Humpty Dumpty Constitutionalism
A few days ago, I pointed out that the House Republicans’ five-page bill to raise the debt ceiling offends two different provisions in the Constitution. I wish this were an isolated instance. It’s not.
Most House Republicans are Tea Partiers, and Tea Partiers are in love with three things:
- those three-sided felt hats;
- those overly snug vests with lots and lots of brass buttons; and
- calling themselves “constitutional conservatives.”
In my last campaign, the loser (in every sense of the word) who ran against me painted himself as a “constitutional conservative.” He swore that his only goal was to return to the governing principles of our Founding Fathers. But as far as I could tell, the only part of the original Constitution that he liked was the part about black slaves counting as only three-fifths of a human being.
For months, I had to listen to the unhinged “constitutional” rants of that right-wing crank. Here is a list of some of the all-too-familiar Tea Party proposals he made that are blatantly unconstitutional:
- banning abortion;
- mandatory school prayer;
- a national sales tax;
- Congressional term limits;
- state rejection of federal laws;
- forcing criminal defendants to speak English;
- taxpayer dollars for religious schools;
- drug testing for federal benefits;
- discrimination against naturalized citizens; and
- state-by-state immigration policies.
The worst part of this is that he fancied himself quite the constitutional scholar, thank-you-very-much. But he must have slept through his law school course on constitutional law. Every single one of these proposals is unconstitutional, and unequivocally unconstitutional, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. But this same Tea Party acolyte did not hesitate to declare Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, federal aid to schools, student loans, paper money and – of course – Obamacare all unconstitutional. Why? Because he said so.
And don’t even get me started on his obsession over the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Apparently, he never noticed that under our Constitution, the federal government can:
- force you to fill out a census form;
- force you to serve on a jury;
- force you to hand in your gold;
- force you to give 91% of your income to it (under the Republican Eisenhower Administration);
- force you to hand over your property in return for what it considers “just compensation”; and
- select you on the basis of your birthday (!), drag you halfway around the world, and then force you to get your legs blown off, fighting the Vietnamese.
And I’m supposed to believe that this same government can’t get you to pay for your own emergency room care, or charge you what it costs if you don’t? Come on.
Look, they don’t own the American flag, they don’t own God, and they don’t own Constitution, either. It’s our Constitution.
I invite my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to sit down and read – at least those who know how to read – the document that they have sworn to uphold. In less time than they would waste listening to Sean Hannity’s errant nonsense one evening, they can get through the whole thing.
There’s some interesting stuff in there. For instance, it’s pretty clear that the Founding Fathers did not contemplate a standing army, much less an army standing in Kabul. And I invite you to show me exactly where it says in there that our military can occupy a foreign country.
But that’s the real Constitution, not the fake one in their heads. Their version reads like Humpty Dumpty’s: “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'”
Congressman Alan Grayson
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.“ – The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, ch. 5 (1871).