E.J. Dionne praises our “progressive” Constitution. Really. He quotes a Boston University Law Review article by Joseph R. Fishkin and William E. Forbath:
“Constitutional politics during the 19th and early 20th centuries” was very different and the subject of democratic deliberation. In earlier eras, they say, the Constitution was seen as not simply permitting but actually requiring “affirmative legislation … to ensure a wide distribution of opportunity” and to address “the problem of oligarchy in a modern capitalist society.”
The authors remind us of Franklin Roosevelt’s warning that “the inevitable consequence” of placing “economic and financial control in the hands of the few” would be “the destruction of the base of our form of government.” And writing during the Gilded Age, a time like ours in many ways, the journalist James F. Hudson argued that “imbedded” in the Constitution is “the principle” mandating “the widest distribution among the people, not only of political power, but of the advantages of wealth, education and social influence.”
When you start by quoting FDR — whose ambitions got trumped by the Supreme Court so many times that he tried to “pack” it — you’ve already lost the debate.