese lost by double digits.
To be fair, not every tenther candidate lost yesterday. Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) expressed tenther-driven opposition to the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters early in his race, although he quickly backed off this record after a disasterous interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Likewise, Senator-elect Mike Lee (R-UT) is also a fierce tenther, although he ran a much more low-profile race than co-ideologues such as Miller or Angle.
Nevertheless, it is significant that, in an election cycle that clearly favored Republicans, the most outspoken tenthers were unable to prevail even in the some of the reddest of red states. It would have been a huge surprise if the GOP had not won Kentucky and Utah last night, and it is equally surprising that the GOP candidate lost very easy races in states like Alaska and Nevada. While there’s no way to spin last night’s results as a good thing for progressive policies, voters rejected the notion that Medicare, Social Security, Pell Grants, or basic labor protections should be on the chopping block.