February 20, 2015

WASHINGTON POST: A very good demonstration of how not to elevate the political debate with Rudy Giuliani, courtesy of Rep. Steve Cohen.

Two things: First, you never look to Cohen to elevate any debate. Second, his version of the 3/5 compromise is, as is common with constitutional/historical illiterates, exactly backward. It was the slaveholders who wanted slaves to count the same as a white person (because that would have gotten them more seats in Congress) and the anti-slavery people who didn’t want slaves to be counted for purposes of Congressional representation at all, since they were, you know, slaves.

I always tell my Constitutional Law students that whenever anyone trots out this “the Framers thought a black person was only worth 3/5 as much as a white person” trope, they can safely disregard whatever else that person says about the Constitution, since it’s a classic hallmark of lazy-thinking ignorance.

Meanwhile, judging by the foaming-at-the-mouth response from Democrats, Giuliani’s remarks hit a nerve. They did so because Obama has given people plenty of reason to doubt how he feels about America — at least, America as it actually is — and because Giuliani’s remarks represent the end of people treating Obama with kid gloves. In this, Giuliani’s remarks are comparable to Jonathan Chait’s It’s Okay To Hate George W. Bush piece, a signal that opened up the floodgates of liberal negativity toward Bush.

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