Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

New Constitutional Convention

December 15, 2013

Over at Daily Kos, they are really worried about the possibility of a National Convention to amend the constitution. They explain their concerns in a typically classy and well mannered way in a email I received.

I know many of you don’t pay much attention to the right-wing noise machine, and when you do dismiss what you hear for obvious reaons — like they’re generally full of shit.

Well, that’s all true, but that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous.  After all, many liberals and progressives laughed at and dismissed Rush Limbaugh and the other right-wing talk radio shock jocks as clowns, back in the 90s, but look how much influence he has had and how much damage he’s done to our civil discourse.  These things have a way of flying under the radar until they reach a critical mass, then they explode to cause no end of trouble.

Reaons? What’s spell check? If they really want to know who has done the most damage to our civil discourse I would recommend they read The Real Radio Hatemongers,  a publication put out by the Media Research Council. It’s a little old but I doubt if the vile rhetoric of the left has changed much.

That’s why I’m writing today about a growing movement in far-right circles that sounds like a bunch of crackpots, but could actually pose a serious danger to our democracy.  Spurred on by Mark Levin and others, there is a grass-roots conservative movement to convene an Article V convention of the States to amend the Constitution by enacting so-called “Liberty Amendments” that would eliminate the popular election of Senators, require a balanced federal budget, prohibit the federal government from any activity conducted by the states (including healthcare), effectively eliminate the commerce clause and the general welfare clause, enact term limits on judges and enable the States to overturn judicial decisions, impose nation-wide voter id laws, and enshrine several other far-right hobbyhorses as Constitutional imperatives.  And this movement has support from people who should know better, like state representatives from Indiana and Georgia.  While obviously on the fringe now, these sorts of things have a tendency to become mainstream conservative thought if unchecked.  Follow me below the squiggle for more details.

There is a meeting of representatives from at least 30 states scheduled just three days from now, Saturday, December 7, at the library in Mount Vernon.  (Is nothing sacred?  George Washington is probably spinning in his grave even as we speak.)  Elected officials will be among the attendees: David Long, President of the Indiana State Senate; and Jason Spencer, Georgia state representative.

In fact, the state of Indiana has actually enacted legislation to facilitate the appointment of delegates to such a convention, and to govern their activities.

To take a step back, I should explain that Article V of the Constitution provides two ways to amend the Constitution.  The first, with which we are familiar because it is the way all amendments have been enacted to date, is for two-thirds of the House and Senate to vote for an amendment, which is then sent to the States for ratification (which requires approval by three-fourths of the States).  But alternatively, if two-thirds (34) of the States so request to Congress, Congress must then call a convention to propose amendments (which must then be ratified, again, by three-fourths of the States).  Although the procedures for such a convention are unclear, the folks currently pushing this take the position that such a convention would be a creature of the State legislatures, with delegates appointed by the legislatures and bound by their instructions.

Yea Indiana! Actually I suspect that George Washington would approve of most of these “right wing hobby horses”. It is important to remember that the men who made up the Constitutional Convention did not really intend to create a “democracy”. The word democracy did not have the positive connotations it has today. Instead it meant something closer to mob rule. One of the fears of the founding fathers was of a tyranny of the majority, the idea that a majority could vote away the rights and property of a minority.

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stea...

Time to meet again? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The intent of the framers was a balanced system based on an idealized view of the British constitution and the government of the Roman Republic. This system was to include a monarchical element, a president elected by an electoral college, an aristocratic element, a Senate with senators selected by state legislatures and functioning as representatives from the states to the federal government, and a democratic element, the House of Representatives which was elected by and represented the people. Over time, this system has become more democratic and yet has functioned less well to guarantee liberty, especially in recent years.

The procedure that Daily Kos paints as somehow illegitimate is completely constitutional though it has not been done before. It is less irregular than the Senate changing centuries old rules to suit the political party in the majority or amending the constitution through judicial reinterpretation by activist judges. Despite their description of the liberty amendments as far right fringe, I suspect that a large plurality of people would support many of them, perhaps even a majority. If this were really a crack-pot fringe movement, I seriously doubt this movement would be any particular threat to anybody. I don’t think that very many people believe the country is heading in the right direction and more and more are coming to the opinion that some kind of drastic action is needed to halt and even reverse our slow slide into despotism. That, of course, is precisely what Daily Kos fears most.

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Impeach President Obama

November 24, 2013

M. Northrop Buecher at Forbes.com has written an article arguing for impeaching Barack Obama. Put simply, a president with his sort of contempt for the constitution and the rule of law ought not to be permitted to serve out two terms without some sort of consequence lest a precedent be set for future presidents. He makes a very good case. A president who can simply ignore Congress and the Courts is not a president of a democratic republic but a dictator, even if political realities do not yet allow him to wield dictatorial power.

Here are a few excerpts. Read the whole thing. It is worth it.

Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, he has changed it five times. Most notably, he suspended the employer mandate last summer. This is widely known, but almost no one seems to have grasped its significance.

The Constitution authorizes the President to propose and veto legislation. It does not authorize him to change existing laws. The changes Mr. Obama ordered in Obamacare, therefore, are unconstitutional. This means that he does not accept some of the limitations that the Constitution places on his actions. We cannot know at this point what limitations, if any, he does accept.

By changing the law based solely on his wish, Mr. Obama acted on the principle that the President can rewrite laws and—since this is a principle—not just this law, but any law. After the crash of Obamacare, many Congressmen have implored the President to change the individual mandate the same way he had changed the employer mandate, that is, to violate the Constitution again.

The main responsibility the Constitution assigns to the President is to faithfully execute the Laws. If the President rejects this job, if instead he decides he can change or ignore laws he does not like, then what?

The time will come when Congress passes a law and the President ignores it. Or he may choose to enforce some parts and ignore others (as Mr. Obama is doing now). Or he may not wait for Congress and issue a decree (something Mr. Obama has done and has threatened to do again).

If the President can ignore the laws passed by Congress, of what use is Congress? The President can do whatever he chooses. Congress can stand by and observe. Perhaps they might applaud or jeer. But in terms of political power, Congress will be irrelevant. Probably, it will become a kind of rubber-stamp or debating society. There are many such faux congresses in tyrannies throughout history and around the globe.

Mr. Obama has equal contempt for the Supreme Court. In an act of overbearing hubris, he excoriated Supreme Court Justices sitting helplessly before him during the 2010 State of the Union address—Justices who had not expected to be denounced and who were prevented by the occasion from defending themselves. Mr. Obama condemned them for restoring freedom of speech to corporations and unions.

The most important point is that Mr. Obama does not consider himself bound by the Constitution. He could not have made that more clear. He has drawn a line in the concrete and we cannot ignore it.

Those who currently hold political office, and who want to keep our system of government, need to act now. Surely, rejection of the Constitution is grounds for impeachment and charges should be filed. In addition, there are many other actions that Congressmen can and should take—actions that will tell Mr. Obama that we have seen where he is going and we will not let our country go without a fight.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government had been created. “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.”

We are losing it. If Mr. Obama’s reach for unprecedented power is not stopped, that will be the end. Everyone who values his life and liberty should find some way to say “No!” “Not now!” “Not yet!” “Not ever!”

The problem is that the Democrats in the Senate will not vote to impeach a Democratic president under any conceivable circumstances, no matter what crimes he may commit, especially a president who is as committed to expanding the role of government as much as the present one is. Party loyalty and statist ideology trump honor and integrity every time for the Progressives. In any case, this is not entirely Obama’s doing. Obama is the culmination of trends that have been growing in influence in our politics for almost a century. Presidents of both parties have tended to exalt the Presidency at the expense of the other two branches of government. Congress has been increasingly lazy about defending its prerogatives. Probably the best chance we have had to rein in the imperial presidency was in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. But, the Democrats, at least, were not really interested in reining in the power of the presidency. They only wanted to destroy a Republican president

It may not do much good to impeach Obama, even if the effort is successful. It is  obvious that there is a large number of people who don’t have a problem with a dictatorial president, as long as the president is on their side. Democrats are worse about this, but if the tables were turned a large number of Republicans wouldn’t have a problem with a Republican president who followed the exact same policies as Mr. Obama. There seem to be too many people who believe that the proper role of Congress is to rubber stamp whatever the President wants and if Congress actually has different ideas they believe members of Congress should be punished for daring to obstruct the President’s sacred will. There is one idiot who is actually demanding that leading Republican members of Congress should be arrested for sedition for opposing the President.

Our future?

Our future?

 

It may be,then, that we are already too far on the road to Caesarism and an American Principate is only a matter of time. I hope not. Maybe Obama’s current troubles and unpopularity will cut him down to size. But, what will we do with the precedents he has set?

Doing Their Job

May 25, 2013

I have been wondering how the recent scandals involving the IRS, Benghazi,  and others were going to be spun by the Democrats who send me fund raising e-mails. At first I didn’t think they would mention the scandals at all, but then they sent this one the other day.

David —

Getting in President Obama’s way has been the top priority for Republicans in Congress since day one. But now they’ve gone too far.

They’ve been caught red-handed making up so-called ‘scandals’ out of thin air to stir up false rumors of vast ‘cover-ups’ happening in the White House.

Did they find a single shred of evidence to back up their outrageous claims? No.

But rather than let the truth stand in their way, Republicans actually doctored emails between administration officials about Benghazi. Then, they released them to the press, trying to pass them off as real in order to create their scandal. Fortunately, they got caught in the act when the White House released all of the actual emails.

Tell President Obama you’ve got his back right now, no matter what Republicans come up with next.

While Republican leaders were focused on stirring up controversy, Michele Bachmann was talking about impeaching President Obama for absolutely no reason, and Republicans in the House voted to repeal Obamacare — for the 37th time.

That’s how they think they should be spending their time and your money.

Make sure the President knows that you stand behind him and his agenda right now — and that you won’t let Republican games distract you from advocating for real change that will benefit all Americans.

Stand with President Obama today — and send the message to Republicans that it’s time to stop playing political games and get back to work for the American people:

http://my.democrats.org/Stand-With-The-President

Its time for them to do their damn jobs.

Thanks,

Brad

Brad Woodhouse
Communications Director
Democratic National Committee

They’re starting to use profanity in their appeals. I suppose Brad is trying to show that he is a tough guy rather than a typical liberal beta male wimp. (Science has shown that weaker men tend to be liberals while stronger men are more likely to be conservatives. You don’t want to deny the findings of Science, do you?)

In any event, I thought was the Republicans’ job to obstruct and investigate the president. They are the opposition party, after all. And, Congress, as a whole, is supposed to provide a check on the executive branch. I wonder if Mr. Woodhouse is really familiar with the concepts of opposition parties and checks and balances. Perhaps he, and people like him, would prefer a legislature that simply rubber-stamps the Leader’s policies like the old communist Supreme Soviet or of the Soviet Union, or the Chinese National People’s Congress. For myself, I prefer the government set forth in the constitution.

 

The Government is the Only Thing We All Belong To

September 9, 2012

One of the themes coming out of the Democratic National Convention last week is the idea that government is the one institution that unites us all as one nation. The idea being, that we go to different churches, work for different employers, have different racial or ethnic origins, speak different languages, and so on, but we all have the national government in common. I think this short video put out by the DNC illustrates what they are trying to say.

Conservatives have generally interpreted this to mean that the Democrats believe that we belong to the government in the sense that we are all slaves or serfs of the government. This is not accurate. What they seem to mean is that the government is the one institution that all Americans have in common and the one institution that makes us Americans. This confuses the difference between the nationality and the government or the state. In fact, our shared culture and history is what makes all of us part of the American nation, the idea that we are a separate and unique people, distinct from every other nation. We would all still be Americans even if our government were changed or destroyed, so long as we had that shared feeling of nationhood.

I dealt with this sort of idea once before when I explained that Barack Obama’s statement, “you didn’t build that” seemed to ultimately be derived from the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s ideas that the state embodies the hopes and aspirations of the people and nation and even creates the nation. The statement that we all belong to the government is another expression of that mode of thought and while I do not believe that the Democrats mean that we should all be enslaved by the state, this is an idea alien to the ideals of the founding fathers.

The men who wrote the Constitution saw government as a tool. The purpose of that tool was to protect our rights given to us by our Creator. Consider Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

And the Preamble to the Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

If government is just a tool or a social contract for the purpose of protecting the rights we already possess than a government that does not do its job can or should be replaced. If government is some overarching entity that we all belong to and which gives our lives meaning, than we have no rights, except what the collective grants us and we certainly cannot work against the institution we all belong to. I don’t think the Democrats mean any harm by expressing these kinds of sentiments, but this really is another step on the road to tyranny.

U.S.S Constitution

August 20, 2012

I saw this at Walter Russel Mead’s blog, Via Meadia.

The USS Constitution, named by President George Washington and nearly as old as our venerable founding document itself,  is still going strong. Old Ironsides, as the ship has been lovingly known ever since British cannonballs harmlessly bounced off her sides in  the War of 1812, set sail once more out of Boston harbor, for just the second time in the last 131 years, to celebrate the 200-year old victory that gave her her nickname:

Some 285 people were on board the ship, which sailed under her own power for 17 minutes, traveling a distance of 1,100 yards.

Tugs were then reattached to Constitution’s sides and she returned to her pier by early afternoon. The ship, which doubles as a museum, receives more than half a million visitors each year.

The Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship in the world still afloat. And although the United States is often called a young country, the American Republic is actually one of the oldest surviving governments in a world that often lunges from one revolution to the next. Here’s to many happy returns—for both Constitutions.USS Constitution, the oldest U.S. Warship curr...

We don’t often think of it, but if you look around the world, how many countries have the same government they did back in 1787. France was still a monarchy and fated to go through five republics, two empires and a restoration. China was an empire ruled by the foreign Manchus. Germany and Italy didn’t exist as countries. The only country with a constitution older than ours, that I can think of, might be Great Britain’s unwritten constitution. Even then, I think the British form of government has changed more than ours has over the last century. Japan has the world’s oldest royal family, but the politics of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate were significantly different than they were in the twentieth and twenty-first century.

It is actually rather amazing that the United States is still ruled under the same basic form of government since we were only thirteen states on the Atlantic seaboard. Some might think that it is past time for a new constitution, but I don’t think we could ever be lucky enough to find people of the caliber of George Washington or James Madison, or any of the other founding fathers in this day and age. Lesser sons of great sires are we.

New Constitution for Libya

August 25, 2011

Although the Libyan rebels have been busy taking Tripoli and breaking into Qadaffi’s compound, they have still managed to write a first draft of a new Libyan constitution. You can see it in pdf form here. At first glance it looks promising.

Libya is an independent, Democratic State in which the people are the source of authorities…The State shall guarantee for non-Moslems the freedom of practising religious rights.

The State shall seek to establish a political democratic regime to be based upon the political multitude and multi party system in a view of achieving peaceful and democratic circulation of power.

Human rights and his basic freedoms shall be respected

Freedom of opinion for individuals and groups…shall be guaranteed by the state.

There’s more like that. It sounds very liberal, something our own founding fathers might have written, except for one small detail.

Islam is the religion of the State and the principal source of legislation is Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia).

That cancels out all of the fine sentiments expressed elsewhere in this document. It is sort of like the old Soviet constitution in which all sorts of freedoms and rights were guaranteed but only so long as those rights did not interfere with the goal of building communism. So, in effect the citizens had no rights. Under this constitution it would seem that the people of Libya will have all sorts of freedoms and rights guaranteed by the State but only so long as these rights do not conflict with Sharia. I am afraid that we have exchanged one tyrant for another in Libya

Here is an analysis from Stratfor on what is likely to happen next in Libya.


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