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The Constitution Fetish

From National Review

Is there anything richer than a gaggle of smarmy progressives snickering at the conservative “Constitution fetish”? “Fetish” is the fashionable Left’s latest suggestive imagery turned talking point, a dig at the new Republican majority in the House, which began its session this week by reading the Constitution aloud. It’s as if Dracula were complaining about a crucifix fetish. “Fetish,” like “tea-bagger,” slides easily off the tongues of the Big Thinkers who get their dithering law from Dalia Lithwick and their sophomoric style from Bill Maher. If there is no Obama to send a thrill up their legs, it takes an organic Constitution throbbing with active liberty to ring their chimes. The lifeless one read from the podium Thursday — which must have been, like, a hundred years old or something — leaves them limp. 

If you really want to see what irrational arousal is like, though, get thee to the nearest faculty lounge or MSNBC set and hum a few bars of the Warren Court’s greatest hits. Like a hand reaching through the epistemological fog, you’d think Harry Blackmun’s impenetrable prose had been touched by Aphrodite herself. Sure, your average fetish-fixated tea-bagger may be satisfied by such humdrum fare as laying taxes, disciplining the Militia, and punishments cruel and unusual. But it took Blackmun’s exotic penumbras, the “Hippocratic Oath’s apparent rigidity,” and a touch of in utero “quickening” before the siren trio of Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter were up to seducing New York Times editors and one-note feminists with their hypnotic “Sweet Mystery of Life.” 

 Explaining (sort of) why Blackmun’s iconic Roe v. Wade decision simply had to be preserved despite its void of support in law and logic, they wrote: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” You’re telling me you think James Madison could compete with that

 Read the rest at National Review

Why Preserve the Constitution?

From The Heritage Foundation:

For over a hundred years, Progressives have been trying to persuade Americans that times have changed, and therefore our founding documents (especially the Declaration of Independence and Constitution) must evolve to meet the needs of a developing society. This notion of a “living constitution” is certainly predominant in intellectual circles, but has also seeped into our everyday discussion and way of thinking about the Constitution.

If times have changed so much, then we must ask (especially on Constitution Day) why is the Constitution worth celebrating—or even preserving?

On one level, we celebrate and preserve the Constitution because it coherently organizes the structure of governmental affairs and “is the arrangement that formally constitutes the American people,” as Matthew Spalding writes in We Still Hold These Truths. But the Constitution is not praiseworthy simply because it enumerates particular institutions (like the executive, or the judiciary, or the states).

To understand the importance of the Constitution and its worthiness, we can turn to its great defender and preserver, Abraham Lincoln. For Lincoln, the Constitution was not meant to be celebrated for itself. Reflecting on the teaching in Proverbs 25:11 that “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver,” Lincoln describes America’s principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence as the apple of gold, while the “Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it.” Although the picture of silver is indeed beautiful and good, “the picture was made for the apple-not the apple for the picture.” Thus, what makes the Constitution worthy of preservation are the eternal principles of the Declaration of Independence secured thereby.

Read the rest at The Heritage Foundation.

How Prostitution Killed the Constitution

From Big Government:

This year marks the centennial of the Mann “White Slave Act,” when Congress made it a federal offence to transport a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes.” Though the act is still on the books (as former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer can tell you), and has been made gender-neutral, it is usually seen as a relic of nineteenth-century moralism. In fact, no act did more to overturn the nineteenth-century constitutional order. The Mann Act was boldly challenged the idea that the Constitution limited Congress’ power the ends enumerated in Article One, section eight. It established an all-purpose federal “police power” that now permits Congress to regulate just about everything.

By 1910, Congress had already taken some steps toward the establishment of a police power—outlawing, for example, the interstate shipment of lottery tickets and of impure food and drugs. The U.S. had recently ratified a multinational treaty to stamp out the international trafficking in prostitutes. The act’s proponents emphasized that it was an attack on the big business of “commercialized vice.” The press and U.S. officials, particularly U.S. Attorney Edwin Sims in Chicago, claimed that a vast “white slave trust” was operating in the country, when in fact there was little coerced prostitution at all.

The bill raised constitutional objections in the House, often from states-rights advocates. But prostitution was so universally reviled that most overcame their constitutional scruples. Rep. William Cox of Indiana had doubts as to the bill’s constitutionality, but said that he “would unhesitatingly resolve that doubt in favor of its constitutionality on account of the enormity of the crime sought to be stopped and the evil intended to be remedied…. Who can be hurt by its provisions? None but the guilty.” The bill’s sponsor, Illinois Republican James R. Mann, claimed that the white-slave traffic, “while not so extensive, is much more horrible than any black-slave traffic ever was.” New York Representative William Sulzer denounced the “quibbling in regard to the constitutionality of the provisions of this bill. In this frightful matter I shall not allow technicalities to cloud my sense of immediate duty.” In an ominous sign of Congress’ progressive abdication of its constitutional duty, he said, “The courts must take the responsibility for its constitutionality.”

Read the rest at Big Government.

Restoring Constitutional Government

From Big Government:

We have come a long way in the last twenty months. The President of the United States, his Chief of Staff, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Majority Leader in the United States Senate have done for the Republican Party what no Republican could have accomplished. Just as rigor mortis was about to set in, they brought the old corpse back to life. For their efforts on our behalf, we should be forever grateful.

It is easy to lose perspective. It is easy to forget the dire straits in which the Republicans found themselves in and for some time after November, 2008. On the first Tuesday of that month, they were soundly defeated. The Democrats controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress. In time, when Al Franken was seated and Arlen Specter turned coat, the Democrats would attain El Dorado – a commanding majority in the Senate capable to bringing a filibuster to a screeching halt.

The Republicans initially thought that to get along they would have to go along. Had Nancy Pelosi thrown a little patronage their way when the so-called “stimulus” bill was being put together, had Barack Obama intervened to insist that she include earmarks for compliant Republicans in the House, a great many of them would have voted for the measure. It is to her that we owe their solidarity on the occasion of the vote. She is responsible for the fact that on that occasion they presented themselves to the world as a party of principle. If the Tea-Party Movement, which sprang up in the immediate aftermath of the bill’s passage, was not as resolutely hostile to the Republicans as it was to the Democrats, it was because Pelosi and her minions wanted vengeance, sought it, and got it.

Even when the Tea-Party Movement had emerged, the Republicans were not quick to realize what was in the offing. On 2 May 2009, some six months after the election, Jeb Bush emerged from a meeting with Mitt Romney and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor to announce that it was time for the Republicans to give up “nostalgia about the past” and to leave Ronald Reagan and all that he stood for behind. “You can’t beat something with nothing,” he observed, “and the other side has something. I don’t like it, but they have it, and we have to be respectful and mindful of that.”

Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and Eric Cantor may have been slow to grasp what was going on, but it would be a mistake to assume that they are dopes. It was not until early August in that year that I was willing to admit to myself that a political realignment in the Republicans’ favor was a serious possibility; and, as I noted in a piece posted in the aftermath of the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in early September, I was even then almost entirely alone. At that convention, I had attended a panel on Barack Obama’s first year as President at which not one of the distinguished students of American politics on the panel had in their prepared remarks even mentioned the Tea-Party Movement. And when I asked a question about it, I received a perfunctory answer. It was odd, my interlocutor remarked, that such a movement had emerged in the absence of institutional support. It was, I thought, very odd, very odd, indeed.

Now, thanks to Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, the Republicans appear to be on the verge of an historic victory.

Read the rest at Big Government.

Restoring Federalism: Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment

From Big Government:

The “Restoring Honor” event at the Lincoln Memorial was inspiring. That should be just the beginning of a “Restoration Movement.” We don’t really need a revolution in America; all we need to do is restore what once was. I have a suggestion for another aspect of our Founding that needs to be restored—a suggestion that some will call unrealistic, yet one that the Founders considered essential.

Let’s restore the provision in the original wording of the Constitution that allows state legislatures to choose a state’s senators who serve in Congress.

Article I, Section 3 says, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof.”

The reasoning was lucid: the people of each state already had direct representation into the national government via the House of Representatives; it was necessary as well to provide representation for the state governments in the national Congress. The goal was to make sure that laws passed by each state were not going to be overturned by the national government without good reason.

It was one of those key checks on power; it was to provide balance in the federal system.

Why did this change?

Read the rest at Big Government.

Constitutional Amendments and Citizenship Rights

From The National Review:

It’s like clockwork. Whenever conservatives propose a constitutional amendment, progressives suddenly rediscover the delicate gears of the Constitution and the horrible dangers of “tinkering” or “tampering” with its precision craftsmanship. Consider the sudden brouhaha over the idea of revising the 14th Amendment to get rid of automatic birthright citizenship (which would make us more like that alleged progressive nirvana known as “Europe,” by the way). Here’s Angela Kelley of the liberal Center for American Progress on Sen. Lindsey Graham, who started the amendment chatter: “He’s not one to tamper with the Constitution, so I’m surprised he would even suggest this.” 

“While everyone recognizes that there are problems with our immigration system in this country,” Elizabeth Wydra of the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center tells NPR, “my perspective is: Let’s try to fix this through legislation and not tinker with the genius of our constitutional design.”But wait a second. Progressives love to tinker with the constitutional design. They simply do it by stealth, appointing Supreme Court justices such as Elena Kagan, who, her testimony notwithstanding, everyone knows will treat the Constitution like Felix the Cat’s magic bag; when she searches the document hard enough, you know she’ll find what she’s looking for.

 But when conservatives who talk about reverence for the Constitution also want to update it in a way that is actually consistent with the “genius of our constitutional design,” they are hypocrites and radicals.

 Liberal devotees of the “living Constitution” always made a fair point. The Founding Fathers never envisioned a world with jet planes, split atoms, stem-cell therapies, one-click porn, or MTV’s Jersey Shore. Similarly, the ratifiers of the 14th Amendment would be stunned to learn, in July of 1868, that they had just created an adamantine right for homosexuals to marry one another and receive state benefits to boot, as a federal judge in California recently decided (overruling, I might add, the will of California voters).

 Hence, liberals claim, we need an evolving Constitution that, as President Obama writes in The Audacity of Hope, “is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.” But as legal analyst Ed Whelan has noted, this “living document” argument is a straw man. Of course justices must read the document in the context of an ever-changing world. What else could they do? Ask plaintiffs to wear period garb, talk in 18th-century lingo, and only bring cases involving paper money and runaway slaves?

 The issue is not whether the world is ever-changing, but whether judges should treat the Constitution as ever-changing to meet their own agendas and desires, often over the lawfully expressed preferences of voters, legislators, and the Founders.

 Read the rest at The National Review.

From Eloquent Advocates to Boorish Hacks

From Big Government:

The 17th Amendment is stupid:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years….

But let me start at the beginning.  Article I § 3 cl. 1 of the Constitution originally established the election of Senators through the state legislatures.  The Federalist #62 laid out numerous arguments for the Constitutional framework of the Senate and its method of selection.

The senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages….

Years later, Alexis de Tocqueville made some observations about the Senate in “Democracy in America.”

The Senate is composed of eloquent advocates, distinguished generals, wise magistrates, and statesmen of note, whose arguments would do honor to the most remarkable parliamentary debates of Europe.

We went from great statesmen like Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Calhoun prior to the 17th Amendment, to that of Al Franken.

This man would never have been elected to the Senate prior to the 17th Amendment. 

Read the rest at Big Government.

Warning Labels on Founding Documents

From Moonbattery:

In a country dominated by left-wing lawyers, there aren’t many items for sale that don’t require warning labels — not even copies of America’s founding documents:

Wilder Publications warns readers of its reprints of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Common Sense, the Articles of Confederation, and the Federalist Papers, among others, that “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today.”

The disclaimer goes on to tell parents that they “might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.”

Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, says the company may be trying to ensure that oversensitive people don’t pull its works off bookstore or library shelves.

Or are the folks at Wilder Publications ideologically opposed to their own products?

Though warning labels are usually posted to protect a company from potential lawsuits, constitutional attorney Noel Francisco says this disclaimer has no legal benefits. …

As for the idea that this warning label might help keep these works from being yanked off bookshelves, Francisco says it is more likely to have the opposite effect: people not carrying the book because it has the disclaimer.

“By putting on the warning, you’re making controversial something that’s not controversial: our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence,” he said.

Moonbats have managed to make Christianity controversial. If they can use their dominance of the publishing industry to help do the same to our founding documents, America will be left with no foundation and no frame, reducing it to soft putty in the hands of a leftist intelligentsia bent on “fundamentally transforming” the world’s last best hope into a country we won’t recognize or want to live in.

Constitution of No

From The National Review:

When a reporter asked House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) during a press conference last year where the Constitution granted Congress the authority to enact an individual health-insurance mandate, she answered, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” Speaker Pelosi then dismissed the question and moved on to the next reporter.

This exchange illustrates the way “yes we can” liberals treat the Constitution: They simply ignore it when it gets in the way of their big-government bailouts and takeovers.

Democrats have always been the “party of go,” bent on transforming America with their “living Constitution,” which changes to suit the political whims of the day. That’s why Republicans shouldn’t flinch when they are criticized as being the “party of no.” Saying no is necessary to uphold the freedoms on which our nation was founded.

The Constitution is full of no’s. It is by telling the government what it cannot do that the Constitution protects our freedoms. The Founders loathed tyranny and sought to erect a government ruled by law, not people. As Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense, “in America the law is king.”

Read the rest at The National Review.

Article V: Repealing ObamaCare

An excellent article by Josie Wales over at Big Government:

There is much talk of repealing socialized medicine, though the rhetoric has waffled a bit since passage.  The problem is that even if we gain majorities in Congress we still need 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster, not to mention the 2/3 majorities we need in both houses to override a presidential veto.  Meet Article V of the Constitution:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, SHALL call a convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. (emphasis added)


Dark thoughts are on American minds these days, despite the optimism in the American system.  It is not the first time, nor will it be the last.  Travel backwards to the Spring of 1786.  The Articles of Confederation were the “Supreme Law of the Land,” but one Charles Pinckney of South Carolina proposed a revision.  Congress represented the sole institution of our national government, and Congress was rather weak.  The states retained much of their sovereignty, and Congress, with the few powers it actually wielded, could only operate with unanimous consent.  Rebellion and credit issues abounded, not to mention the threat of foreign invasion, without effective centralized governance.  And so, the Constitutional Convention eventually convened in May 1787 to revise our system of government, and prevent disaster.

See the rest at Big Government.

God Bless America

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Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Wilson Nicholas, September 7, 1803

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