American Elephants

The Constitution Is Under Attack! by The Elephant's Child

*The Constitution of the United States of America is 225 years old and in all that time amended only 27 times. It is the oldest constitution in the world, and has served us remarkably well.

So when all these other countries are writing constitutions and organizing new governments, how come they all form parliamentary governments of one sort or another? Even our very own Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg advised the Egyptians that if they were going to write a new Constitution, they ought to imitate the constitution of South Africa, which is precisely 16 years old. James Lileks explains  Justice Ginsberg’s appreciation for the South African Bill of Rights.

When French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing wrote the new constitution for the European Union, he studied the Constitution of the United States carefully, and wrote a constitution described as “a badly organized 855 page, 156,447 word document written at a 16th grade level”. It was elsewhere described as” the Constitution of a Dictatorship.”

It’s not too hard to figure out. Constitutions are written by politicians. Our Constitution is a document that says “We the People” grant these limited powers to the government, and anything else we reserve to ourselves. What politician is going to go for that kind of official limitation on their power? Some of us might say that politicians do a pretty good job of gathering power to themselves in spite of the limitations of the Constitution, and we’d be right. But the Constitution guarantees us a hearing when the politicians have gone too far, and we can call them to account.

Governments don’t want a populace that can talk back. When our new government was first formed, European countries were horrified. It was inconceivable to them that we should so elevate the common man. They had centuries of the Divine Right of Kings, and landed aristocracy, peasants and shopkeepers. Remember what an earthquake it was in the Middle East when triumphant Iraqis went to the polls to vote, men and women, and waved their purple-stained fingers in the air for newsmen to photograph.

The president and all officers of the government as well as the Congress and the Courts take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Obama’s aggressive disregard for any constitutional limit on what he wants to do has had the effect of sending Americans back to the Constitution. Conservative complaints are directed to all areas of Obama’s policy, foreign, economic and social. The fear that Mr. Obama was changing the rules led to the founding of the Tea Party movement.

On foreign policy, Obama’s claim that firing rockets in Libya were somehow not a war was troubling. Obama’s hiring of all sorts of ‘czars’ to manage aspects of national policy without congressional approval was disturbing. The notion that Obama could decide whether or not Congress was in session or in recess so he could make recess appointments of  someone who could not get Congressional approval, angered many. The administration’s argument that the protections of the First Amendment  do not extend to the Catholic Church’s freedom of conscience, while simultaneously granting freedom from participation to Muslims is sure to engender another Constitutional challenge. The administration’s EPA has been losing one court case after another, so there has been some welcome check on the agency’s activities.

Ordinary Americans who had never previously  heard of the Commerce Clause are perfectly capable of understanding the argument that if the federal government can require a citizen to buy a product in the marketplace, there is nothing that the citizen cannot be forced to do. How startling then, to discover that way too many liberals could not grasp that argument.

Liberals do not like the Constitution and would prefer to have it rewritten. They would much prefer a document that spells out the rights that the government grants to citizens and one that puts no limits on what government can do. Then they can all work for government, and they could keep the rest of us from disagreeing with them. Not my idea of Utopia, but I don’t believe in unicorns either.

* The marvelous Michael Ramirez daily comes up with perfect visual analogies. I don’t know how he does it, but you can see his work daily at, and even purchase his book on his best political cartoons. A wonderful record of what we were thinking at a particular moment in time.

ADDENDUM: Here is Obama, agreeing with me about liberals Constitutional preferences. He goes even farther, to state that the Constitution should certainly contain rights about redistribution of wealth. At least this was his opinion on
January 6, 2011.

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There are several constitutions that predate the U.S. constitution (e.g., that of Independent Corsica, which was one of the inspirations for the U.S. constitution), and while some (like Switzerland’s and France’s) have been officially changed several times, the changes have not always been that large. In the case of Switzerland’s, for example, it was updated to reflect that the federation had taken on more cantons. Some countries call it a new constitution, others insert amendments.

How come they all form parliamentary governments of one sort or another? One sort or the other is right. France has a very strong presidential system, and the President is separately elected, and has at times been from a different party than the majority in the Parliament. (The French call such situations cohabitation — sort of like Clinton with a Republican Congress.) Switzerland, by contrast, reserves many powers for individual citizens, and restricts the power of its federal government much more than does the U.S. constitution. Basically, the federal government exists to deal with other countries, collect statistics, and organize a national defense (and postal service).

Liberals do not like the Constitution and would prefer to have it rewritten.

Really? I know many liberals who decidedly would not agree with such a statement. Perhaps some liberals would like to see the Constitution rewritten, but hardly all. It’s as ridiculous a statement as making a general claim that all conservatives eschew contraception.

I know your central point is about Obama and his attitude about the Constitution, but I find it irksome that you can’t resist throwing around generalizations that are, at best, half true.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

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