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“The Constitution The Republicans Can’t Stand”: They Use Their Pocket Constitutions For The Parts That Come In Handy

If you are running for office as a Republican today, you have to mention your reverence for the Constitution at least as much as you mention your love for Ronald Reagan.

The Second Amendment — every word should be taken literally because it was literally ordained by God! The First Amendment protects my right to discriminate against gay people! Neither the Constitution nor the Bible contains the word “Obamacare”!

But Republican politicians have a few glaring blind spots when it comes to the Constitution. One of those is the 14th Amendment, a pillar of our inclusive democracy, a key component of which Republican presidential candidates are now asking us to ignore or change.

In its infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the descendants of enslaved people were disqualified from U.S. citizenship. After we fought a civil war, the U.S. ratified the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868, which overturned Dred Scott in its opening lines, declaring, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

During the congressional debate over the 14th Amendment, both its supporters and detractors recognized that this birthright citizenship clause would apply to everyone born on U.S. soil, not just the descendants of slaves. In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled that even after the passage of the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act, the U.S. could not deny citizenship to Wong Kim Ark, a California-born son of Chinese immigrants, because the 14th Amendment guaranteed him citizenship.

Yet, anti-immigrant activists and their allies in the GOP are now fighting against this most American of constitutional principles.

In an immigration plan released this week, GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for ending birthright citizenship. No matter that he didn’t say how he would do that (while most people acknowledge that it would take a constitutional amendment to change the policy, some claim it was never included in the 14th Amendment in the first place). His Republican rivals started jumping to join him. Scott Walker told reporters that he “absolutely” wanted to change the Constitution’s definition of citizenship, adding, paradoxically, that “to me it’s about enforcing the laws in this country.” Ben Carson said it “doesn’t make any sense” to allow “anchor babies.” Bobby Jindal joined the fray. So did Lindsey Graham. Rand Paul and Rick Santorum had already expressed their support for undoing the citizenship provision, with Paul sponsoring a constitutional amendment to do so and Santorum saying the 14th Amendment doesn’t even say what it says.

Jeb Bush has been getting unearned credit for acknowledging that birthright citizenship is a “constitutional right” that we shouldn’t “take away” — just a few days after implying that if he had a “magic wand” to change the Constitution he would use it to do just that. Similarly, John Kasich has renounced his previous support for repealing birthright citizenship, but now says he doesn’t want to “dwell on it.” Carly Fiorina’s and Rick Perry’s passionate defense of the 14th Amendment is that it would take too much work to change it. This is what now passes for moderation. What ever happened to defending basic constitutional rights?

The Republican presidential contenders’ rush to badmouth a basic constitutional right — in an apparent attempt to appeal to their supposedly Constitution-loving far-right base — speaks volumes about what they really mean when they talk about constitutionalism. They use their pocket Constitutions for the parts that come in handy. The rest of it? Not so much.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People for The American Way; The Blog, The Huffington Post, August 20, 2015

August 21, 2015 Posted by | Birthright Citizenship, Republicans, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Will Not Obey”: Taking The Law Into Their Own Hands

It’s going to take me a while to absorb this document, and remember (probably with Sarah Posner’s help) the backgrounds of some of the signatories. But the newly released “Pledge of Solidarity in Defense of Marriage”, drafted by Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, semi-retired culture-war maven James Dobson, and Liberty University law school dean Matt Staver, represents the boldest effort yet of Christian Right types to claim a revolutionary right of resistance to marriage equality. Without question, the “pledge” asserts that marriage discrimination is part of the warp and weave of the universe, via divine fiat and natural law, and that no Court has the power to overturn it. Thus, the signatories announce their intention not to obey any such decision, as explained by Todd Starnes at townhall:

“We will not obey.”

That’s the blunt warning a group of prominent religious leaders is sending to the Supreme Court of the United States as they consider same-sex marriage.

“We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross that line,” read a document titled, Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage. “We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve.”

“While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross,” the pledge states….

“Yes, I’m talking about civil disobedience,” Staver said. “I’m talking about resistance and I’m talking about peaceful resistance against unjust laws and unjust rulings.”

That’s quite a shocking statement. So I asked Mr. Staver to clarify his remarks.

“I’m calling for people to not recognize the legitimacy of that ruling because it’s not grounded in the Rule of Law,” he told me. “They need to resist that ruling in every way possible. In a peaceful way – they need to resist it as much as Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted unjust laws in his time.”

Yes, of course, the Pledge of Solidarity is loaded with references to the civil rights movement (they predictably secured the signature of Aveda King, the niece of MLK who has long been a committed right-wing culture warrior) and comparisons of any SCOTUS decision upholding same-sex marriage as illegitimate, just like Dred Scott. So what grievous harm do they claim for themselves that makes them and their largely well-fed suburban flocks qualified to stand with protesters like King and Gandhi fighting for the most basic rights?

[Scarborough] referenced the “outrageous penalties” being assessed against people of faith simply because they don’t want to participate in a same-sex union.

An Oregon bakery is facing a $135,000 fine for refusing to make a cake for a lesbian wedding and a Washington State florist faces fines for refusing to participate in a gay wedding.

Yep, it’s still the bakers and florists of conscience on whose behalf these birds are calling for an overturning of the Rule of Law and the shattering of a constitutional order that’s worked reasonably well in the past. Almost to a man or woman, of course, they’d call themselves “constitutional conservatives,” a term that means pretty much the opposite of both words, insofar as they claim “higher laws” like fetal rights, absolute property rights, and yes, a heterosexual monopoly on marriage, have to be imposed on the Constitution. No wonder David Barton, the author of so much historical fiction on the theocratic designs of the Founders, is a signatory of the Pledge, along with a rogue’s gallery of Christian Nation radicals he helped inspire.

So, too, are two candidates for the presidency, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. You kinda get the impression they would really love to find a way to get themselves arrested for their brave defense of “traditional marriage,” so they could campaign from a jail cell like Eugene Debs in 1920. Maybe they could take up baking or flower arranging.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Conservatives, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Praise God And Bash The Gays”: More Hate On The Way. Oh, Joy

This past week, I read that “social conservatives” will attempt to reinvigorate their anti-gay campaign for the 2016 presidential race. Briefly, I succumbed to the old response of bracing myself.

More hate on the way. Oh, joy.

James Hohmann, writing for Politico from Des Moines, Iowa: “The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on gay marriage once and for all in June, and there are many Republicans who privately would love nothing more than to have the question settled and off the table in time for the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s not going to happen. Social conservatives here are determined to keep the issue alive during the run-up to next February’s Republican caucuses, no matter how the high court rules or how much some establishment figures would like to move on.”

Such a curious term, “social conservative,” when there is nothing cordial or hospitable in wielding God as a political two-by-four in the fight to deny basic human rights — in this case, the right to marry.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. I live in one of the holdouts, Ohio. I’m not proud of that, but I can say it out loud without the usual spine rattle because I’m confident that on this issue, the bigots’ days are numbered from sea to shining sea. You can tell by the desperate, ridiculous things they’re saying lately, particularly in Iowa.

My favorite quotation so far came out of Mike Huckabee, who showed up last week at Iowa’s conservative summit. Rep. Steve King organized the gathering. His most famous contribution to public discourse is his 2013 description of immigrants as dealers dragging their drugs across the desert with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

Not to change the subject, but I’ve always wondered why the congressman was spending so much time looking at those guys’ legs. It’s the kind of thing that makes you go “hmm.”

Anyway, back to Huckabee. He likened laws allowing gay people to marry to the U.S. Supreme Court’s racist 1857 Dred Scott decision, which said that no black person, free or enslaved, could become an American citizen.

And this, Huckabee argued, is why gays can’t marry.

“Nobody argues that Abraham Lincoln should have abided by the Dred Scott decision,” Huckabee said. “We recognize that he had the courage to realize that he didn’t have to enforce something that was morally wrong.”

If you think you should be able to figure out how Huckabee managed to connect those dots, you’re in for an even longer Republican presidential primary than the rest of us. Don’t try to make sense of this stuff.

I’m making light of this only because for too long, I was angry with people like Huckabee and didn’t like what it did to me. More to the point, I didn’t like how I was letting their nonsense whittle down faith. For a while there, I was reluctant to say I was Christian for fear that someone might think I was one of them. In my worst moments, I began to wonder where God fit into all of this.

I used to resent fundamentalists for this internal crisis of mine, but now I thank them. I hear them saying stupid things about gay people they’ve never met and feel the tug of my Christian roots, which taught me that faith is a riverbed where hope bubbles up and carries us along.

One of my favorite books is a collection of sermon excerpts by the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin. That man was a Christian willing to take on his own people.

“It is not Scripture that creates hostility to homosexuality,” he wrote, “but rather hostility to homosexuals that prompts some Christians to recite a few sentences from Paul and retain passages from an otherwise discarded Old Testament law code.

“In abolishing slavery and in ordaining women we’ve gone beyond biblical literalism. It’s time we did the same with gays and lesbians. The problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with scriptural passages that condemn it, but rather how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of homosexuals with the love of Christ. It can’t be done.”

It can’t be done, he said.

Let justice flow like a mighty river.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and an Essayist for Parade Magazine; The National Memo, January 29, 2015

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Marriage Equality, Mike Huckabee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Roots And Lessons Of Memorial Day”: A Reminder That Politics Can Have Dire Consequences

Memorial Day is a peculiarly appropriate holiday for our times. Its origins lie in the Civil War, which resulted from the failure of a deeply polarized political system to settle the question of slavery.

Reading the history of the period leading up to the war is jarring because its political conflicts bear eerie similarities to our own — for the sharp regional differences over how the federal government’s powers should be regarded; for the way in which advocates of slavery relied on “constitutional” claims to justify its survival and spread; for the refusal of pro-slavery forces to accept the outcome of the 1860 election; and for the fierce disagreements over how the very words “morality,” “patriotism” and “freedom” should be defined.

Our nation argued over what the Founders really intended and over the Supreme Court’s authority to impose a particular political view — in the case of the Dred Scott decision, it was the pro-slavery view — and to override growing popular opposition to slavery’s expansion. Religious people sundered their ties with each other over the political implications of faith and biblical teachings. And, yes, we struggled over race and racism.

We are not on the verge of a new civil war, and no single issue in our moment matches slavery either in its morally evocative power or as a dividing line splitting the nation into two distinct social systems. But Memorial Day might encourage us to re-engage with the story of the pre-Civil War period (the late David M. Potter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the era, “The Impending Crisis,” has helpfully been reissued) for clues from the past as to how we might understand the present.

The holiday itself and how it was transformed over the years also carry political lessons for us now.

Memorial Day, as veterans are always the first to remind us, is not the same as Veterans Day. Memorial Day honors the war dead; Veterans Day honors all vets. Memorial Day started as Decoration Day on May 5, 1868, initiated by the Grand Army of the Republic, the vast and politically influential organization of Union veterans. The idea was to decorate the graves of the Union dead with flowers. Students of the holiday believe that Gen. John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the GAR (and the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1884), eventually set May 30 as its date because that would be when flowers were in bloom across the country.

The South, of course, saluted the Confederate war dead. A group of women in Columbus, Miss., for example, decorated the graves of the Southern dead at the Battle of Shiloh on April 25, 1866. This and other comparable ceremonies led to a vigorous competition over where the holiday originated.

It was only after World War I that Memorial Day was established as a holiday commemorating the fallen in all American wars. And it was not until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., as the official birthplace of Memorial Day, although that has not stopped the disputes over where it began.

Seen one way, the Memorial Day story traces a heartening journey: a nation whose Civil War took the lives of an estimated 750,000 Americans (more than 2 percent of the U.S. population then) could and did gradually come back together. A holiday that was initially a remembrance of those who died because the nation was so riven is now a unifying anniversary whose origins are largely forgotten.

Marking Memorial Day, moreover, may now be more of a moral imperative than it ever was. As a nation, we rely entirely on a military made up of volunteers. We are calling on a very small percentage of our fellow citizens to risk and give their lives on behalf of us all. We should recognize how much we have asked of so few, particularly in the years since 2001.

But it would be a mistake to ignore the roots of Memorial Day in our Civil War. Memorial Day is a call to political responsibility, even more so in some ways than the Fourth of July. The graves that Logan asked his contemporaries to decorate were a reminder that politics can have dire consequences. Distorting political reality (the pro-secession forces, for example, wrongly insisting that the resolutely moderate Abraham Lincoln was a radical) makes resolving differences impossible. As we honor our war dead, let us pause to consider how we are discharging our obligations to their legacy.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 25, 2014

May 26, 2014 Posted by | Civil War, Memorial Day | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jim DeMint, Constitutional Revisionist”: Deliberate Conflation Of The Declaration Of Independence With The Constitution

RightWingWatch’s Brian Tashman runs across an interview with Jim DeMint in which the Heritage Foundation president and avatar of “constitutional conservatism” utters gibberish about slavery, and charitably suggests he is “confused:”

Heritage Foundation head Jim DeMint appeared on Vocal Point with Jerry Newcombe of Truth In Action Ministries last week, where he insisted that “no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.”

DeMint, a former US senator from South Carolina, told Newcombe that “the conscience of the American people” and not the federal government was responsible for the end of slavery.

In the interview, DeMint seemed to confuse the US Constitution with the Declaration of Independence and implied that William Wilberforce, a British politician who died almost thirty years before the Civil War, did more to end American slavery than the federal government.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript:

Newcombe: What if somebody, let’s say you’re talking with a liberal person and they were to turn around and say, “that Founding Fathers thing worked out really well, look at that Civil War we had eighty years later.”

DeMint: Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

Jim’s not being “confused” here. His rap is based on a series of palpable falsehoods that are extraordinarily common in the exotic world of “constitutional conservatism:” the deliberate conflation of the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution (this is how they sneak God and “natural rights”–meaning property and fetal rights–into the latter); the idea that the Civil War was about everything other than slavery; and the claim of Lincoln’s legacy, even though the Great Emancipator was in almost every respect a “big government liberal” as compared to the states rights Democrats–DeMint’s ideological and geographical forebears who touted the Constitution even more regularly (and certainly more consistently) than today’s states rights Republicans.

For dessert, DeMint mentions Dred Scott, a hoary dog whistle to the antichoicers who like to compare that decision to Roe v. Wade.

What’s most interesting about hearing DeMint say all this stuff in one big mouthful is that it makes it so abundantly clear the man is engaging in all sorts of revisionism about well-known aspects of American–and constitutional–history. What makes it amusing is that he claims to be an “originalist.” Only if he gets to rewrite history.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 9, 2014

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, Declaration Of Independence | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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