Republicans: “We Love the Constitution”; Me: “Bullshit”
Why do we continue to let Republicans get away with claiming to love the Constitution. Why do we remain silent when they claim that the Constitution is not a “living document” but that it simply means what it says? We let Republicans define their own view of the Constitution without calling them on their utter hypocrisy. Now that they’ve read the Constitution in the House (well, at least a sanitized version of it), it’s time to push back on their occasional fidelity to the principles of that hallowed document.
How many times have you heard a Republican say that the First Amendment doesn’t contain the phrase “separation of church and state”? Thus, they argue, the wall of separation is not what the Founding Fathers intended. But, by the same token, how many times have you heard a Republican note that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms is premised upon the necessity for a well-regulated militia? Isn’t it odd how quick Republicans are to demand a very tight parsing of words sometimes but not others?
Now Republicans are taking aim at the 14th Amendment’s birthright citizenship clause arguing that even though the words of the clause are clear (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”), citizenship for someone just because they were born in the United States isn’t what was intended. Hmm. We’re not supposed to look at what the Founding Fathers intended in the First Amendment or Second Amendment, but we are supposed to look at the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment and limited its applicability to former slaves?
Consider this, as well: If Republicans have such an affinity for the Constitution, why are they always so eager to change it? Republicans have proposed repealing the birthright citizenship clause, repealing the 17th Amendment (direct election of senators by citizens instead of by state legislatures), and adding amendments to allow school prayer, ban abortion, and ban same-sex marriage.
One further point to make on this subject: If you read through the amendments to the Constitution, you’ll see that they either restructure procedure (e.g., how Presidential elections and succession work) or grant rights to citizens (e.g., the right to be a citizen, the right of women to vote, the lowering of the voting age, the right to elect senators, and the rights in the Bill of Rights, including the right to freedom of religion, speech, and the press). Only one amendment, the 18th Amendment (prohibition) actually took freedoms away from citizens and that amendment was repealed just fourteen years after it was adopted. Yet Republicans want to amend the Constitution to take away some of those core rights and further amend the Constitution to take away even more rights (or at least create new divisions between classes of people).
Or think of it this way: When you hear about a court case in which one side is arguing that the Constitution protects a particular personal right or argues for the extension of the Constitution to recognize a particular personal right, as a general matter is it usually (of course there are exceptions) Republicans arguing for the expansion of personal rights or against the expansion of personal rights? Here are a few to think about: abortion, interracial marriage, privacy, Miranda rights, searches and seizures, same-sex marriage, voting rights, and discrimination. (Gun control is the one issue where the roles are commonly reversed, but then part of the argument in support of gun control laws is the militia clause in the Second Amendment.)
Alternatively, think of it this way: Which party, Republicans or Democrats, is more often heard complaining about the American Civil Liberties Union? And what exactly is the purpose of the ACLU that so offends so many Republicans: “The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country”. So why, exactly, is the ACLU a four-letter word to Republicans? Shouldn’t defending and preserving individual rights and liberties be supported by all who believe in the Constitution?
And why do Republicans base their opposition to health care reform on the Constitution yet have no problem with warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, and torture? Why do Republicans want to impose their religious viewpoints on others (school prayer and beginning of life, to name just two) but yell and scream when someone else simply wants to exercise their right to practice their own faith (the Park 51 “Ground Zero” mosque, for example)? Why are Republicans so incensed by a bi-racial President born in Hawaii (so much so that they’re willing to believe that he was born in Kenya or Indonesia or the Zoraxian Galaxy) but were completely ambivalent about a President and Vice President from the same state?
Republicans claim to love the Constitution. They tell us that we should read it carefully and that what it says is what it means, not what courts have “interpreted” it to mean or what we modern Americans might now think it means. In fact, Republicans do love the Constitution; at least the parts that … well … that they love. And the rest of it, the other parts? Not so much.
So next time you hear a Republican tell you how devoted he or she is to the Constitution and its principles, just respond with the truth: “Bullshit.”