Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lithwick examines our newly rekindled love for our ideas of what we think the Constitution might mean maybe

Dahlia Lithwick has a great article at Slate about the Constitution and the Republicans' plans to read it aloud on the chamber floor tomorrow.  It's not so much about bashing the Republicans or the Tea Party as calling out the contradictory but common tendencies to venerate the Constitution to the point of idolatry while ignoring the parts with which one doesn't agree.
The problem with the Tea Party's new Constitution fetish is that it's hopelessly selective. As Robert Parry notes, the folks who will be reading the Constitution aloud this week can't read the parts permitting slavery or prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment using only their inside voices, while shouting their support for the 10th Amendment. They don't get to support Madison and renounce Jefferson, then claim to be restoring the vision of "the Framers." Either the Founders got it right the first time they calibrated the balance of power between the federal government and the states, or they got it so wrong that we need to pass a "Repeal Amendment" to fix it. And unless Tea Party Republicans are willing to stand proud and announce that they adore and revere the whole Constitution as written, except for the First, 14, 16th, and 17th amendments, which totally blow, they should admit right now that they are in the same conundrum as everyone else: This document no more commands the specific policies they espouse than it commands the specific policies their opponents support.
This line is probably my favorite, though:
The fact that the Constitution is sufficiently open-ended to infuriate all Americans almost equally is part of its enduring genius.
Read the whole thing.  Lithwick's work is consistently good and easily the best fare available on Slate.

UPDATE:  You should also read the piece by Michael Lind at Salon that Lithwick cites as well.

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