IF ONLY THE RIGHT WOULD LEAVE THE CONSTITUTION ALONE, CONT’D…. We talked a few weeks ago about the right’s approach to the U.S. Constitution, specifically, its desire to fiddle with it, adding more amendments while scrapping some old ones. As the GOP’s interest in giving the 14th amendment a touch-up intensifies, let’s take stock of where we are.
By my count, Republican leaders, including George W. Bush, endorsed six different new amendments to the Constitution over the last decade: (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. Jon Chait runs a similar list today, and notes a few I missed, including amendments to require legislative supermajorities to raise taxes, a “parental rights” amendment, a term-limits amendment, and in one instance, an amendment to give Washington, D.C., a single voting representative.
Taken together, that’s 10 constitutional amendments proposed, endorsed, and/or introduced by leading Republicans over the last decade.
I’d call this many things, but “constitutional conservatism” — a phrase repeated ad nauseum by Bachmann and the Tea Party crowd — it isn’t.
On top of the new amendments the right has requested, there’s also the existing amendments the right wants to “fix.” That means scrapping the 17th Amendment, repealing the 16th Amendment, getting rid of at least one part of the 14th Amendment, and “restoring” the “original” 13th Amendment.
It’s as if the right has begun to look at the entire Constitution as little more than a rough draft, in desperate need of deft conservative editing. (What could possibly go wrong?)
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.
Of course, 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. In recent weeks, both Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for the partial repeal of the 14th Amendment, for crying out loud.
Given the alleged reverence for the Constitution in far-right circles, the irony is rich.