A Meaningless Constitution, Thankfully.
My former co-blogger Timothy Sandefur is spot-on here, regarding the GOP decision to read the Constitution in Congress:
This symbolic move is refreshing to those of us who take the Constitution seriously, and it’s sad to see that some people find it objectionable. One writer at Salon complained that the Republicans didn’t read the clauses that have been repealed such as the 3/5ths clause…. The point being, I guess, that the Constitution “was written by flawed men,” and therefore—can be ignored? One Congressman was even quoted as complaining that Republicans considering repealing ObamaCare should pay heed to the General Welfare clause—as if that provision gives Congress carte blanche authority. No, Congressman, the federal government is one of limited, enumerated powers—you and your colleagues do not have power to do whatever you think is a good idea.
And yet, there is some truth in the Democrats’ accusation that Republicans are grandstanding. The GOP, after all, has shown just as much contempt for the Constitution as Democrats, and despite their small government rhetoric, they have shown little serious commitment to reevaluating the vast, unconstitutional machinery of the modern Regulatory Welfare State. Indeed, they have expanded it. Even Ronald Reagan, the new Saint of Small Government, actually fattened the Welfare State dramatically while in office. His successor, George Bush, Sr., signed the Americans with Disabilities Act; his son expanded Medicare, championed No Child Left Behind, and oversaw a radically unconstitutional government takeover of the banking and automobile industries. And the less said about the Nixon Administration’s contempt for the Constitution—in everything from environmental law to a “war on drugs” that depended entirely on New Deal commerce clause precedents—the better. Nor does the newly invigorated Republican party show any real intention of dismantling the unconstitutional bureaucracies already in existence. Democrats are right to accuse Republicans of hypocrisy—but what else is new?
I too admire the (hopefully not quite) empty theatrics of reading the Constitution. Reading the Constitution is surely far less offensive than the congressional chaplain offering a prayer — an act that necessarily excludes some members of Congress. (Yes, there are congressional atheists!)
More importantly, I find remarkable the lack of charity it must take to fault the GOP for failing to read the 3/5ths clause. We all know perfectly well that if they had opted to read it, their detractors would have complained that they liked it better that way.
No, this is not about the “desire to edit the Constitution.” It already has been edited. All congressional Republicans have done is to recognize reality.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, I guess.