Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Constitution and change

It's interesting to note that the ultra-conservative interpretations of the Constitution, the ones that allow for no change whatsoever to have taken place in the intervening two hundred and twenty years, are most likely out of touch even with the thought of the conservatives within the framers themselves. My understanding is that most of the conservatives were in line with the sort of moderate Whigism that would later come out in Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France". This line of thought tended to strike a middle ground between complete deference to authority, complete support of monarchy, complete stasis, and progressive change in institutions. The Tories are who Burke was opposing on this, as well as folks who he considered to be dangerous radicals. The people who made the American Revolution were not likely to be swayed by Tory arguments, considering that those were the people who they'd fought the war against and who made up the Loyalists. But it's Tory like sentiments that those who favor strict constructionism put forward. If these people had been alive during the American Revolution they'd never have supported it because they would have felt that it violated the traditional English constitution. They are the party of No par excellance. Yet they get to define where present day America goes on so many issues, due to the fact that our legal system serves as a substitute for legislation many times.

Our political society is completely dominated by obstructionists, obstructionists who often wrap themselves in the Constitution in order to seem more legitimate. But their Constitution is a construct that they've created that doesn't seem to have much in common with the reality on the ground. Yes, every time you want a cheap patriotic bump in the legitimacy of your writing invoke the Constitution, you're sure to get a few tears from the faithful.

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