Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Ryan D. Murphy


In 2009, the Tea Party was born-a movement that in just over a year captured a United States senate seat and more than 700 state legislature seats. The movement is a controversial force in American politics, with some arguing that the group merely challenges the moderate tendencies of the Republican Party, while others say it is merely a set of individuals acting at the whims of billionaire backers.

This note argues that the background of the Tea Party is not an originalist movement, as is often claimed, but is instead rooted in Jacksonian populism. Specifically, in assessing the movement's views on the right to contract, the rhetoric matches the Jacksonian constitutional principles of anti-privilege, fervent opposition to government corruption, and political equality. This is accomplished in assessing connections between Tea Party rhetoric and Lochner era reliance on liberty to contract, highlighting how Jacksonian constitutional principles serve as the underpinning for both doctrines.