Sunday, January 2, 2011

Playing the Constitutional Tango with a Conservative

Tonight, I had a conversation on Twitter over the Constitutionality of Social Security with a good friend, @RalphSmorra and some others. While I generally like Ralph, I noticed something that is a pattern for conservatives and often for bad political debaters. They tend to say things like, "do you think the Founding Fathers imagined the use of like it is used today?"

While Ralph is not a "bad debater" generally, and is quite knowledgeable, I have to wonder why he would have thought the founders would have had even the slightest vision of today's world. Do they think the founders divined the Internet or the airplane, and its needs for governing?

Generally speaking, words and their meanings are not locked into cement or a vault that prevents them from evolving to a given time and place. To imagine we knew the original intent and that it would always be the same forever is rather specious to say the least. Heck, I often get bored watching the testosterone fly as people play the "what the founders intended" game as they cite one founder after another as if their views were monolithic instead of a group with various reasons for signing on to the document.

They act as though the constitution was a strict document, stuck in a time and place instead of what it really is: a flexible document that adapts to the test of time and situations.

If it was a strict document that had to be amended every time something changed, they wouldn't have created the Executive emergency powers; they wouldn't have created vague clauses like "provide for the common defense" or "promote the general welfare" which are pretty ambiguous in their phrasing. While conservatives will say the former phrase is carte blanche for all defense needs and means, they will argue the latter must be strictly interpreted by other clauses as they seek to push their views rather than the text of the document.

While each side seeks to re-interpret the Constitution by strict or vague means for their own policy agenda, the sad reality is that too many have never read the document enough to know who is right or wrong, only to follow their dogmatic opinion leaders who seek to make a fast buck and gain power off of their ignorance.

In today's Information Society, take the time to google and read the text of the Constitution. It isn't that hard.

With that said, maybe Ralph would have been better served spending time elsewhere than to claim 70 years of SCOTUS decisions on Social Security were wrong on vague, general terms like "there is no constitutional provision for Social Security."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Citing one Founder or another can be a useful way to bring out one idea or another for discussion, but it can hardly provide definitive answers, since the Founders disagreed on so much. Shall we cite Jefferson's views, Hamilton's, or John Adams'? But the words of the Constitution are not so easily dismissed. Those are the terms that a majority of the Founders agreed to, and which were then ratified by the states. A government that does not adhere to those words has no legitimacy.
And fortunately, those words and their meanings are neither vague nor unintelligible. Some good legal minds wrote a strict document, allowing such flexibility as was necessary and no more. Further, in the Federalist, the authors took great pains to explain explicitly what the document intended. "Original intent" is no mystery. Uncle Steve