Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bringing back the 1780's

One of the essential conservative talking points that has evolved over the last several years is that of "original intent" and the absolute dedication to a "dead Constitution."

This committment to "original intent" and a "dead, unchanging Constition" doesn't have anything to do with the Constitution itself, but is the reactionary line from conservatives who don't like the expansion of individual liberties and civil rights that have come from the courts in the last 50 years.

It also feeds reactionary conservatism's desire to return to the golden age of patriarchy, hierarchy and class distinctions, such as that as is imagined to have existed at around the time of America's founding and for most of the century thereafter.

Conservatives don't like modernity and the freedoms it has spawned. So they want to go back in time to when the men were men and the sheep were scared.

By claiming as sacrosanct the notions of "original intent", "strict constructivism", and the "dead Constition" conservatives hope to lead a movement back in time. They want to roll back the rights of individuals and public efforts to balance the power of corporations.

They want us to go back to the 1780's.

The resignation of Justice O' Connor and the process to replace her on the SCOTUS has led, naturally, to the public trumpeting of competing Constitutional views by opposing ideological groups, individuals and cable TV networks.

Take Faux Nooz (please).

Pandagon's Jesse Taylor catches conservative commentator and Faux Nooz host Cal Thomas waxing poetic about the good old days and the need for a return to "original intent":

Cal Thomas wonders why we interpret laws with purposefully flexible meanings, but don't interpret objective quantitative measures.

The president and those who wish to see the Constitution restored to its "original intent" need to reteach it if they are to overcome the liberal orthodoxy expressed by the late Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and echoed recently by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that "the Constitution is what the judges say it is."

Try that at the supermarket. Is a pound what the shopper says it is, or do scales, which rely on a standard, determine a pound's true weight? Would we get away with telling a police officer who pulls us over for speeding, "I decided that 70 miles per hour is 55 for me"?

Why, then, this constantly changing Constitution that is in the minds of liberals to be altered like a suit of clothes to fit the wearer, rather than a document to which all must conform if the general welfare is to be promoted?

Because the document is not a series of ironclad objective measures.

A mile is 5,280 feet. Freedom of speech is a troublesome yet important right guaranteed by the Constitution whose total parameters remain undefined and constantly challenged by new innovations in technology.

No comments: