If only the right would leave the Constitution alone

IF ONLY THE RIGHT WOULD LEAVE THE CONSTITUTION ALONE…. For the better part of the last couple of decades, conservatives took a fairly aggressive approach to constitutional amendments: they wanted several more.

Indeed, by the mid-point of his presidency, George W. Bush was on record supporting at least six different proposed amendments to the Constitution: (1) prohibiting flag burning; (2) victims’ rights; (3) banning abortion; (4) requiring a balanced budget; (5) prohibiting same-sex marriage; and (6) allowing state-endorsed prayer in public schools. As a wise blogger noted at the time, Bush “really seems to think the Constitution is just a rough draft.”

But that was several years ago, and the right’s approach has shifted. Conservatives no longer prioritize adding new amendments to the Constitution; they now believe it’s time to start repealing some of the old ones.

We talked last month about the growing demands among Tea Partiers to repeal the 17th amendment — the constitutional provision that empowers the electorate to choose their own senators, rather than state legislatures doing it, as the Constitution originally mandated. Zaid Jilani noted one right-wing congressman who agrees, and wants to go even further.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has been touring his northeast Georgia district as part of the Republican Party’s “America Speaking Out” tour, discussing his ideas with his constituents. During a stop in Athens, Georgia, the congressman revealed some of his more radical ideas about where he wants to take the country. At one point, Broun told a constituent that Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson “started this process of socializing America” by passing the 16th and 17th amendments and endorsed repealing both of them.

Note, there was no real ambiguity about Broun’s intentions. He conceded it would be “a long process,” but said he wants both amendments “to be repealed fully.” (The 16th amendment, by the way, created a progressive federal income tax. Nevada’s Sharron Angle has also called for its repeal.)

This is becoming more and more common. On CNN yesterday, Utah’s Mike Lee, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate this year, called the 17th Amendment “a mistake,” and though he doesn’t think repeal is realistic, Lee is on record supporting the idea of repeal.

What’s more, remember that the right has also targeted the 14th Amendment for its language mandating birthright citizenship for Americans. Some conservatives — including Republicans Rand Paul (Ky.), Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.), and Louie Gohmert (Texas) — have suggested an additional amendment to “modify” this language may be necessary.

The Constitutional Accountability Center’s Elizabeth Wydra recently noted, “It is encouraging that so many Americans are now discussing and debating the Constitution. It is, after all, the People’s document. But before Tea Party repeal efforts gather steam, ‘We the People’ should take a sober look at the text, history, and principles behind the amendments the Tea Party would like to do away with. Amending the Constitution is not an easy task, and generations of Americans poured blood, sweat, and treasure into adopting the amendments that Tea Party activists would now like to repeal.”

If this were limited to right-wing activists, it’d be easier to dismiss. Alas, Republican officeholders and several statewide candidates are echoing the same ridiculous demands.

Given the alleged reverence for the Constitution in far-right circles, the irony is rich.