The danger posed by the constitutional conservative approach is to attempt to lash together debates about what the federal government should do and what the Constitution allows it to do.

A white paper by the liberal Center for American Progress spells out the potential consequences of the constitutional conservative vision. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be deemed to exceed the federal government’s enumerated powers.

The federal government would cease to have any role in education, eliminating funding for public schools and college financial aid, and in combating poverty, ending food stamps and unemployment insurance. Laws on everything from child labor to food safety would be overturned.

None of this is likely to happen, of course, for the simple reason that most Americans don’t want it to.