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Parry writes: "The U.S. Constitution has become part of today's political battlefield, with the Right claiming to be its true defender and the Left questioning why the old parchment should undercut democratic choices in the modern age."

Illustration, the signing of the US Constitution. (photo: GenealogyOfConsent.WordPress.com)
Illustration, the signing of the US Constitution. (photo: GenealogyOfConsent.WordPress.com)



Is the Constitution Still Relevant?

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

06 January 13

 

here are two major schools of thought about the U.S. Constitution. One from the Left argues that it's an outdated structure that should not be allowed to inhibit actions necessary to meet the needs of a modern society. And one from the Right, that only a "strict constructionist" reading of the Constitution and respect for the Framers' "original intent" should be allowed.

But the problem with these two views is that neither is logically consistent or honest. The Left, for instance, embraces important constitutional liberties, such as habeas corpus, freedom of speech, and prohibitions against "cruel and unusual punishments" and unreasonable searches and seizures -- regardless of the exigencies of the moment.

Yet, the Left disdains much of the Constitution for its anti-democratic and even immoral compromises, which enabled the new governing document to emerge from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and narrowly win ratification in 1788. Not only did the Constitution countenance slavery, it undercut democracy by giving two senators to each state regardless of population (and originally having them appointed by state legislatures, not elected by the people).

Why, ask many on the Left, should modern American society be restricted by the judgments of a small group of propertied white men -- many of them slaveholders -- who died two centuries ago? Why should old compromises, which now seem ridiculously quaint and wrongheaded, be allowed to distort and constrain democratic judgments in 2013?

As Georgetown University constitutional law professor Louis Michael Seidman wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, much of the fault behind today's gridlock in Washington can be traced to the "archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions" of the U.S. Constitution. He added:

"Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago."

The Right's Distortions

While the Left tends to view the Constitution as an irretrievably flawed document (albeit with individual liberties that the Left loves), the Right has made political hay by presenting itself as the Constitution's true defenders. The Right argues for what it calls "strict construction" and "original intent."

Yet, even right-wing Supreme Court justices who wax eloquently about "originalism" will twist the Framers' words and intentions when ideologically convenient, such as when Antonin Scalia inserted restrictions in the Commerce Clause -- during his opposition to the Affordable Care Act -- although James Madison and the Framers left the congressional power to regulate interstate and national commerce unlimited.

Indeed, from a strict reading of the Constitution, Madison had a much more robust respect for the democratic decisions of the elected branches of government than does today's Right.

In oral arguments on "Obamacare" in 2012, Scalia fretted about the possibility that Congress might use the Commerce Clause to mandate compulsory broccoli purchases, but Madison seemed to understand that if Congress and the President were nutty enough to do something like that, the voters would have the commonsense to un-elect those representatives at the next opportunity.

However, rather than trusting in Madison's language giving Congress the unlimited power to regulate commerce, Scalia insisted on second-guessing the Framers by applying his own judgments about what limitations should be in the Commerce Clause.

Scalia's Constitutional re-write was accepted by his fellow right-wingers, including Chief Justice John Roberts, although -- at the last minute -- Roberts joined with four Democratic justices to deem the Affordable Care Act constitutional under the taxing power of Congress. Still, Roberts rejected the Commerce Clause as justification after he arbitrarily eliminated some 18th Century definitions of the word "regulate."

In other words, Scalia and Roberts played games with the Constitution to make it fit with their political biases. They really didn't give a hoot about "strict construction." [For details, see Robert Parry's America's Stolen Narrative.]

Similarly, when Scalia and four other Republican justices wanted George W. Bush in the White House, they suddenly discerned in the Fourteenth Amendment's demand for "equal protection under the law" an "original intent" to ensure Bush's Florida victory in Election 2000 -- though the amendment was adopted after the Civil War to protect the rights of former black slaves, not white plutocrats.

Thus, the U.S. Constitution has become something like a secular Bible, with people using different parts to justify whatever their desired positions already are. Instead of letting the words of the Constitution guide their governance, they let their governing interests dictate how they interpret the Constitution.

But the Right -- much more than the Left -- has built a cottage industry around this practice, sending well-funded "scholars" back in time to cherry-pick (or fabricate) quotes from the Framers to support whatever the Right wants done. The Right’s commitment to “strict construction” is only a facade.

Changing Reality

That the modern American Right twists historical reality, I suppose, should not come as a shock. After all, today's Right has organized itself around propaganda regarding current events, from talk radio to Fox News to ideological think tanks. So, why should anyone expect anything different about how the Right would deal with history?

The Right also understands that national mythology is a powerful force, very effective in manipulating Americans into believing they are standing with the Founders even if the history has to be falsified to achieve that emotional response. Many Tea Partiers, it seems, will eagerly eat up a stew of bad history served by the likes of Glenn Beck.

Thus, we have key chapters of that early history effectively expunged, such as the disastrous reign of the Articles of Confederation from 1777 to 1787. The Articles declared the 13 states "sovereign" and "independent" with the central government just a "league of friendship" with little power.

Because of that original structure, the United States was lurching toward catastrophe by 1787, with a major revolt erupting in western Massachusetts (the Shays' Rebellion) and European powers plotting how to exploit divisions between the states and regions. General George Washington, in particular, worried that the hard-won independence of the new country was in jeopardy.

So, to understand what Washington, Madison and other key Framers were trying to do with the Constitution, you must first read the Articles of Confederation, i.e., what prompted the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Washington and Madison were so determined to correct the flaws of the Articles that they defied their instructions, which were to propose some changes to the Articles. Instead, they threw out the old system.

The Framers replaced the Articles and the emphasis on states' rights and a weak central government with nearly the opposite, a structure that made the federal government much more powerful and its law supreme across the land. Sovereignty was transferred to "We the People" and the states were left mostly with responsibility for local matters.

At the time, opponents of the Constitution, known as the Anti-Federalists, were keenly aware of what Washington and Madison had engineered, and these skeptics fought fiercely against the federal power grab, just barely losing in several key states, such as Virginia, New York and Massachusetts.

A Revised Narrative

Yet, by recreating the Founding Narrative so it jumps from the Declaration of Independence in 1776 directly to the U.S. Constitution in 1787, the modern Right has learned that it can convince ill-informed Americans that the Constitution was devised as a states' rights document with a weak central government, when nearly the opposite was the case.

The key to the Right's false narrative is to delete (or ignore) the Articles of Confederation and thus eliminate what Washington and Madison were reacting against.

So, what the American people are now stuck with is a debate in which one side (the Left) largely dismisses the relevance of the Constitution (beyond some cherished individual rights) and the other (the Right) lies about what the document was designed to do. Thus, the nation finds itself in something between a muddle and a quandary.

The best path to firmer ground would seem to be, twofold: a serious effort to reclaim the real history of the Constitution from the charlatans on the Right and a recognition that the Constitution, as amended, creates an imperfect but still workable framework for democratic change, a rebuff to some on the Left.

The reality is that the Framers did include broad and flexible powers in the Constitution, so future elected representatives could work their will on matters important to the "general Welfare." As already noted, the Commerce Clause was not limited by the Framers; it was restricted by the current majority of right-wing ideologues who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

And as for the Left, it should recognize that -- with some political changes, such as the expanded use of primaries and caucuses to select Democratic and Republican candidates, filibuster reform and some more public financing of campaigns -- the Constitution allows for a reasonably vibrant, though clearly imperfect, democratic process.

Today's political crisis can more accurately be blamed on the Right's well-funded propaganda machine which has succeeded in supplanting history and science with propaganda and disinformation -- and the failure of the Left and the Center to fight as hard for the truth as the Right fights for its fallacies.

 

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+57 # tswhiskers 2013-01-06 10:52
Yes, the Constitution is relevant. However it must be treated carefully, like a modern biblical scholar looks at the Bible, outdated when taken literally but very useful as a framework and as a part of our history. Rachel Maddow talked about how the new Rep. Congress of 2010 made a point of reading the Constitution aloud, but leaving out the parts that didn't suit individual agendas. She also made the point that the Reps. vowed to include the part(s) of the Const. that were relevant to every bill they put forward. That didn't work even with the first bills so it quickly disappeared. Life has changed, become more complex, more rapid than it was in 1789. A sensible Supreme Court is ever more necessary as life continues to change. We cannot afford strict constructionist s in our courts any more than we can afford biblical fundamentalists in our schools and levels of govt. Frankly, it might be nice to 1 or 2 PhD's of American history on the Supreme Court. The Constitution is a work of genius. It is and was meant to be a flexible document. We cannot allow the far right to misuse it for their own undemocratic purposes. We need judges who love the Const. more than they love a given agenda. We need far better politicians than this country has produced in a long time. The good ones are too few and far between. Amen, Mr. Parry.
 
 
+38 # ghostperson 2013-01-06 13:48
Selective quoting is a favorite of the right concerning the Constitution and the Bible. It is often followed by misinterpretati on to suit the one quoting either work.
 
 
+7 # joedeane 2013-01-06 14:45
In a fascist state, a consittution is a sham. So here we are. It takes a lot of thought to see that fascism is national supremacism, not totalitarianism , whatever that is.
 
 
+1 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 17:20
Totalitarianism would be a police state. I often see those on the Right try to imply that fascism and communism are the same when they are inferring to totalitarianism or the police state that either may use to employ their ideology.

Republic means govt of the people as in owned by the people and not owned by say an elite class such as a monarchy, rich, corporations, etc. Fascism is not govt owned means of production in of itself.

Fascism employs the country over all other countries. It is typically controlled by an elite class, ie merchant class. National Socialism is an offshoot of fascism in that it does the same thing perse but employs a nation of people over all others. Nation is not the same as a country but nation as in one particular ethnic group. Ethnic Germans for example are on top of the food chain. All others are sub citizens with no rights or lesser rights who serve the prima. In fascism that particular country would be the citizens with the rights regardless of ethnicity of those within the country and all other countries would be sub-citizens meant to be used to fulfill the needs of the first citizen or prima.
 
 
+33 # humanmancalvin 2013-01-06 13:00
I have not heard anybody on the left disdain the constitution. Site some sources.
 
 
+12 # Junius 2013-01-06 14:07
Quoting humanmancalvin:
I have not heard anybody on the left disdain the constitution. Site some sources.

"
Howard Zinn, The Nation 1987:
"The proper question, I believe, is not how good a documentis or was the Constitution but, What effect does it have on the quality of our lives? And the answer to that, it seems to me, is, Very little. The Constitution makes promises it cannot by itself keep, and therefore deludes us into complacency about the rights we have. It is conspicuously silent on certain other rights that all human beings deserve. And it pretends to set limits on governmental powers, when in fact those limits are easily ignored"
 
 
+18 # BradFromSalem 2013-01-06 15:30
I don't read Howard Zinn's commentary as quoted above as a call to ignore the Constitution, but rather an accurate description of the both the strength and the weakness of the document.

The Constitution is only a framework around which we the people may construct the government. In some areas it is quite plain and clear, curiously, those areas are generally reserved to describe the particular branches of government and the process by which those branches are selected. As the provisions move into areas of actual legislation the restrictions and powers are less clear. One cannot help but think that it was intentional and even when it details the crime of treason; a lot is room for interpretation is clearly there.

The weaknesses that Zinn calls out were in fact intentional. Done, I am sure due to political expedience as much as genius. He is right that it has little to do with our every day life, and intentional or not that is its magic power. The Constitution has little effect on our daily life, that is left to the 3 branches. The Constitution is just their road map, subject to change; it is not a bible.

And the Founders clearly intended us to debate what each provision means and to change them as necessary. I know because that is exactly what they did.
 
 
+9 # jon 2013-01-06 15:34
Quoting Junius:
Quoting humanmancalvin:
I have not heard anybody on the left disdain the constitution. Site some sources.

"
Howard Zinn, The Nation 1987:
"The proper question, I believe, is not how good a documentis or was the Constitution but, What effect does it have on the quality of our lives? And the answer to that, it seems to me, is, Very little. The Constitution makes promises it cannot by itself keep, and therefore deludes us into complacency about the rights we have. It is conspicuously silent on certain other rights that all human beings deserve. And it pretends to set limits on governmental powers, when in fact those limits are easily ignored"


I don't see that quote from Zinn as disdain for the Constitution.

I think Zinn is talking about how easy it is, today, for our rights to be trampled on by a modern government that cares not a bit about "We the People".
 
 
+6 # cafetomo 2013-01-06 15:47
Howard was questioning the effect, not the item in question. That it is challenged, is a good thing. When one interest or another gets to reinterpret it for the rest of us, we lose our baseline of concurrence, and become rootless in both law and morality. "By whose authority?" should be the question. If the answer does not address the needs of humanity as a whole and this nation in particular, it is merely more from those who would change the rules in their favor. The constitution itself changes nothing. It is our consensus in applying these principles to ourselves as much as others, that will have any effect.
 
 
+6 # Cassandra2012 2013-01-06 15:42
Quoting humanmancalvin:
I have not heard anybody on the left disdain the constitution. Site some sources.

CITE
 
 
-7 # PrinceDarrell 2013-01-06 16:27
Lawyers.. fresh out of Law school. My room mate.. Occupiers. Rachel Maddow. Failure to even give the core concept of central principals and rules the respect it deserves.
 
 
0 # dkonstruction 2013-01-08 07:48
Quoting humanmancalvin:
I have not heard anybody on the left disdain the constitution. Site some sources.


I would agree that for the most part "the left" doesn't "disdain the constitution" but there are certainly left critiques: from Charles Beard's "Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the US" to Robert Mcquire's more recent "To Form A More Perfect Union" which recognize that the Constitution is in many ways a document meant to secure the property rights and economic privilege of the ruling elite. Then there are those (more in the libertarian/ana rchist "camp") who understand the Constitution as the "counterrevolut ion" meant to slow down or stop the spread of "too much" democracy and give the Federal Gov't the powers to respond to mass uprisings from below (such as Shay's Rebellion in 1786-87 itself just the lastest in more than 100 years of rebellions from below) which helped convince some of the Founders that the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient to control these rebellions from below -- including slave rebellions and native american resistance (see e.g., "Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle" by Leonard Richards or "Shay's Rebellion" by David Szatmary). And, of course, there are those (e.g., George Van Cleve's "A Slaveholder's Union) that understand the Constitution as being a document intimiately related to the maintenance and spread of slavery and the power of the slave states.
 
 
+38 # DaveM 2013-01-06 13:05
The Constitution created a concept of government that was completely new in 1787: everything not prohibited was permitted. The precise opposite of monarchy or tyranny. The 10th Amendment allowed individual states to decide how much regulating they wanted to do so long as they did not cross certain lines. It also provided for the Federal government to act as an arbiter in disputes between states.

There were significant omissions. Slavery would not be banned for almost another 80 years. And a "strict" reading of the original wording led to the denial of basic civil rights to women for 130 years. These have been attended to through the amendment process, which will continue.

The Constitution was and is an outline for a nation. What we erect, tear down, improve, and so on around that outline is up to each generation of Americans. It was designed that way.

Thomas Jefferson did not write the Constitution, but put it well:

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
 
 
+22 # ansleypk@aol.com 2013-01-06 13:56
Congratulations on a thoughtful response.
I usually stop reading after a few because it is too depressing to see how many Americans are either so biased or so uneducated. You have written one of the best responses I've ever read on these boards. Thanks.
 
 
+6 # Ralph Averill 2013-01-07 02:06
Agreed!!
 
 
+3 # Junius 2013-01-06 14:00
Quoting DaveM:

Thomas Jefferson did not write the Constitution, but put it well:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."


Jefferson's initial response to the proposed "presidency" was that it would eventually turn to despotism.
 
 
0 # RLF 2013-01-07 05:23
!!! Really?
 
 
0 # Granny Weatherwax 2013-01-07 15:10
Yes, really.
Still a very great man, but just a man.
For more about his paradoxes, check out http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/2002_summer_fall/tj_views.htm
 
 
+2 # RLF 2013-01-07 05:40
Defacto changes seem to happen no matter what. The equal treatment under law seems to be a major problem right now with bankers that trade with drug kingpins with no prosecution and large corporations that pay no taxes while the self employed and mom/pop business pays a lot. Let's face it...the justice system is broken and the people who could fix it are profiting from it being broken. Hardly any part of this country's government that that works. I'm not sure it is fixable.
 
 
+1 # DaveM 2013-01-06 13:06
As an interesting comparison to today's "Constitutional literalists", see the work and opinions of retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
 
 
+16 # ghostperson 2013-01-06 13:42
The strict constitutional constructionist s as they like to call themselves mean the Constitution they massaged to their liking and imagination, not the one the founding fathers actually wrote.

Souter was a free thinker and was on the verge of resigning after the per curiam decision in Bush v. Gore (2000)
 
 
+15 # wherefore 2013-01-06 13:09
"...it undercut democracy by giving two senators to each state regardless of population..." But the Constitution did not create a democracy; it was designed to create a republic. The Senate exists to partly even out the influence of states with large populations compared to that of less populous states. That's a good idea, regardless of the initial rational. And this is why the filibuster has to be eliminated; it creates a bizarro world where the minority PARTY is given undue weight, rather than giving some protection to smaller states.
 
 
+5 # Depressionborn 2013-01-06 16:19
Yes. The fear was that the large states would overwhelm the small, even to taking control of their land.
 
 
+8 # Gnome de Pluehm 2013-01-06 13:28
We have to stick with it because, as outdated as it might be, there is no one in Washington who is wise enough and trustworthy enough to create a new one.
 
 
+8 # PrinceDarrell 2013-01-06 13:30
The concept of a centrally defined set of principals and laws that govern legal and illegal behavior is critical at this time and any other. The laws can and must change; but the work has to be done to change the central documents. Liberals are completely disrespectful of this idea, and the result is the loss of civil liberties... Republicans are lip service preaching it as gospel, while primarily using it to mean whatever fits their actual idealogy, just like they do with the idea of Christ, who apparently was very tolerant of war mongers. Refocusing on the Constitution, first amending it, having a large number (10+ % of the populace) fully read the document and discuss, would do more to focus our country than nearly anything else imaginable. Getting in a Clean air and Clean water Amendment this year, and a full Constitutional Convention next year would be a major revolution. Lots of things, like the 2nd amendment need to be updated and more specifically mandated. Great, and well informed article.

http://catalysttounity.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/a-little-about-us/
 
 
+1 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:56
Which Liberals do you infer and in how are they completely disrespectful to the idea you stated? Are you inferring the Patriot Act and recent verbiage in the last two NDAA and referring to Democrats?

Even if Congress passes an amendment it has to be ratified by the States. Passing an act into law is not the same thing as passing a constitutional amendment.

Example just because Congress passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery did not make it constitutional yet. It had to be ratified by the States hence it was rushed to get passed BEFORE the Southern states could be admitted into the Union while they had the needed States to ratify it.

So as Congress can pass gun control laws that does not amend the US Constitution in of itself such as the Bill of Rights. We can sue about its Constitutionali ty and SCOTUS can determine its constitutionali ty. In short Congress can pass statutory and regulatory law while the Courts make common law on their rulings of the former two. If we want to actually change the 2nd Amendment well that is quite different. You have to have the support of the States themselves otherwise it is pointless.

Example Suffrage for women. We did not get an amendment about women's right to vote till after a majority of the states themselves had passed state laws saying women did have the right to vote. The subsequent amendment to the bill of rights forced the states who had not passed women's voting rights to have to allow them to.
 
 
+3 # ghostperson 2013-01-06 13:43
The one the right has shredded is, the one they created and put in its place is not.
 
 
+2 # Junius 2013-01-06 13:50
The paper constitution has been irrelevant for years. The actual constitution is what the rulers say it is.
 
 
+7 # LizR 2013-01-06 14:34
When the constitution was drawn up there were no automatic weapons. Even the revolver was invented in 1814. Hence the relevance of every citizen's "right to bear arms" being extended to Uzis and AK47s is, to say the least, questionable. (Does it also include nukes, by the way? I have a little project going in my basement that I'm sure is protected by my constitutional rights...)
 
 
-4 # Depressionborn 2013-01-06 14:42
exactly. So who rules? (Hint: see the Second Amendment)
 
 
0 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:39
So when are you going to go die on the altar of freedom?
 
 
+4 # Granny Weatherwax 2013-01-07 15:19
The second amendment is an excellent example of distorted interpretation of the original intent.

The new Republic needed an army but couldn't pay for nor was it too keen on a standing army.
It was therefore decided that every citizen could take arms in an organized, well GOVT-regulated militia should the need arise. They were even originally required to pay for their own gun.

The "militia as check on federal govt" is nonsense: one of its first deployment was against the Shays rebellion, lead by Washington himself.

There is now a standing army, thus voiding the need for a well-regulated militia.

The "Right to bear arms" means the right to enlist in the militia (i.e. the army), not the right to sport a six-shooter in a Wallmart. It was specifically to avoid the cooptation of accepted soldiers that would create a military class on the margin of the general population.

Translated in modern English, the 2nd amendment therefore means the able bodies and minded people have the right to enlist.

We are far from "thou shalst have a gun".
 
 
+1 # BradFromSalem 2013-01-08 05:28
Granny,

Great explanation. I had already come to the same interpretation, but somehow your calling out the term "Right to bear arms" really struck me as confirmation. The right is to bear arms in service of the militia, not to shoot the militia. Makes sense.
 
 
+14 # hardtraveling 2013-01-06 14:58
The US Constitution is a living document, subject to amendment and change, with well-defined processes in place for amending it. We are currently in crisis situations concerning civil liberties and democratic governance, that is government of, by and for the people. The civil liberties crisis exists because of the Federal government's overreach in the Patriot Act, the NDAA,etc, which defy the rights of individual citizens, as set forth in the 1st and 14th amendments. The democratic governance crisis exists because the power of money to influence legislation has overridden the power of the individual vote. The first crisis can be addressed by the mass of people demanding that the government adhere to the Constitutional guarantees of free speech, assembly, habeas corpus, etc. The second crisis can be addressed by putting in place an amendment that states that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Therefore, in both crises, the Constitution is necessary and relevant.
 
 
+6 # JSRaleigh 2013-01-06 15:32
I've been pretty much on the left all my life, but this the first I've heard that the Constitution is supposed to be an "irretrievably flawed document".
 
 
+3 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:38
Yeah me too.
 
 
0 # Nel 2013-01-06 15:36
Never mind the USA Constitution for we have become a colony.
 
 
+2 # RMDC 2013-01-06 18:18
A colony? don't you mean we've been taken over by a corporate elite who now totally control the central government.

Maybe you are thinking that the central government is under the control of Israel. I'd agree with that.
 
 
0 # Nel 2013-01-06 18:50
dah...
 
 
+1 # Abigail 2013-01-06 15:55
Ban the use of TV for electioneering, and we will be closer to what a democracy should be. TV means needing money, needing money means influence. Ban one and recover democracy. The British have done it, and they don't claim to be a democracy.
 
 
-17 # cordleycoit 2013-01-06 15:58
Leftoids are control phreaks they think their ideas are vastly superior than the next person and their hand on the wheel with the help of tons of police would be a cure all for poverty discrimination immigration and redistribution of the wealth. The forget that we fought a shot sharp war with Germany which called idea National Socialism. The right would have the same police enforcing the right of the rich to own the poor.Both states are what is called fascism. Republics are hard to manage and people who have lived in them appear hard to govern which is why we have a written constitution. The left worships a failed Marxism and the right wants to live in 1786.
Republics are about living in the now and being flexible.
 
 
+4 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:38
Republic mean govt owned by the people as opposed to being owned by an elite class such as a monarchy, rich, corporations, etc. It has nothing to do with economic policies etc such as the Republic owning the Commons.

I love how some want to try to emphasize socialism in Nazi as if that makes them left ideology. It does not. Fascism is OPPOSITE to socialism. The key word you miss is NATIONALISM. Corporations were all up Hitler's ass getting favors.

Police states are totalitarian not socialist or nationalist in of themselves. The Soviets called the Germans fascists while the Germans called the Soviets communists. Both were right in describing the other regardless if both were totalitarian.
 
 
0 # Granny Weatherwax 2013-01-07 15:25
I agree.
Although NSDAP does mean literally national socialist (and) democratic party of the workers, this is a great example of Orwellian new-speak; just as the clean air (in your dreams) act, the healthy (non) forest act.
If you take these names at face value, then the DPRK is a republic, democratic and popular.
 
 
+4 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:02
THE ENTIRE LEFT feels this way? The US Constitution is a LIVING document, meaning it can change as society changes. When it was first instituted it did not grant equality to all. Over time we have had to amend it to correct those discrepancies.

What we are stuck with today is opinions that are rigid as to what the FFs intended. What people do not look at or very rarely is what laws were passed THEN such as the two militia acts passed in the same week in 1792 just one year after the bill of rights was ratified. Both measures talk of the militia. The first extended Congressional powers to call upon the militia to POTUS as well as organize the militia just as any standing army would be organized. The second was to make conscription of all able bodied FREE men of age 18-45 to which they had to provide their own musket, munitions, etc.
 
 
+4 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:02
So the intent of the second amendment was NOT to have survivalists all across the US massively armed but to have a citizens army and not one that simply was to put down foreign invasion but put down insurrection and rebellions. The whole idea that it is only implying that it is to keep the govt from being corrupt is false. Unless you are willing to actually take up arms then their point is moot. What SOME FFs did not want to happen was for some people to try to take over our govt for their own needs as well. Militias, ie people's armies were important for community defense. What others did not want to happen as well is for e central govt to deny the people to defend themselves as the previous monarchy had. We seem to forget we had a frontier with locals who did not like us taking their land and who were actually fighting us over it.
 
 
+6 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:11
As a person on the Left I do not buy his characterizatio n of the Left. I do not see the US Constitution as irrelevant. It is very relevant. It is just NOT rigid and meant to be living as in changing.

To add to what I said earlier the Federalists passed the Sedition Act to which Jefferson opposed. Ladies and Gentlemen we would call that a Patriot Act today. When Jefferson became POTUS he reversed that act. He freed those who had been imprisoned due to it and compensated them. BUT I really wish people would stop using Jefferson as some pillar of freedom. Jefferson is liked by many historians because he emplifies American Hypocrisy. He could had freed his slaves as several of his counterparts did once the war was over but he did not. He bought and sold his slaves while trying to hide it from the public eye. He said blacks were inferior and smelled. He as well in his first term slashed the govt down to peanuts. Many look at that as ideal BUT during his second term we were unable to do anything to stop the French and British from taking our sailors and forcing them to serve in either navy. You see Jefferson had mothballed our navy and to avoid war what did he do? He forbid foreign trade which tanked our economy. He wanted Congress to create harsh measures against those who were violating this. Congress told him to suck a duck.
 
 
-3 # Junius 2013-01-06 17:40
Quoting DevinMacGregor:

I really wish people would stop using Jefferson as some pillar of freedom. Jefferson is liked by many historians because he emplifies American Hypocrisy. He could had freed his slaves as several of his counterparts did once the war was over but he did not. He bought and sold his slaves while trying to hide it from the public eye. He said blacks were inferior and smelled. He as well in his first term slashed the govt down to peanuts. Many look at that as ideal BUT during his second term we were unable to do anything to stop the French and British from taking our sailors and forcing them to serve in either navy. You see Jefferson had mothballed our navy and to avoid war what did he do? He forbid foreign trade which tanked our economy. He wanted Congress to create harsh measures against those who were violating this. Congress told him to suck a duck.

Now there's a perfect summation of American history from the faux "left."
 
 
0 # Junius 2013-01-06 18:43
Quoting DevinMacGregor:

Jefferson is liked by many historians because he emplifies American Hypocrisy.

Historians are hypocritians?

Quoting DevinMacGregor:

He could had freed his slaves as several of his counterparts did once the war was over but he did not.

The first slave manumitted under the new (1782) Virginia law was manumitted in 1791, so the manumission business was hardly steaming.

Quoting DevinMacGregor:

He bought and sold his slaves while trying to hide it from the public eye.

Yeah, he hid them at Monticello.

Quoting DevinMacGregor:

He said blacks were inferior and smelled.

He changed his mind.

Quoting DevinMacGregor:

You see Jefferson had mothballed our navy

Anyone who sees an American navy in 1800 could as easily see Elvis in 2013.

Quoting DevinMacGregor:

to avoid war what did he do? He forbid foreign trade which tanked our economy.

The Embargo forced Americans to manufacture things they had always bought from England, and that gave a much great boost to economic development than Hamilton's bank schemes.
 
 
-1 # DevinMacGregor 2013-01-06 16:28
To continue Jefferson post TWO insurrections that we had stated that these were good things. That the blood of patriots and tyrants should ever so often be shed on the altar of freedom. Gee fine and dandy but go ahead Mr Jefferson and tell the widow or now son less mother how it was so cool her sons/husbands/b rothers etc were slain for say gay rights? It should be remembered that Washington road out in FRONT of our troops. Jefferson did not. And note to what I said earlier about our sailors being taken from our merchant vessels. Where was his rhetoric of the blood of patriots and tyrants then? When the Brits came for Virginia he fled. He was brought up on cowardice charges which were later charged. None the less he did not stand and fight the tyrants when they came to take Virginia. No he let someone else have the balls to face the bullets.

And as POTUS what did he do to abolish slavery? He instead thought to allow it to move into the frontier as in all the way to the Mississippi saying this would dilute it. Adams looked at him like he was nuts such as if you let a cancer spread to the rest of the body the body dies. Several decades later 600,000 Americans died on that altar he loved to run away from. Wasn't that cool.

Yet the revisionists exist still today in talking about it was only about state rights vs the federal govt while ignoring that we have had to use force to ensure others have the same rights as the majority and even then we still failed.
 
 
0 # Junius 2013-01-06 19:42
Quoting DevinMacGregor:

And as POTUS what did he do to abolish slavery?

A potus? Is that one of those secret societies?
He tried to inject a denunciation of the slave trade into the Declaration and in 1776 proposed to ameliorate Virginia's slave laws. Before the Revolution, he had twice represented slaves suing for freedom. In Congress in 1784, he chaired the committee on the western territories and brought in a plan to end slavery there (including Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama). He lost by one vote. Three years afterward, Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance, accepting Jefferson's framework but omitting the antislavery element. His Louisiana Purchase as president added 4 slave states but 11 free states, tilting the balance toward the latter. The constitution guaranteed the slave trade for 20 years so the first opportunity to end it came toward the end of Jefferson's presidency, and he "congratulated Congress in advance" in losing no time to end the trade.
 
 
0 # tm7devils 2013-01-06 18:37
Never mind the constitution... we have become an oligarchic fascist police state. Where do we -the people- go from here?
Maybe we should rewrite the constitution to reflect the current state of affairs...
Whether we do or not, the reality will remain the same.
 
 
0 # Junius 2013-01-06 19:18
Quoting DevinMacGregor:
It should be remembered that Washington road out in FRONT of our troops.

So did Benedict Arnold and George Custer.


Quoting DevinMacGregor:

our sailors being taken from our merchant vessels. Where was his rhetoric of the blood of patriots and tyrants then?

non sequitur

Quoting DevinMacGregor:

When the Brits came for Virginia he fled.

like Washington at Brandywine and many other battles.



Quoting DevinMacGregor:

He was brought up on cowardice charges which were later charged.

He was charged with nothing.

Quoting DevinMacGregor:

he did not stand and fight the tyrants when they came to take Virginia. No he let someone else have the balls to face the bullets.

Just like Churchill at Dunkirk.
 
 
0 # Bent Zen 2013-01-06 21:34
Another battle of the straw men sponsored by Parry. In this case neither side can stand erect long enough to do battle.
 
 
+1 # NAVYVET 2013-01-06 22:04
Let's amend, not destroy, the Constitution. Most of the thoughtful Founders like Madison knew it was seriously flawed, but expected it to evolve over time by amendment--whic h it has. The only thing we can ever count on is CHANGE, which is built into the Constitution. As for the "strict constructionist s" I wish they would read some of the writing of "my" historical century, the 14th, when so many reforms we still consider radical were put forward and many were even adopted. I think of Juliane of Norwich, one of the greatest creative liberal minds of all time. She believed in law, but only in practicing the law of loving toleration, and could not believe that anybody went to hell. In the 1370s she wrote this uncomplicated warning in her essential little book REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE: "Man judges according to changeable feelings, which are now this, now that, and which vary according to mood. Man’s judgment is confused and inconsistent. Sometimes it is good and tolerant, sometimes it is harsh and difficult. When it is good and tolerant, it is part of God’s righteousness."

Tell that to Scalia, Thomas and their creepy cohorts of Opus Dei! And then read Juliane's book in Clifton Wolters' translation (see above quote), although you can skip Wolters' intro since--as simple and straightforward as her language always was--he didn't understand her at all.
 
 
-2 # easter planet 2013-01-06 22:05
To bring the USA (and therefore the rest of the world and Life itself) out of total disfunction would require a President with cajones to take 6 weeks, write a new constitution for a government that actually works and call an election under the new constitution. Other countries do it!
 
 
0 # Johnny Genlock 2013-01-06 23:31
I compare such discourses as the above to a discussion between meddlers and a captain on the merits of leaving the vessel's scuttle cock in place. Those arguing for progressive change are postulating that the free flow of sea water into the vessel will make it sail more efficiently. The captain not only thinks these meddlers are dingy, he's looking for his own dingy, hoping they haven't cut that loose as well.
The article is clever, but is it seaworthy? No. All focus on collective will of the people with no look at reserved rights to the individual, which is where the wind is actually blowing. Why would we want such a feckless view at the helm, steering us off course into uncharted waters? I could pick through and itemize point by point what ideas would steer this ship of State onto the rocks. And I have many other answers to questions no one ever asks as well. It is not the Constitution which has become irrelevant to our discussion, it is the mindset expressed above which lacks relevance to a meaningful debate. If you think the statement over bold, then let's cut right through the fog. Pop quiz! Please then explain to me which one of the secured rights in the Constitution can be eliminated without impairing the exercise of all others?
 
 
0 # Junius 2013-01-07 00:03
Only "strict construction" - i.e: strict construal- would make amendment relevant. It's pointless to amend a "constitution" that's interpreted to suit the occasion.
 
 
0 # Mrcead 2013-01-07 03:12
Well the original document was written when men feared eternal damnation from God for straying from the path of righteousness. Today, clearly, that is not the case.

So with no punishment waiting in the "ether" of justice, what real reason do these men have to follow the rules? They are well insulated with our money.
 
 
+1 # Interested Observer 2013-01-07 04:57
The hard left (extinct or at least irrelevant today) I met in the 1960's only embraced those liberties for themselves for use in depriving others of them once power was achieved, their role models being Lenin and Mao. The right of course wants a "strict reading" except when it interferes with such things as religion worming its way back into place from which Madison did his best to have it removed (on which we have been backsliding since the first chaplain appeared in Congress). States Rights, a favorite of so-called "strict constructionist s" is certainly an artifact, a compromise required to secure agreement among the 13 less integrated and more autonomous entities at the time, that has not been used to any good purpose in my lifetime that I know of, but consistently used to support injustice (e.g. Jim Crow and segregation), or as a divide and conquer tool to drive state level legislation against women, Supreme Court decisions notwithstanding .

But it is certainly relevant.

The rule of that law is all that has stood in the way of any number of repressive, reactionary and rapacious initiatives. When one considers how close the battle is today, one knows it would already have been lost otherwise. That we do not already live in a full security state under the facade of a Christian theocracy run entirely for the benefit of an aristocracy of capital, the direction we are going, is due to the tradition and rule of constitutional law.
 
 
+1 # CenTexDem 2013-01-07 08:48
It was right wing judges on the U.S. Supreme Court who ignored the intent of our Founders and chose instead to be judicial activists and take on the role of the legislature in its ruling in Citizens United which gave corporations the same political free speeach rights as human beings and bestowed free speech rights on corporate cash that can now be used in unlimited amounts by corporation, both foreign and domestic, to secretly unduly influence and promote their self-aggrandizi ng agendas through deceptive unlimited political advertising thereby disenfranching the informed voter trashing with such corporate cash the voter's right to his free speech, his free press, and his one vote. This is the single greatest threat to our representationa l democracy and corporate cash and lobbying is the primary reason for the decline of the middle class in America over the last 30 years. Go to www.movetoamend.org and help fight this injustice by amending the U.S. Constitution to repeal Citizens United.
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2013-01-07 10:10
In short "YES"!
But then Roman Law is still part of the curriculum in law school (at least in the UK).
 
 
0 # Marxian 2013-01-07 15:33
"Facism is the joining of the corporations and government."

- Benito Mussolini

What Constitution? Do as you're told and march in step…
 
 
0 # restore2america 2013-01-07 17:58
Robert, there seems to be a missing middle ground in your assessment, between the Articles and the Constitution.

The Constitution enumerates Federal powers, while reserving all remaining powers and rights to the states and the People. That enumeration addressed many of the weaknesses of the Articles, while seeking a compromise between state independence and federal power.

The problem with adjectives like "strong" or "weak" in reference to Federal power is "relative to what?" The Constitution created a Federal government much "stronger" than that of the Articles, but that was not intended to be as "strong" as the Federal government is today.

Which returns to your point about letting the Constitution be a guide for today's governance. If we understand the meaning of the words and intent of the founders in developing various sections of the Constitution, we can stabilize the perspective of governance through the normal fluctuations and politics over time.

If we don't like what the guidance, the Constitution provides a mechanism for changing that guidance.

Robert

P.S. Isn't it intriguing that the left and right both selectively favor and ignore specific rights? What both seem to miss is that all rights belong to the People. A few of those are enumerated as particularly important examples, but that does NOT limit the rights of the People.
 
 
0 # moonrigger 2013-01-09 13:58
We are a nation of people raised in a "Religion of the Book", and as such, many of us are inclined to trust that everything in That Book should be accepted without question. I think this makes us think that The Constitution is, likewise, some kind of infallible document that should remain enshrined in its original state, like some holy relic. That's not to say we should throw it out completely, just because portions of it have become obsolete, or were written at a time when our forefathers weren't able to envision the speed and scope of the changes we'd be going through. Many of us are now realizing that We Have the Power and the Right to change the Constitution just like we have the same right to question any other Authority, i.e. the Bible and those who use it as the arbiter of morality and ethics.

I think we should all read and study the Constitution, and the Bible, so we can understand more clearly the foundations of our government and society. But we need to realize that nothing is set in stone. Change is inevitable. Once we realize we don't have to make icons of our major documents, yet can maintain respect for the wisdom contained therein, we should be able to move forward with reasonable changes to them. Not that this is an easy task, but it is really our right as well as our obligation to do so to maintain the society we have built.
 

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