Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Constitution Matters

I am going to open this blog post with some words from the United States Constitution. This is the bulk of Article Six of that document.

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

"The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

What I am going to say in this post is not at all unique but it is certainly far too rare for my liking. I think the scarcity of people talking about what a president is really supposed to be has reached nearly tragic proportions and I think the country is in serious danger because of it.

These days I hear a lot of arguments centered on the point that, "Trump is better than Clinton." "If you don't vote for Trump it is a vote for Clinton." "The country will be destroyed if you don't vote for Trump." I fully get it that a lot of people think that Trump is great and he will save the country. I also fully get it that Clinton would be a horrible president. But there is something missing from them both which makes me unable to support either.

I'm not going to waste a lot of time in those sorts of arguments above. It seems rather pointless to me to support one candidate or the other when neither seems particularly fussed about trivial little things like the Constitution or the rule of existing law. Certainly neither one of them are mentioning it very much and both of them have supported some very gross examples of policy which I would not consider to be beneficial to the People of the country; letting alone completely their questionable legality. Furthermore any candidate who openly expresses any caring for the little niceties like laws and constitutions is openly mocked and lied about in the media.

People come up with a lot of reasons and rationale for their votes. They like his hair or don't like his hair. They like her history or don't like her history. His wife has nice arms. He's old. He's young. He can bring a fresh perspective to the office. He's black. He's "for the people." She is a woman. He's going to make deals with everybody to fix everything. He's going to make America great again. The other guy is a liar. He's not a professional politician. He is a professional politician. He is establishment. He is not establishment. He is a successful businessman. Years ago he gave his dog a ride on top of his car. Twenty-six years ago he got drunk. Nobody else contributed to his campaign so he can't be bought. He's a political outsider. Whatever.

They go on and on and on, and every single one of these points are totally and utterly ridiculous and they have all missed the point of voting for a president; and done so by a very wide margin. I'm just not going to go down that road at all because no matter what other issue any candidate is for or against, no matter what else they are or do, it has to be constitutional or America is lost. So my problems with either of the two most likely to become our next president are not personal at all. They lie exclusively in my deeply seated doubts that either of them have any intention at all of upholding the supreme law of the land.

When I take a look at the many and widely different reasons why people decide on who they want as president, two very strikingly important things occur to me. Everybody's standard for choosing a president is different and none of those standards has anything to do with the job a president of the United States is supposed to do. This is a very, very bad thing. It's no small wonder that we can't agree on who the winner of an election should be. There is no understanding of the uniform yardstick (Article Two of the Constitution) to measure the applicants of the highest job in the country!

Because of this lack of a standard to apply to the office, it is easy to see how people who support one candidate, could be totally baffled as to why anybody could possibly support the other. I've recently come to an understanding of how this has happened. I talk to liberals and they don't know, understand or care about the Constitution. That's kind of expected and so are their responses when I bring it up. I talk to hard line conservatives and Libertarians and they seem to know it and expect me, as well as everybody else, to understand it. The stunning revelation to me is that I've also talked to Trumpists, who are in theory supposed to be Republicans, and while some of them clearly care about it, most of them seem to not understand it at all, let alone care about it. Just the other day I mentioned in an offhand way to some Trumpists that I don't think his plans on healthcare are constitutional. I don't think the government has any business at all in healthcare. Man, by the reactions that I got to just this suggestion, you'd have thought I was a mass murderer. I can completely get the idea that given a choice between the Constitution and Trump, they would choose Trump no matter what he did, because no matter what he does the highest law in the land is that Donald Trump is right.

So here's the problem in one word; education. Specifically, accurate education about what is in the Constitution and more importantly why what is in it, is there.

Those who follow, understand and support the rule of law, as defined in our founding document, know that there are an awful lot of lies about it. "The Constitution says black people are only 3/5ths human!" is just one example. "The Constitution supports slavery!" is another. And yes, "The United States is a Democracy," is another. My personal choice for the worst lie is, "The Constitution is a living breathing document and can be amended or interpreted any way we want it to be." It's a huge lie. There is nothing in it that says any of these things. Go ahead and look if you don't believe me. I triple-dog-dare you!

It is quite obvious from the difference of standards for choosing a candidate, for any office, that something is wrong. So how do we fix our country?

I'm not going to debunk all or any of the lies about the Constitution here, that's not the point of this post, but it is important to understand that knowing the truth does matter, so we can make the correct and best choice. More than that it is of paramount importance that we know the truth so we can recognize and debunk the continuous streams of lies wherever we find them.

I am not going to take the time or use this space to explain the Constitution, other than to say it is the document that is a contract between us all, which is supposed to protect all of our rights. Whatever flaws people think it has—and I do think there are a few minor ones—it is the supreme law of the land, and it is critical to us all that we understand it and insist that everybody who is elected to federal office both understand it and follow it. Our human rights are at stake if the federal government becomes too much more untethered from it.

It is important to study it for ourselves and teach the Constitution to everybody at every single chance we get. The Constitution says what it says and it says it in simple language that anybody can understand; granting that the language is what was commonly spoken here two and a quarter centuries ago. It is also important not to take the words of constitutional scholars or Supreme Court rulings because they often have political or financial conflicts of interest with what it actually says. It is important to not take lengthy and extremely verbose interpretations of it. There is an old saying, "if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull," which applies here, so if what someone says about it is long winded and convoluted, it is very likely not true.

Helpful references for its study, for use only when something seems ambiguous and you can't figure out what is meant, are "The Federalist Papers," and the notes of James Madison on the Constitutional Convention. I wouldn't go much beyond that; and even then, regardless of Madison's view, or the view of any other Founding Father, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, not the opinion of Thomas Jefferson for example, who wasn't even in the country at the time of its writing, or any other authority. The views and authority of various Founders, constitutional scholars, and most especially the Supreme Court of the United States, are far, far below the actual text of the Constitution and are not legally binding. And yes, I did just say that the opinions of the Supreme Court are not legally binding unless there is something actually in the Constitution to support that opinion. As a general rule of thumb, when reading someone else's interpretation of any specific clause, if they can't do it in one or two succinct paragraphs that are direct and to the point, they are selling you a false bill of goods and should be immediately disregarded. Quite truthfully, there is not that much to say about any given specific clause.

If you have to use a dictionary be certain to use one which contains the definitions of words as they were used around the time the Constitution was written. Words like, "regulate," mean something quite different today than what they meant back then; and the difference in places like the Second Amendment and the Commerce Clause, are absolutely critical.

It is vitally important that you come to understand the Constitution in your own headspace rather than someone else's. That is the only place where absolute certainty can exist.

The reason why you want to do this is because when someone says, "Jonny Muckinfutch is going to fix the country with his health plan!" you can respond with, "Please state the Article, Section and Clause that grants the federal government the authority to do anything with healthcare." Of course you should be prepared to take the endless chain of irrational personal insults that don't relate to the subject at all. My standard response for these is, "Thank you for your opinion but personal insults are an argument for when someone has no valid point to make." To which you may get a response something like, "The Supreme Court says it's Constitutional! Dumbass!" My standard response is, "The Supreme Court is neither always right nor the highest law in the land though is it? So please name the Article, Section and Clause which authorizes that."

Sooner or later you will get someone who will know something of what the Constitution says but misunderstands it. I had a guy try to tell me the "General Welfare" clause authorizes federal government healthcare programs because the Supreme Court said so. You cannot do this if you are uncertain what the "General Welfare" clause is. So there are two points here. First is that the person usually cannot present any Supreme Court decision that says any such thing; and second, the context is completely incorrect for that interpretation. So your certainty must be absolute.

Now here is the most important thing to remember. You are trying to get people to read and understand the Constitution. If you keep asking, over and over, no matter what else happens in the conversation, if you stick to that point, sooner or later both that person, or any interested witnesses to the debate, will read the Constitution to find out what is actually in it; and if you are wrong or if you are right. They may do it out of your planting the seeds of curiosity or they may do it to try to prove you wrong. Either way the number of people whom you inspire to read it will increase.

If little tricks like this are done enough the Constitution, hopefully, will again take its rightful place as the standard for choosing our presidents.

No comments:

Post a Comment