The Constitution: A Love Story

When the 112th House of Representatives opened this past January with a reading of the United States Constitution, the intended political message was clear—the Republican Party was back to rescue the Constitution.

Less clear was what Constitution Republicans were vowing to save. The version they ordered read was, in fact, stripped of language the leadership considered “superseded by amendment,” even though those measures are still in the text. Some are embarrassing. The provisions protecting slavery, for example, call into question the infallibility of the Founding Fathers. Since one of the standard conservative talking points is that the “original intent” of the framers is an infallible guide to wisdom, the fallible parts were better left unmentioned.

As a matter of fact, the new majority was more eager to amend the Constitution than to read it. The reading of the censored Constitution actually took place on the second day of the House session. The leadership found time on the first day to introduce H.J. Res. 1, the latest and most radical iteration of the “balanced budget amendment,” which would make it all but impossible for any future Congress to raise taxes—thus gutting one of the central aims for which the Founders in Philadelphia wrote the document.

This story illustrates the paradox of right-wing “constitutionalism” in the 21st century: On the one hand, it proclaims its patriotic devotion to the document against unpatriotic progressives who want to “destroy” it. On the other, it is faintly embarrassed by what the framers wrote and openly contemptuous of what they achieved.

This strange double discourse became louder after the 2010 election, as conservative lawmakers in Virginia proposed an amendment permitting state legislatures to repeal federal statutes. It progressed to an eager call by right-wing academics for a constitutional convention to purify the Constitution of federal power. It bottomed out when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained that a balanced-budget amendment is needed because the people can’t be trusted: “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check. We have tried persuasion. We have tried negotiations. We have tried elections. Nothing has worked.”

Doublethink will probably dominate the airwaves for the next year. Republican “constitutionalists” are to constitutional law what Hannibal Lecter is to surgery. Consider Rick Perry, the current presidential front-runner and a self-styled constitutional authority. In his book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, he warns us that “since the dawn of the so-called Progressive movement over a century ago, liberals have used every tool at their disposal … to wage a gradual war on the Constitution.”

Rick Perry is here to save it. How? Well, first he wants to make sure that people stop reading the part that gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” and with that, convince us there’s no warrant for federal spending for “health care, education, transportation, and countless other domestic programs”—including Social Security. Next in urgency is repealing the 16th Amendment (income tax) and the 17th Amendment (popular election of senators), which don’t belong in the Constitution because they were put there by the people “in a fit of populist rage.” Then, Perry has since made clear, we need the federal Marriage Amendment, to make sure that the “limited government” in Washington can regulate our intimate relations; next, perhaps, an amendment permitting Congress to overrule the Supreme Court; and, finally, “clarifying amendments” explaining that the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment don’t mean what they seem to say about separation of church and state, protection from execution without due process, the right to vote, or equal protection of the laws.

In short, Perry, like many of today’s “constitutionalists,” loves the Constitution to death. It is ingenuous, however, that Perry admits that amendment may be necessary; conservatives of the Ron Paul/Michele Bachmann stripe insist that the Constitution already contains Christian-libertarianism hidden between the lines in a da Vinci–coded “original intent.”

These figures represent a movement that wants to change our form of government, making it radically less democratic and producing an enfeebled “night-watchman state.” They want to do this either by rewriting our charter or, more likely, by proclaiming that it has always contained this toxic mix of the Articles of Confederation, Ayn Rand gibberish, and fairy-tale history.

Given this challenge, one would think that progressives would flock to the banner of the Constitution. This is a fight we can win, after all; last I checked, the Constitution was reasonably popular. We have to be willing to fight the battle, though. Needless to say, President Obama has not uttered a full-throated refutation of the right’s claims, but few figures on the progressive side of the spectrum have, either.

That’s where our own double consciousness kicks in. Earlier this year, I published an essay challenging the right’s assault on the Constitution. “Ordinary Americans love the Constitution at least as much as far-right ideologues,” I wrote. “It’s time to take it back.” Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas, the unchallenged doyen of constitutional law, immediately responded. The current Constitution, he wrote, is basically bantha fodder—undemocratic, unwieldy, and irredeemably tainted by slavery—and needs to be replaced. “I very definitely do not love the Constitution, and I don’t think that anyone else should either, except those who benefit from the status quo,” he wrote. “Otherwise, we’re all like deluded spouses who accept being battered as simply part of what the trials and tribulations of marriage/politics are all about.”

Are those of us who still admire the best features of our constitutional history, and hope for a better future, like battered spouses? Family metaphors can never be precise. They are not, in fact, even political in the way the debate over health care or the makeup of the Senate is. They are powerful because they touch our deepest joys and sorrows. The pain and injustice of family life—no matter how happy the family—are the true headwaters of political passion. To Levinson, the Constitution is an intimate abuser; no wonder he wants to close the door on it forever.

 

In the family constellation I carry in my heart, the Constitution is not and never has been abusive. It is neither an idol nor a love object to whose flaws I am blind. At times it is like my Uncle George, who used to give me a quarter after church, tousle my hair, and tell me to run along. Other times it is like Uncle Jack, who was pretty much all right until he had two drinks and began singing the VMI fight song. At times it is more like my Cousin Bill, who claimed to be a Costa Rican colonel, sometimes wore a lightning-striped toupee, and put his pet chipmunk down Cousin Chicky’s bridal gown at the wedding reception. At times it surely has retarded political goals I think should have been won, blunting social change that might improve the lives of those I love.

That is not all the Constitution has done for me. It is not even the most important thing. For I believe the Constitution saved, if not my life, at least its promise and the promise of the lives of those among whom I grew up. In a moment of great need, the Constitution—belatedly, even reluctantly, but nonetheless decisively—came to my rescue. As a result, I have my own passions about the Constitution. It may be a strange parent, but it is not an abusive one.

 

My story is not unique to me. It is the story of one region and two races that, not long ago, lived in a place where the Constitution did not apply. This was once vivid in the public mind, seared in place by televised images of dogs biting helpless women and fire hoses knocking down children. It is fading. Some who witnessed it have died; others have forgotten; and some have always stood ready to deny the depth of the evil that was overcome and the scope of the victory that was won.

“I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour recently said about segregation. Haley Barbour and I are of the same generation, and, like him, I was a designated beneficiary of the segregated system. I remember it vividly.

Understand what segregation was: a radical new system locked in place between 1890 and 1912 to contain the forces of democracy and separate the South from the rest of the nation. It was not an antiquated vestige of the old slave South—something Southerners just forgot to clean up after the Civil War—but a modern, thoroughgoing racial dictatorship as oppressive as South African apartheid.

The separate drinking fountains and restrooms, while horrible, were the least of that system’s effects. The heart of the system was not enforced separation of the races but systematic, violent subordination of one to the other. Black citizens in the South were excluded from public life; they were denied the vote; they held no offices; they were given only limited access to the courts; they were economically exploited by whites under the color of law. Official violence maintained white supremacy, and if that failed, extralegal violence was also waiting—and law enforcement often made no effort to stop violence and even murder when it was directed against black people.

The system oppressed both black and white—not equally, but it oppressed both nonetheless. I grew up in a genteel part of a relatively civilized state of the Old South, but even so, the threat of racial violence was always in the air. We didn’t talk about it much, but all of us, black and white, knew it was there. No one, white or black, was allowed to question the “system”; those who did ran enormous risks. Dissent—white or black—could mean social ostracism, economic ruin, or physical danger. As in any dictatorship, the education I received at my segregated school was systematically shaped to reinforce the official racist ideology. Public officials, government sources, and the local news media ceaselessly repeated the official propaganda message, which was (as my hometown editor, James J. Kilpatrick, wrote in 1962), “From the dawn of civilization to the middle of the twentieth century, the Negro race, as a race, has contributed no more than a few grains of sand to the enduring monuments of mankind.”

Few people or institutions defied the system; some worked around it to inject some humanity into daily life. Many whites were what we called “decent folk.” My family fell into this category. My parents were people of powerful goodwill who in their public lives modeled tolerance and kindness and who, by the time they died, had formed deep alliances across the color line. But in private, for years, our family lived a life defined by racial separation—our church, our schools, our clubs, our jobs—and when white peers spoke in ways that “decent folk” did not, we lacked the vocabulary to rebuke them. I can recall the long lectures my grade-school teachers delivered about the need to keep black people in their place and the mornings my father stopped to offer a ride to another lawyer (one who had been part of the defense team in Brown v. Board of Education), who subjected us to vulgar fulminations against n-----s and meddling Yankees who were making trouble for us all.

This fetid system was in place because those charged with guarding the Constitution winked at it. Southern whites, though, always knew that they were violating the nation’s fundamental law. “We have been very careful to obey the letter of the federal Constitution,” Senator Walter F. George of Georgia explained early in the 20th century. “But we have been very diligent in violating the spirit of such amendments and such statutes as would have a Negro to believe himself the equal of a white man.”

The Congress and the Supreme Court had allowed this charade to be carried forward: “separate but equal” jargon justifying grossly unequal institutions; “nonracial” literacy tests and poll taxes “coincidentally” producing all-white electorates; imaginary “states’ rights” smothering the textually guaranteed rights of free speech and equal protection. The old Confederate states were allowed to wall themselves off into separate suffocating satrapies that seemed, when I was a boy, destined to stand forever.

These safeguards of segregation were not features of the Constitution but perversions and defiance of it—conscious violations of the spirit, as Senator George so cheerfully confessed. They were locked in place by men who believed the Constitution was just words on paper. But those words on paper brought this system down.

I was born in 1950. When I was 4, the Supreme Court shocked the South with Brown v. Board of Education, which said, “In the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” When I was 5, the 26-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. told the Montgomery Improvement Association, “If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong.” When I was 9, college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat politely at a Woolworth’s lunch counter and demanded to be served. When I was 14, two-thirds of the members of the United States Senate broke a Southern filibuster and enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When I was 15, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. When I was 16, I worked as a volunteer in something many Southerners had for generations only dreamed about—a contested election in which people of both races could vote and the ruling party’s chosen candidate actually lost.

 

The Southern wall had crumbled. Many injustices remained; nonetheless, white and black, we were, ambiguously, free at last.

The Constitution did this for me. That may seem to some critics like a small respite in a history of abuse, but to me it was a gift of full membership in the national family. Governor Barbour may not want to remember, but I will never forget.

 

In the years since the walls came down, an industry of political scientists has grown up to explain that Brown v. Board really didn’t accomplish much. But, in this case, I was there. Brown did something remarkable. No longer could white Southerners ask, “How can we maintain our special system?” They had to—and they did—begin to ask, “Are we defying the Constitution?”

The next ten years were an extraordinary period: Everywhere I went as a boy, I found white people—young, old, lawyers, laypeople, Northern, Southern—arguing about the Constitution. Most of the people I knew were angrily asserting that segregation was constitutional, but after Brown, the idea of racial equality had jumped the color line and become a question whites could not ignore. When King in 1955 proclaimed, “If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong,” whites were no longer laughing. Their inner certainty was shattered.

The greatest heroes of the civil-rights movement were the black Southerners, young and old, who hurled themselves against the wall of color. There was also another group of more ambiguous heroes—the federal judges of the South, whom author J.W. Peltason calls the “fifty-eight lonely men” of that era. Children of segregation (how could they have gotten to be judges otherwise?), they were charged by the Supreme Court with enforcing Brown and given little guidance on how to do so. The law and the Constitution made some (not all) of them, willingly or not, stewards of justice, imperfect but powerful. Eventually, men like John Minor Wisdom, J. Skelly Wright, Robert R. Merhige, and Frank M. Johnson Jr. achieved a kind of prophetic isolation; from that lonely place, they worked to transform the society that had spawned them.

I did not know King or John Lewis or Ella Baker, but I knew some federal judges, and I saw the price they paid to remain true to their oaths. (One told me of finding his dog on the lawn, its throat cut.) In the midst of great danger, often against their own inclination, they too became heroes—and to me, they remain so.

It is easy to claim that the civil-rights movement failed. The South didn’t become the “beloved community” of which King spoke, a democratic society where citizens are bound together not only by law but by mutual regard. Racial and social divisions scar our national life. Today’s South is too often governed by white thugs like Haley Barbour.

White college students complain that minority students “segregate” themselves in dining and residence halls. Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor even described white voters, placed in a strange-shaped voting district that was “only” 45 percent white, as injured by “an effort to segregate the races.” Those who speak this way do not remember. Segregation was not partial separation but total exclusion; it was not social reticence but proscription enforced by violence; it was not flawed democracy but successful dictatorship; it was not whites being in a slight minority but blacks having no vote at all.

I still remember, and I remember that the Constitution, for all its flaws, played a major role in bringing me and the place where I grew up out of darkness and into membership in a democratic national society. It was not the Constitution alone—if provisions and amendments alone could have done it, then the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments would surely have brought the Jubilee. One factor in the decline of Southern resistance, however, was a sense of shared loyalty to the Constitution, one that was forged over generations. This “constitutional faith,” to use one of Levinson’s most memorable phrases, would not easily have been transferred to a new Constitution, no matter how cleverly designed by a current assembly of notables. Its absence would have reduced the struggle to naked force, with no underlying appeal to shared values.

It is the power of constitutional faith—the power to constrain us toward outcomes we may oppose or even fear—that I revere about the Constitution. The amended Constitution that exists on the page—the document I read—is for all its flaws and gerrymanders a progressive document, making the American states one nation, placing that nation under the governance of a Congress elected by the people, empowering that Congress to act for the common good, restraining states from blocking the common good for parochial reasons. That document, as amended, embodies the progressive ideas of human equality, of human dignity safeguarded by due process and “equal protection of the laws.”

The far right is now stealing the Constitution in plain sight. I don’t speak here of ordinary conservatives who may differ with me on the scope of the Commerce Power or the meaning of the 11th Amendment but of the Bachmanns, the Perrys, the Pauls (father and son). These charlatans are not being answered as they should be, in part because too many progressives see only the imperfection and shame in the Constitution’s history and blind themselves to the promise of its text.

Last year, on the 37th anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” the National Mall was filled with participants in Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. I went to the Mall and stood among the marchers and heard them discussing the horrors of immigration, the “tyranny” of an elected Congress, the rapture of guns, the satanic evil of Barack Obama. I felt a profound disquiet, not least because I spoke to many of them individually and found that these were, by and large, lovely people, Americans from small towns who were, in my judgment, being led astray—fed lies about their history and their Constitution—by people who should know better.

To restore my soul, I left the march and walked to the National Museum of American History, on the north side of the Mall. In a second-floor exhibit hall, the museum displays the original lunch counter from the Woolworth’s store in Greensboro where the first sit-in occurred in 1960. That lunch counter—like the Liberty Bell, the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, the wall atop Cemetery Ridge, Ford’s Theatre, and the Stonewall Inn—is an inescapable part of our constitutional heritage. These physical things tie the words on the Constitution’s page to our lives in a way that we could never reproduce even with the most brilliant new Constitution. These places and objects are outward and visible signs of the inward grace that constitutional faith can sometimes produce, of the transformative potential, present always in American history, of dry words on paper.

I stood in front of the lunch counter and thought of the poisonous twaddle being pushed on the Mall behind me. I think now of the corrosive agenda of the right wing, which in many ways is the same agenda the Constitution’s opponents have followed since 1787: sanctioned inequality, theocracy, localism, xenophobia, legalized exploitation. Today, their hostility masquerades as reverence. They dare to accuse patriots of treason; they demand obeisance to an imagined Constitution; they plot the destruction of the real one.

I made a vow: Let others dream of constitutional conventions. As for me and my house, we will serve this Constitution.

Comments

It is, alas, amusing that right wing nuts refer ad nauseum,  to "the Constitution," and have of 'em can't spell it...

Professor Epps, I would add another even more profound violation of the Constitution.  Recall that Article I, Sections 2 and 3 implement The Great Compromise of 1787 by awarding precisely equal legislative influence to each congressional district in the House, and to each state (since the 17th Amendment) in the Senate.  Once lawmakers organized among themselves into congressional political parties, majority parties exploited their Article I, Section 5:2 power over chamber rules to effectively nullify the Great Compromise.  They accomplished this purpose during the 1820s when they voted to delegate Congress's most profound legislative decisions (when and why to write laws) from the full chambers (where the Republic was represented) to the majority parties'  standing committees.  Congress has legislated without knowing the Republic's interests (i.e., all districts and states' "shared attitudes toward is needed or wanted in the given situation" (see David P. Truman 1957: 33-34)) since that time.  As you may know, there were no senate filibusters prior to majority parties'  standing committees, so southern senators could not have filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Cheers...

"and HAVE of 'em can't spell it..."  

Bwahahahahahahahahah! Giggle, snort, sigh....
You guys crack me up.

This week in my local paper where the wingnuts are plentiful they were offended that anyone would deny them their right to carry concealed weapons.  There is a bill in the House that would replace gun control laws in all states including allowing the carrying of concealed guns.  Even when asked what part of "well-regulated" and "militia" they did not understand, they insisted their Constitutional rights are being wrongly limited with any gun control.

Don't get your hopes up.  Liberals aren't really concerned with constitutional rights; only so far as it supports their anything goes (especially if we agree with it) agenda.

Shockingly it is conservatives who are colorblind in America, who with phony bake sales mock liberals who insist on lowering the standards for various constituent groups.

It was mainly Republicans that supported the civil rights movement in the South. Democrats and Republicans in the North, only Republicans in the South. The very formation of the Republican party was based on the rejection of slavery and on the idea of all men having equal rights. This is the antithesis of affirmative action by the way, which treats men unequally because of race.

Judas Priest Garrett -- that's intense man!

Don't bogart that blunt my friend, pass it over to me. Herbs that can warp your consciousness like that man must be truly righteous!

what part of "shall not be infringed" do you  not understand.  The well-regulated militia is only necessary for a free state.  The right is inferred to The People just like all other rights.  A government can not have a right.  Furthermore, in 1789 the militia was assumed to be made up of any able bodied male aged whatever to whatever (16-60, you put in the broad range of numbers).   So as a male, aged 16-60, I am part of the militia and therefore have the right to "keep AND BEAR arms" and it shall not be infringed.

LOL!  The only way liberals and the left in general have any respect for the Constitution is as a quaint old document that has long served its purpose.  Liberals simply don't think what the Constitution says, and what the founders explained it said from documents like the Federalist papers, has any relevance in todays world particularly when it doesn't let them do exactly what they want to do.  Liberals believe its a docusmented that has to be updated to fit the time.  That seems reasonable until you find out that updating the meaning of the Constitution to fit the times means that the Constitution means anything a liberal wants it to mean.  All those nasty phrases about limited government?  Totally out of date and irrelevant to a liberal.   The only way the left loves the Constitution is by interpreting it to mean anything they want!

Only one problem with the author's theme: Progressives believe the Constitution changes as society changes and the Supreme Court is authorized to amend the Constitution as suits their ideology.  For example, government can now exercise eminent domain for any reason whatever, because five justices decided that was a better policy than what the Constitution actually says. 

By  "reclaim our founding document "   the author means rewrite the document more in keeping with today's Progressive ideas. You know, the 2nd amendment applies only to militias, government can force citizens to buy specific products, government authority to regulate is unlimited, racial discrimination is permitted if the target is white, that sort of thing. 

Wherever the Constitution hampers Progressive intentions, the founding document must be "reclaimed" to remove the offending language.

"infallibility of the Founding Fathers"
- Garrett Epps

Perhaps you are confusing the Constitution with the quran, comrade.  No one ever claimed the Founding Fathers were divine.  They set up a process, now ignored, for amending the Constitution; why would that have been necessary if the message was that it was "infallible"?

BTW the Founding Fathers didn't invent slavery, but they had to accomodate it initially in order to bring all the states into the union.

Republicans later had to fight to free the slaves from the Democrats' plantations.  In fact, we still are trying to do that.

Did you mean "'HALF of 'em can't spell it?"  If that's not the pot-head calling the kettle black, what is?

Mr. Parcival, It is, alas, amusing that left wing nuts zealously cling to public bigotry in place of well reasoned and polite arguments.

Epps: "too many progressives see only the imperfection and shame in the
Constitution’s history and blind themselves to the promise of its text."

Just as I suspected.
I'm glad you're honest enough to admit that.
Most other left-wingers aren't as honest as you about that, when they have to put it in writing or state it for the CNN cameras.

In the coming 2012 political campaign, we will do our best to find out how many other progressives have blinded themselves to the promise of the Constitution due to their neurotic free-floating guilt complex over living in--as Lincoln called America--"the last, best hope of Earth."

The constitution was about human freedom and non-coercive cooperation between folks acting towards their own interests.  You religious fanatical Socialists tore the Constitution to shreds by defining it as whatever 5 out of 9 judges think it might should be on any particular Tuesday.  What you're getting is a failing system based on central planning which has never worked in the course of human history (psst..  cause the world is too complicated and dynamic).  Better off letting people sort out their own situations based on local knowledge within a simpler framework of common sense laws - not this overlawyered monstrosity that is collapsing.  Look at Cali. It's the perfect model of a failed state.

".....These charlatans are not being answered as they should be..."

Perhaps your problem lies within the composition of the average leftist.  As most leftists are incapable of expressing a coherent argument without Ad hominem attacks on straw-men, making reasoned debate as meaningless as a schoolyard brawl.  The leftist do not disguise their hatred of an enemy that exists largely in their own minds.  They re-phrase the arguments of the opposition in terms of their own tired narrative, making any meaningful discussion fruitless.  In short, leftists are not capable of reason, only the emotional reaction to any perceived attacks on their favored sacred cows.

The arguments made by " the Pauls (father and son)" are well reasoned, well researched, articulate and appealing.  Your inability to respond in kind is not a testament to their integrity ("charlatans".... really?) but to your own bigotry and inability to see anything outside your restrictive narrative.

In short, your own arrogance is to blame for your problems.

Liberals want to reclaim the Constitution?  The United States Constitution?  The one you've been using to wipe your collective bottom for the past century?  THAT Constitution?

Mr. Epps, you do indeed have before you a very tough job and it is YOU and people of like mind who have made it so.

It's sad that left wingers may be able to spell " constitution" but can't understand it.

Only in the twisted uber liberal mind is one of the primary functions of the constitution the ability to raise taxes.

Reclaim the constitution? Wow! The libs want to impeach the communist, anti-American gangsta ---OBUMMER?

Let's roll!

The left needs to reclaim the constitution?  After spending the better part of the 20th century, redefining it to mean whatever suits the cause du-jour?  This article is a joke, right?

Acoording to you and other brain dead libbers ,,, algore invented the constitution in 1880!

Sadly, most libbers think al gore invented the constitution.

In 1700s "regulated" didn't mean what we think it does today. Up until the mid 1800s it was taken to mean qualified.  A clock was said to be regulated in that it was qualified to give accurate time. In the sense of a civilian militia it meant that you had been drilled and had the equipment to do the job.
The militia was every free male over 16 years old who could show up with their own equipment.

It is, alas ,amusing that progressives don't know what's in it

HYSTERICAL:  dims/libs/progs RECLAIM by extending the "commerce clause" to include REGULATING DECISIONS = see the individual mandate.

If the premise of this article were not so absolutely insane it would be funny!

And this week’s prize for the most ridiculous straw man argument goes to "Since one of the standard conservative talking points is that the “original intent” of the framers is an infallible guide to wisdom..."
 
Conservatives adhere to amendments to the constitution as strongly as we do to those parts of the original document that have not been amended.  What we are opposed to is supplanting a system for amending and enhancing the constitution (that was deliberately made to be challenging and to require widespread support) with a process that currently consists of waiting until right combination of senile SCOTUS judges is left on the bench to override their intellectual superiors and the will of the people.
 
If you really believe there should be stronger gun control legislation or more access to abortion, there are two methods for changing or adding to the constitution.  When the idea makes sense, it can happen quickly and easily (18 year old voting was ratified in 100 days).  If you cannot get it ratified, you might want to reconsider your position.

btw, scandanavia is the most heavily armed region in west. Eu.  You know, the countries w/ the health systems you folks want:

http://forums.civfanatics.com/...

several govt's in the are GIVE WEAPONS TO THEIR CITIZENS

A Liberal can't reclaim the Constitution. He or she would have to be a Conservative to do that.

What part of the District of Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court case don't you understand? The supreme court ruled that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects an individual's right to possess a firearm. The entire clause you refer to is a prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause.

Isn't it interesting how the Left twists everything they say. You leftists have never been for the constitution, Even Barack "the Constitutional Lawyer" HA, thinks it is a "living document" what a laugh.

What you are saying Mr. Epps, is that the left needs to bastardize and change the Constitution to fit your progressive big government all inclusivness. That will never work. You will need to pry my gun and bible (As your president called me and was never called out on it)  out of my cold dead hands.

Just like people like you who state that to kill an unborn child is your Constitutional right?

I cant spell progresive either. Can you spell catastrophy? That is what has happened since you leftists got in power

Thanks for showing just how ignorant the left is.

I'd like to think that Professor Epps is better at reading the Constitution than in reading recent political polls: Gov. Perry is not and has not been leading in any of  those polls for quite some time and in some, ever.

Founding fathers were fallible and they recognized it. That is why they created an amendment process. But they also understood amendments should not be subject to political whim which is why there is a such a high bar.

To avoid such political whim the constitution should be taken as such. It should be interpreted literally and on the original authors intent where vague. If an amendment supersedes any part of the constitution it should also be interpreted literally and on the original authors intent where vague. No changing of interpretation should be a "sign of the times". If times indicate that a portion of the constitution is incorrect, it should not occur on persons whim or opinion. Rather follow the process detailed in the constitution and create an amendment. It has happened before and is the proper way as intended.

Boy this was stupid, the author seems to not understand that it is constitutional to amend the constitution.  It is ignoring it and assuming more power than it allows that is the attack on the constitution.

Yeah, liberals do need to re-claim the constitution, and could start with disclaiming such shameless old socialist shams as Carter's old has-been-communist Brezensski who was given air time on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning. Get it right befor you open you silly mouth!

This was too stupid to read.  In fact, I quit halfway through the third paragraph.  Somebody let me know how it turned out.

Glad to see arguments that don't conform to your way of thinking get removed.  Way to stand up for that First Amendment....hypocritical commies

While I haven't done a full defense of the whole Constitution, I have taken on issue related to separation of church and state in a good bit of detail that goes into quite a bit of Constitutional history. See here:

http://www.rationalrevolution....

That doesn't really change anything. But furthermore, the 2nd amendment explicitly says that the purpose of the "right to bear arms (arms being undefined by the way) is to defend THE STATE. To claim that the 2nd amendment provides a right to bear arms for "persona use" or "self defense", no matter what one may think about those things (personally I support the right to own guns for such purposes) is to patently disregard the plain text of the amendment. 

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

"It’s time for liberals to reclaim our founding document from fanatics who worship its name but not its meaning.'

Oh you mean the democrats?  Hey sounds good to me.  But how are liberals going to reclaim the founding document from the dems?

Progressives always throw out the racism canard when refering to the Tea Parties references to the original intent.  First, even though the original constitution allowed slavery, it had built into it the tools to eventually rid us of it.  The South succeeded because slavery was on its way out and the only way they could stop that was to leave the Union.  At least that's what the history books say, even though the original bone of contention was tariffs.  Lincoln would have kept slavery if it would have saved the Union, that was his over riding concern.  The Gettysburg address and the Emancipation Proclamation were more about making it politically impossible for the French or British to intervene on behalf of the South as their populations were adamantly anti-slavery, than it was about his strong abolitionist feelings.

But if the anti-slavery factions had pushed their point at the formation of the Union, it would have never happaned.  The southern states would have simply refused to join.  The Northern and Mid Atlantic states would have created their own confederacies as well and no one would have had the justification or the means to go to war with the south.  North America would have ended up a patch work of small nations like South and Central America.  The original constitution was not pro-slavery as many Progressives suggest.  It was merely practical.  It asserted that the Union was more important than ending slavery.  Now you may disagree with that assessment, but that is a far cry from being a pro slavery document.

Finally, when the Tea Party refers to the original intent, they are refering to the intent of the active portions of the Constitution when ratified.  This is important because the Constitution is a contract amongst the citizens as to what our government shall be.  For a contract to be valid it must be clearly understood.  You cannot arbitrarily change the meaning of words.  For example, Congress is given the authority to "regulate interstate commerce."  This when penned make to make trade between the states regular, as in unimpeded.  In Wickard v. Filburn in 1941 the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could regulate anything that was even indirectly related to interstate commerce.  This makes a mockery of limited government as everything, including my stool, is indirectly related to interstate commerce.  Hence Federal regulations dictating the amount of water my commode may use.

Another example of this is the abuse of the General Welfare clause. "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." James Madison.  And yet it is constantly refered to by Progressives for ever more expansion of government power.  When Tea Partiers make reference to the original intent, they are in essence demanding government get out of their life.  They are calling for the limited government originally envisioned.  To a Progressive this may be a "night watchman" government, but to many of us it is Freedom.

To most Progressives the Constitution is veiwed, and rightly I think, as the single biggest obstacle to their agenda.  I doubt you will find much sentimentality for the Constitution on the Left.

When this guy stood at that lunch counter I wonder if he thought about ObamaCare.  Liberals like him assured us it was totally constitutional, yet now it is set to go before the Supreme Court after having failed the constitutionality test at the appellate court level.  Only a fool would say it's guaranteed to squeak past the Supreme Court. 

So yes, let's protect the Constitution.  Frankly, when Leftists try to ram a life changing takeover of the healthcare industry down our throats and force people to buy government defined health insurance that likely won't pass constitutional muster, I'd say we have some pretty concerns about Leftists.  And this guy complains about the Right?

Editing comments.  Editing what people think.  That's your bread and butter.  Did it ever work for Mao and Lenin and all the other clowns you all masturbate to?  Probably not.  Be nice, be kind , try to help people.   When it all breaks down, you Marxists are always the least empathetic examples of people.  Go get tickets to the Daily Show audience and swoon and hoop and holler at your priest.

Given that modern liberals are socialists, they don't want to reclaim the constitution but destroy it.

Liberals would do better to read, understand, and abide by the constitution. You don't to reclaim something thats yours - but liberals have a history of twisting the constitution, and law, to suit their purposes. Things they couldn't get into law, or have no support.

What part of "shall not be infringed" is hard to understand?

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