TAKING A JACKHAMMER TO THE AMERICAN FOUNDATION…. When coming to terms with the radicalism of the contemporary Republican agenda, it’s convenient to turn to the right’s approach to the Constitution. This year, we’ve seen a growing number of prominent Republican officials and candidates talk about scrapping the 17th Amendment, repealing the 16th Amendment, getting rid of at least one part of the 14th Amendment, “restoring” the “original” 13th Amendment, and proposing dozens of new amendments.

But this isn’t just a question of what they want to do to the Constitution; it’s the consequences of how they interpret the Constitution. Brian Beutler had an interesting item this morning.

It seems as if we’ve heard more about the Constitution this election than we did in 2008, when questions of due process and cruel and unusual punishment were bona fide election issues. Two years in to Barack Obama’s presidency, after turning a blind eye throughout the Bush years, a key goal for the Tea Party this election is to “return” to the Constitution. Minus certain parts of it. And only if you read other parts in a very specific way.

We know the Tea Party has a … unique interpretation of the country’s foundational text, but it’s hard sometimes to keep track of all the things their favored candidates would like to see abolished or relegated as part of this “return.”

Their convenient reading of various amendments — particularly the 10th — would radically transform the country as we know it.

Quite right. We’re not just talking about far-right candidates who disapprove of some of the bedrocks of modern American life; we’re talking about far-right candidates who believe these bedrocks are unconstitutional and shouldn’t exist.

Brian’s list notes that Social Security and Medicare would have to be scrapped. As far as several GOP candidates are concerned, the minimum wage and unemployment benefits would necessarily meet the same fate. Some, including Nevada’s Sharron Angle, would also eliminate American participation in the United Nations on constitutional grounds, and in the case of Kentucky’s Rand Paul, the Civil Rights Act isn’t legally sound, either.

I have to wonder if the electorate fully appreciates what’s become of Republicans’ ideology in recent years.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.