Ed Kilgore explores Michele Bachmann’s self-proclaimed “constitutional conservatism” in The New Republic, and determines that it’s a ploy to radicalize the mainstream Republican Party by introducing far-right social and economic views through code words.
With all due respect to Rep. Bachmann, it’s pretty clear that she is not the standard bearer for constitutional conservatism (although it’s understandable why Kilgore would like her to be for the purposes of his essay, given the susceptibility of left-leaning folks to believing conspiracy theories about her).
No, that would be Rand Paul, who also describes himself as a constitutional conservative. What the label means, in Paul’s case, is that he has taken his father’s libertarian politics and packaged them for a wider conservative audience. That means an emphasis on observing the Constitution and the rule of law while pursuing traditional conservative values. Although Ron Paul is responsible for introducing this style of politics to the Republican Party, his appeal has been, and continues largely to be, limited to ideological libertarians and younger folks. Rand, on the other hand, has been successful in uniting both libertarians and more traditional Republicans.
In practical terms, Rand Paul tends to be among the most fiscally conservative and least interventionist of the Republican caucus. But a look at his voting record doesn’t reveal radicalism or a plan to restore some lost utopian vision of the U.S. In fact, an even more scrupulous constitutionally conservative member of Congress would just vote no all the time. Insofar as Michele Bachmann supports ideas and policies that would radicalize the Republican Party, she’s less of a constitutional conservatives than the Pauls and other likeminded members of Congress.