Crucifying the Constitution- “Do no give us any standard by which actions can be judged to be right or wrong.”
by Bill Lockwood
The Progressive Era, beginning at the turn of the last century, has brought us a constant assault upon the rule of law in America. Led by the Democratic Party, the Constitution of the United States has been ignored, trashed, vilified, tortured and shredded. Whether twisting the meaning of the Commerce Clause, or re-writing the Necessary and Proper Clause, to the re-molding of The First Amendment, our Constitution at this point is practically relegated to the dust-bin of historical oddities. Reading the Founding Fathers on their own Constitutional product is like reading opinions of foreigners unacquainted with modern methods of governing.
A case in point. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) plans to block an up-or-down vote on President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch is an “originalist” in his approach to the Constitution which means his interpretive principle in discerning the meaning of the Constitution is based upon the actual words of the document itself.
While there is some debate on the “originalist” principle—for instance, the modern meaning of words in the commerce clause can lead us astray from what the founders intended by that clause—Gorsuch basically allows the Constitution to speak for itself. * This will not do for Schumer and the Democratic Party which tells us that this approach to the Constitution is “out of the mainstream” of America.
What About Originalism?
First, the very reason for having a written document of settled law is to prevent what has been occurring in America under Schumer-style leadership. When the Constitution was drafted and ratified the Founders were exceedingly clear. They wanted to avoid the common pitfall of English history wherein there was no written law. England had been guided by the decisions of Parliament which, in absence of a written legal code, was a wide invitation to an open-ended metamorphosis of legal standards.
This, in turn, meant that the populace never enjoyed the obvious protections of their rights under law, but instead were at the mercy of Parliamentary changes or the powerful Crown that would ignore Parliament. In the end, it is the common people who suffer most.
One of the “chains of the Constitution” spoken of by Thomas Jefferson was that America would have a written code that would remain inflexible and never change, except by Amendment. It is this concept, a written document that encloses the actions of the leaders, that both Democrats and Republicans have disdained. Most of our departures from Constitutional Law, whether it be by means of the Federal Reserve System or the Environmental Protection Agency, or the liberal transmutation of the Second Amendment, can be explained on the basis of this sad truth. Many leaders do not wish to be contained.
Second, to say that America’s Constitution is a “living, breathing document” insinuates that one wishes to disregard the standard. When one conjures the notion of a “living, breathing” document, such as was recently done in a Cosmopolitan article (authored by Jill Filipovic), it involves an attack upon the standard itself. It is to say that the standard actually evolves over time. Democrat strategist Chris Hahn, a former campaign worker for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), reflecting the same relativism in a 2011 comment, stated that our Constitution is “a living, breathing document that evolves over time.”
This same breed of hostility to any normative standard is seen in theological circles as well. Liberals are fond of citing a New Hermeneutic approach to the Bible which means that moderns wish to have a “relativistic” approach to God’s Word. This translates thusly: “Do no give us any standard by which actions can be judged to be right or wrong.” Mankind wishes to be free from the constraint of God’s Law.
Exactly so with Schumer and the Democrats in law-making. To interpret the Constitution according to its original intent is anathema to them because they hate the standard of Constitutional law to begin with. It is too restricting. Too restraining is the Constitutional standard against their impulses to dictate and control the lives of other Americans.
The Founders foresaw this lawless maneuver. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, pointed out that our Constitution is only “legitimate” if we “resort” to the “sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation.” James Wilson, Pennsylvania member of the Philadelphia Convention rightly insisted, “The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it.”
Thomas Jefferson, who coined the phrase “Chains of the Constitution,” recognized that the guardian of our liberties was the Constitution itself—provided that we properly interpret it in its “originalist” intent. “On every question of construction let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or intended against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
Chuck Schumer’s confrontational opposition to Neil Gorsuch has its roots in the lawlessness that has characterized many of our politicians for over a century. They brook no limit on their power over the citizen—least of all that old relic The Constitution of the United States. Gorsuch, by Schumer’s own admission, demonstrates no specific opinion of dangerous proportions. The New York Senator simply does not like what he calls his “ideology” of honoring the law of the land. That’s where we are.
*The Tenth Amendment Center’s recent article, “Nine Reasons the ‘Living, Breathing’ Constitution View is a Lie” discusses the difference between being an “originalist”—seeking the original intent of the Founders’ words—from a “textualist”—where it is claimed Neil Gorsuch actually is.