On the Left, Founders Ill-Remembered
Leftists have long labeled our Constitution an impediment to progress. It is a document, they claim, best-suited for an evolutionary interpretation -- a view held to accommodate their changing, foundationless agenda.
In an effort to undercut the value of the very ideas that are central to our exceptional nature, progressives regularly denigrate our founders. More, they denounce those who defend America's bedrock principles as fanatical, even racist.
Consider recent remarks by Richard Stengel, managing editor of left-wing favorite Time Magazine.
Chiding Americans who hold to a traditional, or Originalist interpretation, he writes: "We can pat ourselves on the back about the past 223 years, but we cannot let the Constitution become an obstacle to ... moving into the future."
And just what specifically is our Constitution supposedly obstructing? Why, "ObamaCare," of course, or some other "sensible health care system."
The Supreme Court could strike down this gross abuse of federal power next year. And this, the left knows. Richard Stengel's article is, in part, a not so subtle attempt to delegitimize the court's ruling should it do so.
Indeed, if leftists find themselves unable to push their poisonous policies through the courts, they know a shift in tactics will be needed. The narrative of an emergent strategy is already being tested.
What they pine for is much more than, say, a regulatory rule that bypasses Congress and the courts, or an executive order that does much the same. No, those are but appetizers -- the low-hanging fruit. The larger aim remains a wholesale dismantling of our value system. Their radicalism repackaged to a skeptical public as principled, evolved, and even moral.
Remarks made by left-wing globalist Fareed Zakaria of CNN afford us a window into such warped thinking.
He peddles the inane notion that the Constitution is outmoded, that central principles within it should be "fixed." More, in his sage wisdom, Zakaria calls for the creation of a new "set of amendments to modernize the U.S. Constitution for the 21st century." And Iceland is forwarded as a country from which American's should draw inspiration. Iceland?
Like the CNN host, examples of those who endeavor to delegitimize the current system, its progenitors, and its proponents are legion, their bile on full display for all.
Tim Wise, radical activist and college lecturer, declared that America's founders envisioned a "system of White Supremacy."
Well-known Princeton University professor Dr. Cornel West claimed that the framers engaged in "willful blindness" on the issue of slavery. This is erroneous. A sampling:
Benjamin Franklin, an abolitionist, said: "Slavery is ... an atrocious debasement of human nature" (1789).
George Washington: "[T]here is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it" (1786).
Speaking at the Constitutional Convention, James Madison called slavery "the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man" (1787).
But facts such as these have yet to hinder liberals atop their ivory tower. More, it is no comfort that the narrow, intellectually dishonest diatribes of the likes of Wise and West meet the ears of impressionable students.
For the wider American audience, attacks against our framers and proponents of original intent persist apace. And as with academics, the "progressive" political class and their allies in the press will not stop. Comments by the Washington editor of The Nation magazine continue this ill trend.
Like many anti-framer broadsides before him, Chris Hayes' attacks were insulting and meant to be so. He suggested there to be a "Founding Father fetishism" in the U.S. today, calling its resurgence racially charged, "bizarre," and "insidious."
Hayes went on to criticize adherents of original intent as those who "swear fidelity" to the vision of "a certain group of white men" -- men, it should be noted, like Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, and Madison. A group of visionaries whose efforts engendered a document that remains vibrant and lasting. It is this enduring quality that the left finds taxing and insufferable.
And, it is our framers design of limited government, more particularly limited federal power, that Hayes and his ilk despise most. This central principle acts as a rampart against their brand of radicalism.
So what are they to do? It's simple. Deny such limits exist. Cue Richard Stengel of Time once more.
He writes: "If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn't say so." Except that Constitution does say so...and forcefully. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, was crafted specifically to limit federal power. Stengel's claim to the contrary is as laughable as it is dangerous. The facts don't seem to matter...just another "obstacle."
With the propagation of a government-centric brand of "change" an integral part of their narrative, liberals will continue to count on the ignorance of the ill-informed.
As we celebrate America's independence this weekend, we ought to reflect upon the enduring legacy of our Founders. Their unwavering bravery and daring defeated tyranny, their genius gave us a lasting Constitution -- the very wellspring of our liberty, freedom, and their many blessings.
Brendon S. Peck holds a Master of Arts in history and political science from the College of Saint Rose and has completed graduate work at Columbia University. He is a freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.