Rewriting the history that wasn’t…
Posted April 15, 2014on:
Good afternoon Widdershins.
This past week I recalled Michele Bachmann making a big deal out of being a “constitutional conservative” during the 2012 Presidential campaign. At the time the term “constitutional conservative” didn’t really mean much to me because, well, it was Michele Bachmann.
I was reminded of mis-Michele by another paragon of conservative thought — former Senator and Heritage Foundation President, Jim DeMinted. He, like Bachmann, used the term “constitutional conservative” in the context of the miraculous eradication of slavery not through any efforts of government or a war costing 750,000 lives, but some “beyond the mortal coil mysticism” of the Founders.
My interest was piqued. Come to find out, “constitutional conservative” is like the Carol Burnett earlobe tug — it’s a signal. It‘s code for, “While I don’t like to say too many crazy things out loud, you can bet I’m thinking them.”
Constitutional conservatism seems to have sprung up in 2009 from the fertile mind of a Hoover Institute Fellow and first published in the Wall Street Journal. While the theory doesn’t come right out and denounce democracy, it is clear there is little sympathy for those “other types of people” who are endangering the liberty of those purchasing vast quantities of SPF creams.
Those “other” people are defined as anyone who might have extra melanin, fail to own property, fail to be rich, fail to enjoy a panoply of tax write-offs, fail to adhere to a biblical definition of marriage, fail to forego contraception, fail to believe in corporate personhood, and fail to believe in full-fledged fundamental Protestantism. If that list is a bit overwhelming for you, it can be succinctly abbreviated: Liberals — the scariest people on the planet.
For those using the secret decoder term “constitutional conservative” it seems to be a mélange of conflation with a heaping helping of disassembly. Constitutional conservatives think of America as a sort of ruined paradise — an Eden divinely bestowed upon chosen Americans by a group of demigods who took the earthly form of Founding Fathers.
This is why Bachmann could say, with a straight face, that the Founders “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States,” blind to the fact that George Washington held slaves and Thomas Jefferson was an innovator in the world of slave torment and slave labor.
People who espouse this constitutional interpretation have to add a heaping portion of the Declaration of Independence to any analysis in order to insert thoughts such as “natural rights” since the Constitution doesn’t contain any such provisions.
Those espousing constitutional conservatism also have no answer for the original divinity of the Founders when it comes to women being second-class non-voting citizens, driving Native Americans from their land, or enslaving African-Americans as a matter of course through protectionism that was a boon to slave-owners. Their greatest obstacle is trying to explain why a divinely inspired document like the Constitution would have provisions for changing it through amendment. Best I recall there was no amendment process in the Ten Commandments.
These are some of the more granular inconsistencies — so let’s swing for the fences. The very North Star Founders who these constitutional conservatives point to were adamantly, diametrically opposed to the ideas they are credited with championing. An ironic situation akin to electing Einstein president of the Flat Earth Society.
The constitutional conservatives’ beliefs around dismantling and reducing the federal government resemble an America governed by the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles, national government was extraordinarily weak — it could not tax, mint coins, or pay collective debts. The result was an economic disaster and several states were near revolt. The failure of the Articles led to a constitutional convention culminating in a strong central government.
Those favoring the predominance of states and who saw a strong government as a prelude to tyranny were vehemently opposed to the Founders‘ call for a Constitution. So there you have it — the hyperbolic rhetoric of the Tea Partiers is based upon an unadulterated reverence for Founding Fathers who fought against the very philosophy the Tea Party is espousing with constitutional conservatism.
As with so many things where the Tea Party is concerned, it is based upon a common misperception where the perception then becomes reality. A trick also utilized by Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Camar Rouge, and the Taliban — just to name a few.
Even the event supposedly igniting the Tea Party, the Rick Santelli rant five weeks after the President’s inauguration — was fully and totally based on something that did not happen. Santelli had his knickers in a bunch over a supposed mortgage bailout that no one had talked about, no official had ever proposed, and quite simply, to this day has never happened, but it was a perceived fear that became a Tea Party reality.
So if the inception of the Tea Party was predicated on something that never happened and they have a governing philosophy of constitutional conservatism that stands for the opposite of what they believe, it’s easy to see how they can rewrite history that never was.
This is an open thread.
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