Hey! Let's have a 'Burn the Constitution Day!'
See also: Subverting the Constitution
I had to read this screed from some obscure "Constitutional Law" professor twice to make sure he wasn't kidding.
Louis Michael Seidman teaches at Georgetown University and wrote an op ed in the New York Times titled "Let's Give Up on the Constitution."
The prof should give himself an "A" for orignal thinking, a "B+" for unintentional humor, but an "F" for being a total butthead.
This is what passes for thinking by Seidman:
AS the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.
Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber. Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation's fate?
Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.
It's true. Seidman has an 8th grade understanding of original intent.
As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official - say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress - reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?
It's all there - in all its glorious bigotry and bias. "White propertied men"; uh-oh, here comes rich whiteys telling us what to do again. And no, few of them thought it was "fine" to own slaves. Most of them recognized the hypocrisy of declaring liberty for all while keeping millions in bondage. It bothered them greviously - haunting most of the slaveowners to their graves. And other northerners - like one of the first presidents of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Ben Franklin - not only didn't think it was fine to own slaves, but actively sought to free them.
In fact, that one paragraph proves an important point: Seidman knows less about our Founders than the Founders could have guessed about modern America.
This is why I thought Seidman was joking:
IN the face of this long history of disobedience, it is hard to take seriously the claim by the Constitution's defenders that we would be reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature if we asserted our freedom from this ancient text. Our sometimes flagrant disregard of the Constitution has not produced chaos or totalitarianism; on the contrary, it has helped us to grow and prosper.
Really? What evidence do we have for that? Maybe one example would suffice? Funny - I can't think of anything at the moment that would show how ignoring the Constitution has "helped us grow and prosper." Perhaps in the short term, riding roughshod over the "General Welfare" or "Commerce" clauses may have led to some prospering at the expense of others. But as will eventually be the case with Obamacare, forgetting the Constitution is far more likely to bankrupt us than help us grow and prosper in any significant way.
I don't believe the Constitution is holy writ nor do I think that the Founders had all the answers for today's America. But all public officials and members of the military swear fealty to our founding document for a reason; it is the most visible, the most tangible representation of our sovereignty as a nation. We don't have kings, or castles, or ancient ruins to which we can point and say our sovereignty lies within. It is the Constitution that unites us as a people.
And positing the notion that we should just throw it away is outrageously stupid and disquietingly radical. Seidman may scoff at original intent and embrace the living constitution interpretation. But that doesn't mean that what the Founders thought should be dismissed out of hand by anyone. At the very least, their idea of limiting government power is as relevant today as it was 200 years ago.
And we don't need a smarmy, sneering Georgetown professor to tell us otherwise.