If God & Founders Solved It All, Why Bother With Democracy?

There’s an interesting op-ed up at WaPo today from Michigan State political scientist Matt Grossman arguing that conservatives are only “obstructionists” insofar as “most policies under debate are liberal,” not just now but for decades.

Grossman is implicitly illustrating a point about “constitutional conservatism” that I’ve often tried to make: If the divinely inspired Founders pretty much figured out the ideal governing model for all time (except for that troublesome bit about slavery), then all political controversy involving the limitation of absolute property rights and states’ rights is illegitimate and should be obstructed. This means that strictly speaking the “constitutional conservative” vision is perfectly compatible with an authoritarian system in which “illegitimate” policy options are off the table.

I’m not accusing such conservatives (much less Grossman, who doesn’t Go There at all) of advocating an authoritarian system, though proposals like the Cut, Cap and Balance Constitutional Amendment do indeed seek to permanently proscribe a significant part of liberal social and economic policies. But if conservatives sometimes seem cavalier about respecting democratic norms, including the right to vote, there’s your explanation.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.