Constitutional Deference is not Theater
The New York Times sneered yesterday at the apparent deference of the new Republican majority to the Constitution. They did not, mind you, call into question area where Republicans might not be as keen on Constitutional enforcement (the Drug War, for instance), which would have been legitimate. Instead they poo-pooed the whole idea of Constitutional government as “theatrical production.”
The Times complained:
[I]t is far from clear what message is being sent by, for instance, reading aloud the nation’s foundational document. Is this group of Republicans really trying to suggest that they care more deeply about the Constitution than anyone else and will follow it more closely?
In any case, it is a presumptuous and self-righteous act, suggesting that they alone understand the true meaning of a text that the founders wisely left open to generations of reinterpretation.
Someone should offer the New York Times editorial board a basic lesson in Constitutional history. The document was not “left open to generations of reinterpretation.” It has one and only one interpretation, and that is the right one. Rather, it is left open to amendment. That’s not reinterpretation, that’s changing the actual document.
There is plenty of room to debate just what is the one, correct interpretation of the Constitution. But the Times is not interested in doing that here, and has instead satisfied itself by sneering at the very idea that it matters at all. That newly elected Speaker Boehner, just like all Speakers before him, was sworn in today by vowing to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” while affirming that he would “bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” must be all part of that theatrical production of which the Times has no use. One wonders anyway what, exactly, the oath is for if the document was intended to be reinterpreted at will by each new generation.
But despite the best effort of the Times, the Constitution will be, I dare hope, center stage once again in all political discussions. New House rules mandating that all legislation cite its Constitutional authority will hopefully force some public discussions about the document, its meaning, and its purpose in maintaining the integrity of our Constitutional Republic.