Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


It's Not a Living Constitution; It's a Living Argument

This Harold Meyerson WaPo column from earlier in the week--with its suggestion that Paul Ryan and the Republicans seek to "repeal the 20th century"--is a classic and claifying example of the Progressive mind revealing itself and, in that revelation, further demonstrating that it is a mind no longer capable of working.  Why should it work when "History" does all the heavy lifting and we have no other task but to listen to it?  Let me explain:

The various 20th century violations of American Constitutionalism (presented to the courts in the name of "progress") were always justified upon the theory that the Constitution was and is a "living" document.  That is, it should grow and bend and evolve with time and with the people.  We could no more be bound by 18th century ideas than we should be shuttled around on horseback.  Of course, courts needed this justification because--codified as they are by that Constitution and bound by it to interpret it--there was no politically feasible way to simply ignore or repeal it in favor of some system of government that is more responsive to this evolution.  We were stuck with it unless or, perhaps, until some 21st century leader could "extend and expand the American social compact" for a new age. 

You see, the Progressive mind believes that political arguments are not, actually, arguments.  Instead, they are a kind of dance that we do with ourselves until we are sufficiently evolved to accept the change that history dictates.  This is why, once a "Progressive" wins, his subsequent defeat can never mean, merely, that the American people have "changed their minds."  Instead, it means that the forces of regression are holding sway.  It means that we have "turned back the clock."  Changing your mind is impossible, after all, for this would presume that your mind is . . . well, free.  And no good Progressive--with his faith all tied up in the march of Progress and history--could be accused of making that kind of a wild error.

This is why Progressives do not believe in politics or, put another way, they do not appear to respect the concept of the consent of the governed.  It is also why Barack Obama refuses to engage in it.  It is not that Obama does not see that large swaths of the American people do not agree with his understanding of the purposes and limits (!) of American Constitutional government.  It is that their disagreement is of no moment to him; it is not worth a fair hearing as far as he's concerned.  It is, at best, an inconvenience and a hiccup.  You will come along, like it or not, as political evolution works its magic on you.  Some will come fast.  Others will move slow.  But all will come . . . or suffer the consequence of being branded a retrograde.

It is possible that the setbacks Obama felt at the ballot box last November served as an example to him of what happens in a Republic founded upon the consent of the governed when a political leader refuses to engage in politics.  But it is more likely that he took this to be merely a miscalculation . . . of "doing too much too fast."  His timing was off, not his purposes.  And he figures he can always learn patience on the job.

This budget imbroglio provides Americans who still believe in the centrality of politics in a government constituted upon the consent of the governed, an opportunity to demonstrate the freedom and the power of their functioning minds.  I don't know if Barack Obama can learn patience on the job (though his off-the-cuff remarks of exasperation directed at ordinary citizens suggest that he cannot), but I do know that if enough Americans demand it, he can be forced to do his job (or, at least, clarify for us the reasons why he will not or cannot do it).  Make him make a Constitutional case for his policies.  And make him understand that though the Constitution is not living, the arguments surrounding it thrive. 
Categories > Progressivism

Discussions - 1 Comment

Good post, Julie. It adds meat to this one from a litte while ago.

P.S. The code to post this one: "tradition itself!"

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