January 16, 2016

THEY STILL DON’T GET IT: Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post has a shockingly ignorant piece, “Tea Partyers Love the Constitution So Much–They Want to Blow it Up.

Sometimes I think tea partyers are in an emotionally abusive relationship with the Constitution.

One day, they proclaim its inerrancy and say it must be loved, honored and obeyed in all its original perfection. The next day, they call for a constitutional convention, arguing that it’s broken, outdated and desperately in need of a facelift.

In other words: I love you, you’re perfect, now change. . . .

Consider Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a tea party darling, who wants to convene a constitutional convention to amend this precious political heirloom.

And not to push through just a single amendment, but nine. . . .

In a 92-page document defending his proposals, Abbott laments widespread ignorance of the Constitution and argues that his plan is “not so much a vision to alter the Constitution as it is a call to restore the rule of our current one.”

The Constitution itself is not broken,” Abbott writes in italics. “What is broken is our Nation’s willingness to obey the Constitution and to hold our leaders accountable to it.”

In other words, the Constitution says what Abbott thinks it says, not what it actually says, or what the Supreme Court decides it says — so now we just need to rewrite it so that the text fits what’s in his head.

Abbott is not the only right-wing Constitution-thumper to call for reframing the Founding Fathers’ allegedly perfect handiwork. . . .

Because, obviously, the best way to honor that cherished, perfect, original text is by getting rid of it. 

All I can do is shake my head and feel sorry for the ignorance this column displays.

Apparently, Ms. Rampell has forgotten her basic civics, and doesn’t realize that these calls for amendment by “right-wing Constitution thumper[s]” would employ Article V, which provides a lawful, supermajoritarian and republican process for amending the Constitution. Article V–which has been used  27 times to amend the Constitution–is evidence that the founding generation did not consider the original Constitution to be “perfect.” Indeed, the first ten amendments–the Bill of Rights–were ratified only two short years after ratification of the original Constitution.

Ms. Rampell fails to grasp that the method of changing the Constitution–i.e., the process employed–matters to a “Constitution-thumper” because, well, the Constitution allows for amendments only via the processes set forth in Article V.  To a liberal/progressive, by contrast, the method of constitutional change is irrelevant, so long as the Constitution changes in the “right way”; it’s only results, not process, that matters.

Thus. to a liberal/progressive like Ms. Rampell, it is perfectly fine for five liberal/progressive Supreme Court Justices to “amend” the Constitution with a stroke of their outcome-oriented pens.  In Ms. Rampell’s eyes, using Article V’s legitimate, supermajoritarian, republican processes to effectuate constitutional change is so time-consuming and republican, it’s downright silly, and maybe even dangerous. Surely, it’s much better to just let elitist, liberal/progressive Supreme Court Justices alter the Constitution on the people’s “behalf” (unless of course they want to overrule decisions such as Roe v. Wade or roll back the Commerce Clause).

“Constitution-thumper[s]” believe in the Constitution–and this includes employing its only legal mechanism for alteration: Article V. Given the Supreme Court’s long history (since about 1937) of misconstruing the Constitution to serve liberal/progressive ends, calls to change the Constitution and restore its original vision is far from hypocrisy. It’s the height of principled constitutional conservatism. But I wouldn’t expect someone like Ms. Rampell to get that.

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