Sunday, September 26, 2010

To the U.S. Constitution Worshipper.

Having a personal interest in national myths, I found this week's opinion column Lexington in the Economist totally right on. I wish more people had this perspective. Maybe something that can also help restore sanity....
The perils of constitution-worship : One of the guiding principles of the tea-party movement is based on a myth, from Lexington.

.... there is something infantile in the belief of the constitution-worshippers that the complex political arguments of today can be settled by simple fidelity to a document written in the 18th century.
The constitution is a thing of wonder, all the more miraculous for having been written when the rest of the world’s peoples were still under the boot of kings and emperors (with the magnificent exception of Britain’s constitutional monarchy, of course). But many of the tea-partiers have invented a strangely ahistorical version of it. For example, they say that the framers’ aim was to check the central government and protect the rights of the states. In fact the constitution of 1787 set out to do the opposite: to bolster the centre and weaken the power the states had briefly enjoyed under the new republic’s Articles of Confederation of 1777.

When history is turned into scripture and men into deities, truth is the victim. The framers were giants, visionaries and polymaths. But they were also aristocrats, creatures of their time fearful of what they considered the excessive democracy taking hold in the states in the 1780s. They did not believe that poor men, or any women, let alone slaves, should have the vote. Many of their decisions, such as giving every state two senators regardless of population, were the product not of Olympian sagacity but of grubby power-struggles and compromises—exactly the sort of backroom dealmaking, in fact, in which today’s Congress excels and which is now so much out of favour with the tea-partiers.

More to the point is that the constitution provides few answers to the hard questions thrown up by modern politics.


Pace Ms Bachmann, the constitution is for all Americans and does not belong to her party alone. Nor did Jefferson write a mission statement for the tea- partiers. They are going to have to write one for themselves.

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