Noting that "progressives have long lamented the fact that the Framers designed a Constitution replete with impediments to federal government activism," the eminent George Will reveals the latest twist of logic by which Colorado liberals are attempting to use the Constitution as an impediment to popular referendums (which would otherwise limit the power of the ruling classes in state legislatures).
Sextion IV, Article IV of the U.S. Constitution reads: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government."
The folks in Colorado argue (tellingly, before an unelected judiciary) that a Colorado initiative limiting the legislature's license to raise taxes (the progressive's golden calf) denies the state a republican form of government. That is, only elected bureaucrats can craft laws - not the people themselves. While direct democracy has many flaws (and was hence rejected by the Framers as an insecure means of safeguarding liberty), its outright prohibition is a novel reading of the Guarantee Clause. Without delving into the history of the clause, I deeply suspect this reading is flawed.
Politically, however, liberals continue to reveal the surprising degree to which they are willing to oppose the people and popular government in favor of a ruling class. On an elementary level, the left - with all of its liberal ideologies of radical freedom, individuality and nonconformity - is incredibly devoted to the system, bureaucratic institutions and ever-expanding government.
Last Tuesday at Philadelphia's Ben Franklin Hall (a more suitable venue is difficult to imagine), British barristers sparred with American lawyers over the legality of the American colonists' Declaration of Independence.
The American's invoked natural law and the consent of the people. "The English had used their own Declaration of Rights to depose James II and these acts were deemed completely lawful and justified." Indeed, self-determination is now reflected in the fundamental rights of the UN Charter.
The British case recalled the historic lawlessness and fecklessness of the secession. "There is no legal principle then or now to allow a group of citizens to establish their own laws because they want to. What if Texas decided today it wanted to secede from the Union?" Denigrating "no taxation without representation" as little more than a wish to avoid paying their due share for the protection of the empire during the French and Indian War, the barristers listed the grievances in the Declaration as "too trivial to justify secession."
I believe it was Gordon Wood, clarifying Jefferson's supposed sufferance of "a long train of abuses and usurpations," who observed that never in the course of human history had men revolted over such slight actual harms. The empty and retreating declaration by the British Parliament that they had the power to rule over the colonies "in all cases whatsoever" was the sort of injury to which the Americans mainly revolted. Abuses of principle. Usurpations of ideas.
Of course, it is the jealous love of these principles and ideas which enabled to new nation to survive and prosper (contrary to the flawed recipe of the French Revolution, for example). Yet these grievances are not the sort for which the U.S. or NATO would now intervene on behalf of a restless people in a foreign land.
The British even slyly invoked the authority of Lincoln as they diminished the authority of "the laws of nature" and, by extension, of "nature's God."
Lincoln made the case against secession and he was right. The Declaration of Independence itself, in the absence of any recognised legal basis, had to appeal to "natural law", an undefined concept, and to "self-evident truths", that is to say truths for which no evidence could be provided.
It is noteworthy that the British attempt to reduce the American argument to a religious dogma. While the spirit of the revolution was democratic and the mode was legalistic, the foundation rested upon a sense of Providence. Interestingly, the British do not seem compelled to address this third leg of the revolution.
There are many compelling and legitimate arguments by which to address the question at hand - and most are well worth serious contemplation.
Regarded as one of the great populist campaigns of American history, Truman's 1948 whistle-stop tours showed millions of Americans a common man battling for the rights of other common men. But Truman, like FDR (especially in his 1944 SOTU address--see 6th paragraph from the end) was willing to denounce Republicans in the most strident terms, far meaner than what we see today (other than in lefty blogs), at least so far. Here's a sample, from his October 25, Chicago speech:
We must not imagine, just because we love freedom, that freedom is safe--that our freedom is safe. Eternal vigilance is still the price of liberty.
Other people have also loved freedom, but have lost their liberty with tragic suddenness.
It happened in Italy 25 years ago. It happened in Germany 15 years ago. It happened in Czechoslovakia just a few months ago. And it could happen here.
I know that it is hard for Americans to admit this danger. American democracy has very deep roots. But, if the antidemocratic forces in this country continue to work unchecked, this Nation could awaken a few years from now to find that the Bill of Rights had become a scrap of paper.
My friends, that must never happen! Look back over history, and you will find that wherever ruthless men have destroyed liberty and human rights, certain economic and social forces had paved the way for them.
What are these forces that threaten our way of life? Who are the men behind them? They are the men who want to see inflation continue unchecked. They are the men who are striving to concentrate great economic power in their own hands. They are the men who are setting up and stirring up racial and religious prejudice against some of our fellow Americans.
I propose to state in simple, unmistakable language, just exactly how each of these three groups of men--working through the Republican Party, if you please--is a serious threat to the future welfare of this great Nation.
And it gets better, with references to the big businessmen behind Hitler and the other fascists and charges of racial and religious prejudice. Watch out, whoever gets the Republican nomination for a Truman-style campaign.
For my American Civil War midterm, the extra credit was a set of Charlie Sheen quotations. Students could match up to ten of them to appropriate Civil War leaders in particular circumstances. They then had to provide a brief explanation for each match. So, for example, a good answer for #10 would be: "Grant after the fall of Forts Henry and Donalson." Similarly, a good answer for #5 could be "Forrest while raiding in central Tennessee."
How the New York Times's new Edatrix operates:
She planned to apply in the newsroom some of the "positive training" that she lavished on Scout. She and her husband, she writes in her book, used "encouragement, not punishment" to train Scout, rewarding her for good behavior with a piece of kibble. "In one's relationship with dogs and with a newsroom, a generous amount of praise and encouragement goes much better than criticism," she says.
A note to my post below. President William Howard Taft was a Unitarian, who disclosed that he "did not believe in the divinity of Christ." He was a moderate Progressive (versus the committed TR and Woodrow Wilson) and not a bad Chief Justice. William Jennings Bryan, the Democrat nominee in 1908, did object. It seems likely that the Christian fervor of TR's 1912 campaign ("Onward, Christian Soldiers" was a campaign song) was directed against Taft's faith.
Besides other Unitarian presidents (the Adamses), Vice President John C. Calhoun was also of this church. Again, the real measure of loyalty to basic American principles is understanding of and adherence to the Declaration of Independence.
From Robert Middlekauff's The Glorious Cause, vol. II of the Oxford History of the United States: Facing a "cruel test," Washington was sustained through the Revolution by
at least two profound convictions. The first was that he was the instrument of Providence in the struggle.... The other belief approached passion--a love of what Washington called the "glorious cause," the defense of the liberties of Americans. (p. 296)
Of course not everyone who claims divine inspiration may be discerning or even truthful, but convictions about God's will have been honorable motives for public service from our origins as a nation. Should such a self-examination be less essential today? Or must sociological circumstances or mere personal self-aggrandizement determine our political leadership?
The objective test of course is whether a candidate's views comport with those of the Declaration of Independence. Private revelations are quite subordinate to that overriding consideration. Might candidates who court the Tea Party actually use the wisdom of our founding period in contemporary debates?