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Red State Anxiety and The Constitution

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Despite all the furor, vitriol and certitude, Red Staters reveal themselves as ultimately insecure pretty quickly. Among the rants and raves and hero worship of Glenn Beck that are posted there on Redstate.com, an undercurrent of vulnerability shows through in the incessant pleas about the need for educating the public. Some have attempted it themselves. I guess they aren't so sure that Rush and Glenn are getting it done, the Constitution obviously being nothing more than a magic word to them.

The Red State, apparently, does not understand that the further out onto the ice of education they skate, the thinner the ice becomes for the ideology of conservatism. Jim Purcey, Constitutional Literalist, is an example of just how thin. Red State advocates of voter education celebrate literalist interpretation of the Constitution, by which authoritative sounding arguments can be made on issues without actually understanding the Constitution. It is reminiscent of the annotated copies of the Bible produced by the originator of Dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby, that are the mainstay of Evangelical fundamentalism. These relieve the presenter of the necessity of having to actually read and comprehend the book, and are parroted as wisdom from enough pulpits to harden the soul against religion altogether. This is Red State education.

Although Libertarians might dispute it, Libertarian thought is at the root core of the Red State. At its best, Libertarian thought is consistent with good government, adequate government no more or less. At its worst, it is a narrow doctrinaire escapism. It is this latter, and worse incarnation, that powered the political excuses which resulted in the Great Recession. Small government became supply side economics and deregulation. Anti tax sentiment was co-opted by corporations while tax burdens were shifted from the rich to the middle class until they could pay no more. The ideals of personal liberty were subverted to let corporations abandon America for the profit margins available in offshore operations.

Libertarian core concepts recapitulate the laissez-faire school of anti-government that gave us the Great Depression. Both of the great economic disasters America has faced in the last century were times of singular lack of regulation on powerful moneyed interests that ran roughshod over the interests of the public at large. Libertarianism, at its best, might acknowledge that if there are to be business monopolies so large that they can damage the economy as a whole, then there must be government sufficiently large to prevent them doing so. Libertarians, if you do not yet know how to keep the moneyed elite from exploiting your beliefs, then you must tend more carefully to defining them. Of course then, you do not own them, the Republicans do.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Libertarian thought, other than that it might be a little too steeped in romanticizing of the simple agrarian society that was the contextual birthplace of the Constitution. I admit to those leanings myself. A colleague once said of me, "Steve is not independent. Steve is independent as hell". I admire self reliance to the bone, yet there are forces at work that materially damage the quality of my life over which I have no control other than to vote in a way that is in the best interest of society as a whole.

The Red Staters that co-opt Libertarianism and the Evangelicals have complaints in common. Both want to discard the evolution of both writings, Constitution and Bible, being dissatisfied with and/or not comprehending the results of centuries worth of that evolution. I would caution them, had alternate interpretations of the Bible not occurred, were we all fundamentalists in viewing the Bible as the absolute word of God, the progressive thought that produced the Constitution would never have occurred. The Bible is not the source of democracy nor capitalism, as it suborned monarchy for millennia prior to the appearance of Christians who thought democratically. Democracy and Representative Democracy are heathen inventions of ancient Greece and Rome adapted to solve our predicament as a colony of England and to keep it from recurring.

Without Progressive thought, not the 21st century label but the arduously built intellectual breastworks of self evident truths, the self evidences on which the Constitution is laid would not have existed. All governments would be monarchies or theocracies to this day, under which personal liberty and property are indulgences of the seat of power and not rights.

Particularly important to Red Staters seems to be the attempt to discover ways to make the Constitution say what it does not say. Unfortunately for the Red Staters, the Constitution is rather more well understood than is the Bible. The Bible is a compendium of parables and probable fictions that is inconsistent enough to provide support for any argument one cares to make. The Constitution is not, rather it is a purposeful and logically consistent elocution of the rights and responsibilities of men, among and for each other.

There is a quarter millennium of serious and informed, important in the corporeal world, interpretations of the Constitution that are better documented and better reasoned than any speculations about the covenants of an unseen supreme being have ever been. There may be more writing total writing about God, but there is less, by far, agreement about God.

Breaking the hold of historic interpretations of the Constitution that have been diligently vetted for compliance to same for two and a half centuries, in order to advance a counter revolution to invalidate the evolved laws with which you disagree, is just not going to happen. After all, the instrument itself was written as if in anticipation of this very attack. Above all, it is internally consistent to the purpose of balancing individual liberty with the common good. The edges have been evolved over the years to extend or clarify its application to changing conditions. But the Constitution, while it is at the core of what we most consistently argue is the highest good of all, individual liberty, is not involved in the detail of most law. Republicans may have succeeded in overturning banking regulation through pure politics, but it was not on Constitutional grounds. The Constitutionality of regulating banks remains intact.

Red Staters, you will not find an argument in the Constitution that says an individual's personal liberties, either singly or collectively, trump the general welfare, even though, conceptually, certain individual liberties are protected as essential to the common good. It was written in deliberate opposition to the individual liberties of a King. As close to implying the supremacy of individual liberty over the common good as it comes is in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

The Ninth states, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." This says little more than that the rights enumerated are not superior to rights not mentioned. Freedom of speech, in order of mention, precedes the right to keep and bear arms, but is not a superior right in the law because of the ordering in the writing. The court established right to privacy is not inferior to the prohibition of warrantless search simply because privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution. So instead of freezing the powers of the federal government concerning individual rights to those defined in the original writing as some might suggest, the Ninth holds open the door for the growth and extension of recognized rights and revocation of rights presumed by the fact of their existence that are adverse to the general welfare. See Suffrage and Civil Rights.

The Tenth states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." It does not say that laws derived under and consistent with the Articles of the Constitution cannot be enacted over and above the original writing or that State's retain a power to overrule federal law. The authority for doing so is based in implied powers and is among the earliest arguments in Constitutional law. Implied powers are derived from the general welfare and necessary and proper clauses. Under the Red State Tea Party interpretation that the Tenth limits the federal government in imposition of post ratification law, the Tenth is, logically, self nullifying. There can be no power to amend the Constitution that is asserted by a denial of its power to amend itself.

The Tenth, and states rights, were once an anathema to Republicans. It was, at one time, a small "d" democratic stance, leading up to the Civil War in particular. It was a Tenth Amendment War. Had the argument of the States Righters been upheld in the Civil War, the legal consequences might have been that the ownership of slaves remained a recognized right. The logical conclusion of which would be that then someone could legally own the owners of slaves or enslave you for whatever reason yet unfound new law might find compelling. There is no refuge there my Red State friends.

Socialism is not unconstitutional, as long as it does not violate the specific rights guaranteed to individuals by the Constitution and both judicial and statutory amendments thereof. Public ownership of the means to produce things and services in not prohibited. Specific rights of an individual or corporation, that are exercised in such a way as to do harm to the public, can be vacated in defense of the public interest. Anti-Trust law and Eminent Domain are examples. The Constitution, at the conceptual level of its origin, is made to balance the rights of individuals with the common good or cause.

No my Red Staters, you can't find the mythical grail of a Constitutional argument for denying your obligation to attend to the public welfare in the making of law. You are a member of that public and your welfare is the presumptive responsibility of those of us who consider your welfare equal in importance to our own.

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