Constitution and Change

Those who read this blog know I’m a strong Constitutionalist and dislike those who would change the Constitution for questionable reasons or laden down the document with non-universal personal or socio-political agendas like banning abortion, defining marriage, guaranteeing full employment, environment, abolishing electoral college, abolishing natural born clause for POTUS, and so on.

I’m sure many are now aware of the video going viral about Obama’s statement saying the Constitution of the United States is flawed and reflects the fundamental flaw of the nation. On both counts I completely disagree. No document devoted to establishing the governing precepts of a nation is ever flawless. What is remarkable is that the Constitution was so well written that it has had rare need to be altered, modified, or added to. Such changes, with rare exception, only enhanced and refined the document further. The very fact that the document could be modified in and of itself shows it’s versatility and progressiveness even in this day and age.

If Obama was referring to racial inequality at the time the Constitution was written he is confusing the attitudes and social mores of the times with what was actually written. The Framers were considerably clever in how the document was written choosing words and phrasing that could easily become universal in the future up to and beyond the inclusiveness of blacks (as latter history in the U.S. showed) while not putting off either Southern slave owners or Northerners fearful of Southern dominance in the government. The problem that arises for me is that Obama goes on to discuss redistribution of wealth via the Court and government and lamenting that the Constitution was deliberate in it role to limit the role of government in peoples lives. At least that’s how I interpreted his words. You can decide for yourself. The part that disturbs me is at the end, “redistributive change”.

It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution, at least as its been interpreted and Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf, and that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.

The idea though that Senator Obama feels that the government should decide who makes what amount of money and everything else needs to be taken from them is anathema to me and I suspect a number of other Americans. These comments from 2001 only reinforce concerns of many over Sen. Obama’s neo-socialist leaning.

Now Senator Obama may have only said flaw in that the constitution only states what the government can’t do in regards to a person’s rights, and not what it can do. That is actually a good thing since it clearly delineates that the role of the government is to provide defense and moderate trade while leaving the people to pursue their own lives without being intruded upon as they had by the British. The problem though is that this neo-socialist leaning has continued for more than 7 years.

Case in point Sen. Obama’s has recently mentioned potential changes to the Constitution again.

Q: Yes. Exactly. Do you favor changing the Constitution?

A: I rarely favor changing the Constitution. I will say it doesn’t seem real fair that (the fact that) Jennifer was born in a hospital a few miles north as opposed to a few miles south somehow prohibits her from running for president. So it’s something I would be willing to look at. … The original native-born clause came at a time when the country was pretty unstable. … You could argue that some of those original conditions do not apply.

I don’t change constitutions lightly. So I would want to study it before I made a definitive statement on it.

Source: Obama: Aim for fundamental change | | Detroit Free Press| 3 Oct 2008

So Obama apparently thinks it’s unfair that only native born Americans should be allowed to run for President and that the reasons for the clause are no longer valid or necessary. The reasoning behind the ensuring on natural born citizens would be allowed to be President (and later applied to Vice President) was and still is very simple: to avoid a conflict of interest with or undue influence by foreign powers. While it is unlikely an individual working for the behest of a foreign power could gain much control of the U.S. even as POTUS better to avoid the problem in the first place.

I can’t help but wonder if we are returning (or have already returned) to the so called Gilded Age when some thought the Constitution defective. I say this because much of the political corruption we see in the country from all parties is somewhat reminiscent of the scandals and fraud of that time period such as government intervention in the economy resulted in favoritism, waste and corruption. Sound familiar? (Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac/Wall Street Bailout.) Also parties had large get-out-the vote campaigns of a dubious nature (ACORN anyone?), and sensationalist news took precedence over genuine news (News reporters covering sexual escapades of celebrities versus uncovering corruption in local government, for example, or covering a politician’s marital history instead of their politics). Sounds familiar, yes?