January 6, 2011
The Constitutional Hypocrisy of the Left
I continue to be astonished by the reaction of the political Left to the Republican House majority's decision to begin the 112th Congress by reading the Constitution on the floor. This has been mocked by the New York Times (whose business depends on the First Amendment) as "theatrical pomposity" and "fundamentalism." Today, Salon's Michael Lind opined that we ought to stop treating the Constitution as "sacred."
But don't you remember when Democrats were in love with our sacred Constitution? Why, sure you do. It was only a few years ago that Democrats accused George W. Bush of "shredding our Constitution" by monitoring international phone calls of suspected terrorists. (The Constitution prohibits "unreasonable" searches. Apparently Democrats think monitoring communications of foreign terrorists is "unreasonable," but full-body scans and pat-down searches of the traveling public at airports is quite reasonable).
And how could you forget that Bush "shredded the Constitution" by keeping terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay without trials? Never mind the fact that the Constitution allows the suspension of habeas corpus "when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it" and that the Supreme Court upheld the detention of Japanese in World War II as fully constitutional. Never mind the fact that Barack Obama hasn't closed Guantanamo as he promised, has he? Not that many shrieks of protest from the political Left.
Don't you remember how the Left howled in protest over the "unconstitutional" Patriot Act? Oddly enough, when Democrats gained control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, they never bothered to repeal the Patriot Act -- did they? Seems that putting open homosexuals in the military became more important than repairing the "shredded" Constitution.
The fact is that the Democratic Party and the political Left in this country use the Constitution as nothing less than an instrument of pure demagoguery. When it suits them to cite it, they do; when it suits them to ignore it, they do; and when neither alternative suits them, they invent phrases out of whole cloth (e.g., "separation of church and state," "jury of one's peers," "freedom of expression," "right to privacy") that exist nowhere in the Constitution and invest these phrases with constitutional authority.
They get away with it because the public is largely ignorant of the Constitution. This is a grave problem in the body politic. I venture to say that people in this country are more familiar with the NFL rulebook than they are with the rulebook for American politics.
The reading of the Constitution on the House floor is neither a stunt nor a political trick. The Constitution is nothing less than the "supreme Law of the Land." Its purpose, as Madison wrote in Federalist #51, is to "oblige [the government] to control itself."
The great question of our time is this: will the public demand that government adhere to the Constitution and "control itself," or will the public not give a damn what the Constitution says as long as government provides bread and circuses?