It seems that they are on the news programs every night: Americans dressed as 18th-century Founders, waving placards saying "Don't Tread On Me" and complaining that members of Congress pass legislation without regard for the Constitution. Perhaps never before have so many citizens invested so much of their political energy in the proposition that we should return to the first principles of the Founding.
Critics of the tea-party movement have been quick to question its members' constitutional bona fides. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, for instance, sniffed that tea-party supporters more closely resemble Anti-Federalists—opponents of the Constitution in 1788—than they do the Founders.
In a sense the critics are right. To a remarkable extent, the tea-party movement is raising the same questions of constitutional governance that Anti-Federalists (and not a few Federalists) raised in the debates over whether to adopt a new Plan of Union in 1788. Just a few days ago, a poll by Rasmussen Reports showed that fully 61% of American adults believe that the federal government has too much power; 66% think Americans are overtaxed; and 70% believe the government does not spend taxpayers' money wisely or fairly.