07.13.2011 0

Constitutionalists, or Kooks?

By David Bozeman – One is reluctant to call any tactic in the liberal playbook new, but the latest salvo against conservatives and Tea Partiers could surely qualify as bizarre.

A liberal friend recently remarked that politicians who advertise their affection for the Constitution clearly don’t have the people’s best interests at heart. Ouch! And remember the outcry when the Constitution was read aloud at the convening of Congress earlier this year? Joy Behar of The View wondered if this Constitution-loving was not getting out of hand.

It appears that any citizen who calls himself a Constitutionalist or Constitutional Conservative will be relegated to the fringes of American thought, no less a nut job than a John Bircher. How long before weak-kneed Republicans assure polite society that, “I don’t buy all that Founding Fathers/limited government nonsense”?

According to enlightened thought, the right-wing’s hidden agenda typically consists of theocracy and a roll-back of 100 years of social progress. According to NewsCorpse.com “Tea Baggers are quick to gush their reverence to the original intent of the Constitution — slavery, sexism, and all”. A 2011 Newsweek piece entitled “How Tea Partiers Get the Constitution Wrong” quotes Thomas Jefferson, mocking men who “look to constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the Arc of the Covenant”.

So, not only do “Tea Baggers” and conservatives use the Constitution as a disguise for their sinister agendas, they really don’t understand it, either. True, many Americans, this writer included, don’t grasp the Constitution in its totality, and even Supreme Court justices disagree over its meaning and application.

Still, citizens with only a modicum of education can comprehend the Bill of Rights, fully appreciative that those ten amendments limit the power of the federal government and retain specific rights for individuals and states. That people are embracing the Constitution should swell the hearts of civic activists who are forever promoting greater participatory democracy, but when gun-owners in Mississippi and Tea Partiers in Virginia start horning in on the debate, it’s time for the saner heads to issue dire warnings about heated dialogue and (cue the fright music) hidden agendas.

Liberal regard for the Constitution is far less predictable — they boast of their tolerance when reminding the prudes that the First Amendment protects Hustler’s Larry Flynt no less than your right to rail against ObamaCare.

Conservatives recognize that, while any style of governance must adapt to changing times, the glory of the Constitution is its unwavering affirmation not merely of the rights of American citizens, but the yearnings of human beings everywhere. Social justice was won, yes, by amendment, but also by extending constitutional principles to everyone. How great a document that we didn’t have to tear it up and start all over.

A New Republic piece mentions the “monstrosities” that Michele Bachmann and others associate with ObamaCare, and their desire to reverse the New Deal. And there we have found the liberal equivalent of the Constitution. They want political discourse and action to proceed from their own lofty ideals and noble intentions. They consider the Constitution broad, fluid and evolving, but Social Security and the reformist aims of FDR remain almost sacrosanct.

Liberals tend to hide their agendas (yes, they have them, too!) behind incrementalism, nuance and intellectual finesse. The Constitution, by contrast, is a blueprint for truth and decisiveness now. They are concerned, and well they should be, for the very spirit they seek to stigmatize is not only inspiring, it is contagious.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

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