Free Markets, Free People

tea party


What does this headline tell you?

Seen today on an MSN newsfeed:

Gingrich, Rove and the right for the Republican Party

What does it say?  It says the GOP is more screwed than we ever understood.

The “old ladies” are still predominant and now are fighting among themselves and attacking the Tea Party, which should, if you believe GOP propaganda, be a natural ally. 

As long as that condition prevails, the GOP will remain a minority party in national politics.   And yes, I know, there are some new faces attempting to emerge.  But between the left, the media and the old ladies, their chances of emerging anytime soon without having their character assassinated are likely slim and none.

~McQ


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 05 Aug 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the totalitarian mindset of the left, and its consequences.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Ted Cruz, Tea Party and TSPLOST

There’s a lot of press being given the so-called “Tea Party win” of a candidate for the Texas Senate seat – Ted Cruz.

He, with the Tea Party’s help, overcame some pretty negative polling  numbers to eventually win a Republican run-off convincingly last night.

Says the Washington Post:

Cruz, an emerging conservative star whose father emigrated to the United States from Cuba, has drawn comparisons to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and has been lauded by national conservative political pundits and groups for over a year. His victory is a major blow to the Republican establishment in Texas, which lined up squarely behind Dewhurst. It’s also a victory for the tea party and national conservatives who lined up behind Cruz even when a surprise win appeared unlikely.

What the WaPo doesn’t say is the demise of the Tea Party seems to have been quite exaggerated.  And that’s irritating to both Democrats and, “the Republican establishment”.  Or as the Tea Party likes to refer to that establishment – RINOs.

Regardless of where you come down on the Tea Party, it seems to be in anything but in decline.

Another example that, which will get little if any publicity, occurred here in Georgia.  It was a referendum on TSPLOST.  The TSPLOST referendum was a state-wide vote on funding transportation infrastructure improvements in the state. Boring but expensive stuff, right? Approval would add a penny to sales tax for a period of 10 years.  It was touted as an absolute necessity by all of the state’s political leaders, from the Republican governor to the Democratic mayor of Atlanta.  Jobs were promised, improved economy was cited, etc.

But why was it necessary?  Well let Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss explain why, after decades upon decades of sending GA taxpayer money to Washington DC for redistribution, we now have to self-fund maintaining our roads:

We just passed a highway bill two weeks ago. The president signed it last week. In that highway bill, we did not change the funding mechanism on how roads and bridges and infrastructure in this country are built and maintained.

“We don’t have the money in the highway trust fund now to build new roads. We don’t have the money in the highway trust fund to build rail lines that will take some of the pressure off the transportation issues that we have in this country. We’ve got to develop a different way of funding those projects. And until we do that, the mechanism that we have in place is it. It’s the only mechanism.

“So when folks go to the polls to decide whether or not they want to vote for TSPLOST, if they don’t have a better idea of how we’re going to fund the infrastructure and the transportation needs for Georgia, then this is the best route to go right now. Now that’s the general picture. I am looking at it from a Georgian standpoint. This is not a federal issue, this is a Georgia issue.

The hell it’s not a federal issue – where’s the money?  Why don’t you have the funds necessary to improve infrastructure after the taxpayers of GA have been forking it over to the Federal government for years?

Simple answer?  They overspent or spent it on other things.  That’s why we have trillion dollar deficits.

Anyway, as you might imagine, the state’s campaign for passage was relentless and well funded.  But the citizens of GA weren’t about to buy into these pie-in-the-sky promises without some careful examination.  Enter the Tea Party in a true David and Goliath match up.  It didn’t have the funding, but apparently it did have the will (and tons of volunteers) to take on the power structure and give it a run for our money.

The TSPLOST referendum’s one penny 10 year sales tax bid went down in flaming defeat.  Only 3 of 12 state regions passed it.  The point hasn’t been lost locally:

The tea party and other T-SPLOST opponents didn’t need much money, though, to defeat the one-penny sales tax. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, they had raised only about $15,000. That was a pittance compared to the $8 million in the hands of the proponents, which included Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

But the opponents made their punches count. As supporters hit the airwaves with TV commercials, opponents hit the roadways, relying on carloads of volunteers to plant yard signs, distribute fliers, make phone calls and, in the days leading up to the vote, stand on street corners hawking their message.

Grafstein said those local neighborhoods are where the tea party may see its greatest impact. Already, many members have been watchdogging city and county commissions and school boards.

"Officials on the local level are more likely to be more fearful of the threats the tea party can make," he said. "They have lower-turnout elections."

Tuesday night’s results, he said, "make [the tea party] look like people protecting the average citizen from the rapacious government."

Additionally, it should be noted that the Tea Party wasn’t tied to the traditional structure of politics (or, said another way,  those they’re accused of being tied too):

Tuesday’s outcome, Dooley said, also shot down many misconceptions about the group. Opposing Deal and the business establishment showed that the tea party is not just a wing of the Republican Party; forming alliances with the NAACP and Sierra Club showed a willingness to work across ideological lines; and winning showed that it’s not out on some fringe, she said.

And the Tea Party in GA scored a bonus victory as well:

In fact, the tea party scored a double victory Tuesday with the overwhelming popularity of a measure to restrict lobbyists’ gifts to state lawmakers. It was a cause the tea party championed during the last legislative session, and it positioned the group to push it with even greater vigor in the one to come.

Of course there are those who deny the Tea Party had any impact and in fact are claiming victory for something they had little impact upon.  But the results are the results aren’t they?

Here’s the point in all of this – the Tea Party movement is concentrating in areas and races that don’t get much national press or coverage, but as they amass victories, will have a profound effect later in national politics.  They’re winning at the state and local level.   Where do you suppose the next challenge to the likes of a Saxby Chambliss in GA will come from?  Certainly not a Democrat, not in red, red GA. 

Instead, look for a Ted Cruz like candidate to eventually emerge.

This is what keeps the Republican establishment up at night, and rightfully so.

It is also a reason to be somewhat optimistic about the future of politics, if we can survive our current crop of pols long enough to turn this all around.

Citizens are, in effect, revolting.   One of the things we’ve said on our podcasts that might happen is states will say ‘no’ to impositions and mandates by the federal government, and that may start a new revolution of sorts.  Well that’s something that’s possible but I can’t think of anything more likely to spark that than outcomes like this.  The citizenry of GA is saying “no”.  They’ve lost trust in their government to use their tax dollars wisely.  They’ve put their state (or are in the process of putting their state) in the position to say “no” to the Fed.

We live in interesting times.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Indiana voters spit out a Lugar

I’m sure McQ will have plenty to say tomorrow about Lugar’s 40-60 thrashing in the Indiana senatorial primary. In the meantime, though, a few points of my own:

 

1. The left’s insistence that the Tea Party is just a bunch of fringe extremists with no real influence should have been shown for the wishful thinking it is by the Congressional elections in 2010. Of course, it wasn’t. Lugar’s defeat should demonstrate again that it was silly wishful thinking.

Not that the left will ever get it, because they can’t really face the reality of this situation. A mass movement around limited government is their worst enemy. The left exists as a parasite on the rest of society, with government as the way to extract sustenance from the host. Even the Tea Party, which advocates what I consider a mild form of limited government, could dry up some of the left’s nourishment, and they might well have to go into a Kilkenny cats resolution to that problem. Which, I admit, would be fun to watch.

2. Lugar was 80 years old. He would be 86 at the end of the next term. Like Byrd, he clearly wanted to be taken out of DC in a hearse. I’m sorry, but that’s sick. It’s an addiction to power and self-importance. That alone is a pretty good reason to get rid of him.

3. Lugar prattled that “Over 60% of my life has been serving others.” That kind of sanctimonious drool really gets on my nerves. So you’re serving us, Senator Lugar, but you’re the one being treated like royalty everywhere you go? The one being chauffeured around? The one being schmoozed by every lobbyist on K Street? Wow, what an incredible burden that must have been while you were serving us. Schmuck.

 


Obama: OWS not that different than Tea Party

The Weekly Standard tells us:

In an interview that will be aired tonight on ABC News, President Obama continues to express his commitment to the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

“The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you’re supposed to do, is rewarded,” Obama tells ABC News. “And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don’t feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers that those folks aren’t rewarded.”

The president also compares the protesters to the Tea Party. “In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party," Obama says.

Really?  Not that different?

In Cleveland they’re investigating a kidnapping and rape at OWS there.

In Atlanta, the OWS protesters stormed a hospital.

An OWS protester in Seattle was arrested for exposing himself to children.

They’re talking about plans to disrupt the World Series.

And thievery is rampant within the OWS camps.

There is evidence of anti-Semitism.

Yup, just like the Tea Party.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


How to respond to #OWS

My esteemed colleague George Scoville brought to my attention a post about how Republicans are making a mistake in their responses to the Occupy Wall Street protests/movement.  John S. Wilson at Mediaite argues that mocking OWS, tying the unruly protestors to the Democrats, and waiting for the protests to fade is just how Democrats set themselves up for a beating by the surprisingly resilient Tea Party.

Wilson is right: conservatives are underestimating OWS. While individual protestors on camera often have no idea what they’re talking about, that’s typical for a large protest; it doesn’t mean OWS is bound to flop.  Unless Republicans think Obama won such a convincing victory in ’08 because the voters knew him so well, they should absolutely take this movement seriously and respond energetically.

That said, a few of Wilson’s points are false.  Like:

“The message is as clear as the implications: income inequality has gotten out of control and is untenable.”

Is that what OWS is about?  Seemed to me that the original demand was to remove money from politics.  And why Wall Street if it was just about income inequality and not, say, bailouts and financial reform?  Why are there enough anti-war protestors to take notice?  Why haven’t they been able to organize around a clear income-equality agenda?

In any case, the best counter-messages so far have been the ones that place a wedge between the protestors and the Democrats who they might vote for.
  • Once they were reminded of how much money Obama got from the financial sector, Democrats were forced to get into the weeds about who’s getting more money from Goldman Sachs et al.
  • The anti-war protestors have to contend with the fact that it’s been Democrats running those wars, and getting involved in new ones, for the last 3 years.
  • The stimulus and bailout bills had plenty of giveaways to large corporations, many of whom were allies of Democrats who voted for those bills.
  • Student loan forgiveness is the worst stimulus policy ever, especially when college grads have a low unemployment rate and the average 2011 college graduate starts at over $50,000 — instantly vaulting them into the top 25% of incomes.

They’ll still think Obama is better than the Republican, but the idea is to make them less energetic supporters.

The college grad thing brings me to another misconception:

“that [tax cuts] message probably isn’t endearing to rural white voters who make less than $40,000 a year. How could it be?”

This is just denial.  Those voters voted GOP in 2010 when it was all about fiscal issues and Big Government.  What does Wilson think has changed about the GOP message since then?

Democrats keep thinking that if they promise to pick Group A’s pocket to give to Group B, Group B will always love them.  But electoral politics is less about policy than signaling loyalties and aspirations. What do the rural white low-to-middle-income voters see on TV and in photos?

  • a bunch of urban college kids bleating to have their loans forgiven
  • the usual screamers and hippies protesting war (is that endearing to the typical Southern or rural family? and does the anti-Israel contingent appeal to evangelicals?) and fossil fuels (which goes over really well in coal towns and places where families are supported by oil jobs)
  • city folk fighting with cops and local businesses and generally trashing their surroundings
  • bongo drums and twinkle fingers and “the people’s microphone”
  • unions openly organizing at these events

When they see that, they don’t think, “Hey, those are the kind of people who will look out for me.  Let’s give them a shot.”  They’re thinking, “Those are the unwholesome whiners who call me a hick and want to shutter the local factory when they’ve never worked as hard as I do.”

It doesn’t help the Dems that they’re technically the party in power, and have had the upper hand since early 2009.  This would be more fertile ground for Tea Partiers if they hadn’t become so associated with political division and gridlock; they should concentrate more on unifying policies like:

  • good government
  • opposition to bailouts or any special favors for special interests, especially Big Business
  • requiring that military interventions involve a clear national interest, which can be mixed with a message of maintaining support for the troops

Offering conservative/free-market solutions on each of those things takes the wind out of OWS’s sails.  Tax reform, more transparency/accountability in government, opposing all energy subsidies instead of just the “green” ones, etc.

That’s how I’d respond to OWS.  This is precisely the time for Tea Partiers to go out and remind everyone that they’re better-behaved protestors who are running against Washington and against special interests, and to remind the other side that the small-government folks still have energy of our own, and challenge OWS on just who they think their champions are.

Bryan in fewer than 800 words: Follow Bryan on Twitter.


Democrat turns up the “civility” with vile and racist characterization of Tea Party

It is incredibly frustrating to watch adults act and talk like this idiot and learn they’re in Congress:

Rep. Andre Carson, a Democrat from Indiana who serves as the CBC’s chief vote counter, said at a CBC event in Miami that some in Congress would “love to see us as second-class citizens” and “some of them in Congress right now of this tea party movement would love to see you and me … hanging on a tree.”

Not only is that vile; not only is it racist to its core; not only does it make a claim based on nothing but that fool’s prejudices, but it is overtly hostile to any sort of climate for rational debate.

It is the very definition of irrationality.  But it seems to have become the hallmark of some of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. 

When questioned, here’s the staff’s answer to their Congressman’s bit of race hate:

The explosive comments, caught on tape, were uploaded on the Internet Tuesday, and Carson’s office stood by the remarks. Jason Tomcsi, Carson’s spokesman, said the comment was “in response to frustration voiced by many in Miami and in his home district in Indianapolis regarding Congress’s inability to bolster the economy.” Tomcsi, in an email, wrote that “the congressman used strong language because the Tea Party agenda jeopardizes our most vulnerable and leaves them without the ability to improve their economic standing.

“The Tea Party is protecting its millionaire and oil company friends while gutting critical services that they know protect the livelihood of African-Americans, as well as Latinos and other disadvantaged minorities,” Tomcsi wrote. “We are talking about child nutrition, job creation, job training, housing assistance, and Head Start, and that is just the beginning. A child without basic nutrition, secure housing, and quality education has no real chance at a meaningful and productive life.”

Bullspit.  What the Congressman was doing was stirring up race hate and trying to use it as a weapon to thwart a political opponent’s agenda.  Obviously unable to confidently and competently argue his side, he’s reduced to summoning up the ghost of Jim Crow and lynching’s.

People like Andre Carson have no place representing anyone in Congress.  He’s certainly not a statesman, and in fact, he’s simply another in a long line of race baiters that use the fact that a district is predominantly black to get themselves elected and then, with a national platform, spread their hate.   It is time that voters demanded more from their elected representatives.  Race baiting is no more acceptable from a black representative of the people than it is from a white one.   And those who continue to display this sort of behavior need to be shown the exit by their constituents.  Atlanta did it by booting Cynthia McKinney who hailed from a predominantly black district and engaged in the same sort of behavior.  It’s time Indianapolis made a statement too.

This sort of behavior and talk is no longer acceptable from anyone.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The “Irene makes big government okay again” lobby

Well now we know why, at least for some, Hurricane Irene was so hyped.   It gave apologists for big government a chance to spin the response into plaudits for big government and a claim it is still necessary.  Missing, of course, is any context or proportion.  Those, like Dana Milbank and Steve Benen, just use the opportunity to bash small government conservatives in general and the Tea Party in particular.

And they brilliantly erect giant strawmen and then just flat tear them apart.

Milbank:

Tea Partyers who denounce Big Government seem to have an abstract notion that government spending means welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies. Almost certainly they aren’t thinking about hurricane tracking and pre-positioning of FEMA supplies. But if they succeed in paring the government, some of these Tea Partyers (particularly those on the coasts or on the tornadic plains) may be surprised to discover that they have turned a Hurricane Irene government back into a Katrina government.

Tea Partiers have a very specific notion of what government spending means to them and it certainly isn’t just centered in the canard of “welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies.”   In case Mr. Milbank hasn’t noticed, his big government now owes more in debt than our economy produces in a year.  That is the problem the Tea Party has with “big government”.  And, frankly, that’s a problem Milbank should have with it too.  Instead he spends a column  touting big government using the pretext of a natural disaster (and government’s response to it) to attack those who object to the continuing deficit spending of big government.  Instead, if had in sense, he’d be leading the charge to rein it in.

Stipulated, there are things that government can do because of government’s orientation.  Wage war, for instance.   But that doesn’t then excuse the excesses elsewhere.  Nor does it justify its intrusion in areas it has no business being in.  And it certainly doesn’t justify it spending more than it takes in.  Those are the Tea Party’s objections to big government’s spending, Mr. Milbank.  Please try to present them properly the next time you attempt the subject.

Of course nonsense like Milbank’s above lead to absurd conclusions in order to attempt to persuade:

The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good. You might call that the Tea Party model.

Really.  Who said anything about a “weak federal government”?  I believe what the Tea Party is more interested in is a Constitutionally structured federal government that does its job, stays out of areas it doesn’t belong, and spends no more than the revenue it takes in.  Oh yeah, and the real pesky part – doesn’t engage in social engineering.

As for Benen he seconds Milbank:

That Tea Party model, by the way, isn’t a hypothetical scenario — congressional Republicans are not only unwilling to provide emergency disaster relief without offsetting spending cuts, they’re also eager to cut the resources NOAA needs to track storms, while also slashing the FEMA budget.

This week, federal agencies are winning generally rave reviews, but if the public expects equally competent disaster response efforts in the future, Americans will have to hope the GOP agenda is rejected.

Oh, the horror – those dastardly Republicans want to actually not spend in a deficit mode.  They want to live within the revenue stream that the federal government has coming in.  Imagine wanting to offset spending in one area to ensure payment in another without borrowing money?  Those simple Tea Partiers!  Don’t they know that sometimes you just have to spend, spend, spend?

Uh, gee Mr. Benen, isn’t that what has gotten us into this mess in the first place?  The fact that the government actually got something right for a change doesn’t then justify “big government”.  What it does is demonstrate nothing more than every now and then a blind squirrel will find an acorn.  Lord knows the fed has had enough practice it’s certainly something it should be getting right.  But then, our military has been “getting it right” on disaster relief missions outside the country for years, decades even.   It’s not like there wasn’t precedent.   Yes, again stipulated, sometimes it takes a big organization to do what is necessary in a disaster to provide aid where needed.   That said, that doesn’t excuse “big government”, spending excesses, waste, fraud, abuse, intrusion into areas the government doesn’t belong, social engineering via the tax code and other means and bankrupting the nation.

What is it about these types of apologists for big government that they don’t seem to ever be able to quite grasp those points?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Runaway Legislatures: Civility is a process, not just words

Since the tragedy in Arizona, where nineteen people were shot (including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) and six murdered, talk of “civility” has been plentiful.  The right side of the political spectrum was called to the mat for using such horrible words as “target” and “socialism” and having the temerity to employ Hitler/Nazism comparisons in protest signage (that, the truth be told, they weren’t even carrying).  Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement were specifically denigrated for employing uncivil “eliminationist” rhetoric that was directly responsible for Mr. Jared Lee Loughner pulling the trigger in that awful event on January 8, 2011.

The gross mendacity (and unintentional preterition) of these charges  against the right generally, and the Tea Partiers specifically, is bad enough.  That they are leveled with abject hypocrisy is even worse.  But politics is not a sport well-played in a tit-for-tat fashion.  Everyone is guilty of hyperbole and hypocrisy at some point, regardless of political afflialiation.

What’s truly galling is the way that “civility” is suddenly determined by the language an opponent employs.  Civility has nothing to do with words, but instead, everything to do with action.  On that score, Democrats are behaving in as uncivil a manner as is possible.

A civilized nation conducts itself according to a defined, written, universally applicable and executable set of laws.  Adherence to such laws are the immutable backbone of any society capable of survival.  Wanton disregard of such laws inexorably leads to chaos and tyranny.  Ergo, “civility” does not depend on people speaking nicely about one another, but upon everyone playing by the same rules.

The current flouting of the legal process in Wisconsin and now Indiana, (and what previously occurred in Texas), is the true definition of uncivil.  Ignoring and actively undermining the electoral process is the epitome of “uncivil” action.  Whatever harsh words may or may not have been spoken before, civility is still entirely dependent upon the process for determining the course of action in pursuit of public goals.  Running away in avoidance of legislative duties smacks of cowardice and worse.  It uproots the civil process.

A common observation of the democracy holds that voting is simply a proxy for violence.  Fleshed out a bit, the process of electoral action is made in lieu of battle.  We could decide the course of society based on bloody battle alone, and let might make right. Instead, civil societies have chosen to allow the consent of the governed to rule, the best of which societies have done so through a responsive and accountable republic.  When the governors cease to heed to will of the governed, however, civil society becomes endangered and trouble is inevitable.

No less than Thomas Jefferson warned of the dangers in pursuing “uncivil” means of governance in the “shot across the bow” leading to the American Revolution, entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America” (emphasis added):

And this his majesty will think we have reason to expect when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government erected for their use, and consequently subject to their superintendance

To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right, which nature has given to all men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice has placed them, of going in quest of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as to them shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had under this universal law, in like manner, left their native wilds and woods in the North of Europe, had possessed themselves of the island of Britain then less charged with inhabitants, and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of that country … Their own blood was spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves alone they have right to hold

But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired at the hazard of their lives and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable crimes against their people brought on them afterwards the exertion of those sacred and sovereign rights of punishment, reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on that side the water, it was not to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury. Accordingly that country which had been acquired by the lives, the labors and the fortunes of individual adventurers, was by these princes at several times parted out and distributed among the favorites and followers of their fortunes; and by an assumed right of the crown alone were erected into distinct and independent governments

Jefferson later simplified his empirical understanding of how societies work with the infamous quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Another way of comprehending the principle is that a nation of laws only survives as long as the laws are adhered to. Every sovereign, whether composed of one or many, can only retain the authority entrusted to it by the people for as long as it respects that trust.  Once it strays, enough to undermine the confidence of the governed, those “sacred and sovereign rights of punishment” will come into play.  While such an extreme consequence may be remote at this time, there is no good that can come from enacting the foundations for its execution.

When the basis of a democratic republic — i.e. the electoral process — is entirely ignored and, worse, evaded as a politically inconvenient nuisance to the preferred outcomes of the very people entrusted with the public duty to  uphold the republic, is there any doubt that it will fall?

Civility in our political language is certainly useful and desirable, if not actually attainable.  In contrast, civility – i.e. respect for the process and outcomes thereof – is the sine qua non of our democratic institutions.  While we may prefer the former, we really must insist on the latter.


Ezra Klein wonders what good a Constitutional cite will do on future legislation

Ezra Klein got himself in a bit of hot water by saying some things about the Constitution that appear to have been misinterpreted.  He originally commented on the subject while talking about the new GOP rule that requires a Constitutional reference be put on every bit of legislation offered to, one assumes, prove it’s Constitutional viability.  Unfortunately, it isn’t Congress which gets to decide what is or isn’t Constitutional.

The old saying, “the Constitution says what the Supreme Court says it says” is never more true than it is today.  In fact, “interpreting” the Constitution is the SCOTUS’s primary job.

Klein actually uses an example in ObamacCare to make his point about the GOP’s new requirement:

"The individual responsibility requirement provided for in this section (in this subsection referred to as the requirement) is commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce," reads the opening paragraph. Shortly thereafter, the legislation makes itself more explicit: "In United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Association (322 U.S. 533 (1944)), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that insurance is interstate commerce subject to Federal regulation."

Now you may disagree with the argument, but you can’t disagree with the point.  And you should note that while it cites the constitutional provision generally (commerce clause), it specifically cites a Supreme Court case as another cite.

Klein goes on to say that both sides have a tendency to interpret the Constitution to their benefit – which I would say is, for the most part true.  However, I’d also suggest that the difference between the two sides is the right has a tendency to interpret the Constitution as a limit on government – something the founders wrote it to be.  In my opinion then, the right therefore tends to be more in line with the original intent of the Constitution with its interpretations than is the left.  The left, in many cases, sees the Constitution as an impediment to broadening the powers of government far outside the seemingly clear powers granted the government by the Constitution.  I’d say they’ve been very successful in achieving their aim to this point.

Anyway, to make his point about both sides and their interpretations, Klein uses the 2nd Amendment as an example of the right’s interpretation of the Constitution to their benefit (i.e. unrestricted possession of firearms).  His claim that this is probably an incorrect interpretation since it relegates membership in a “well regulated militia” to meaninglessness.  Of course, a simple bit of research would have pointed out that the militia was defined quite specifically by any number of founders.  For instance, George Mason: “"Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers."  Mason’s definition was widely agreed to by the vast majority of the founders as anyone who has read them knows.  And, of course, Article 1, Section 8, speaks to the training of the militia (‘well regulated’) and leaves that to the states, not the federal government.

So it was obviously the intent of the drafters of the Constitution that all be given the right to bear arms and that all who did formed the “militia”.  And that conforms well with how militias have been viewed throughout our history.  That takes a bit of steam out of Klein’s argument that the right is just as bad as the left (I challenge him to come up with quotes by the founders that would support the broad interpretation of the commerce clause the left prefers).

However, given the SCOTUS’s role, his main point remains pretty much in tact – putting a Constitutional reference on a bill isn’t going to mean anything much, since the Congress doesn’t get to decide what is or isn’t Constitutional. 

That said, I certainly don’t see any harm in such a cite because lawmakers will at least have to address the Constitution and their interpretation of its meaning by providing a cite and defending it.  If nothing else it will spark needed debate as each member introducing legislation must defend that legislation Constitutionally.  Certainly, as the government is structured, they won’t have the last word if the law is challenged later in court, but it may at least be a mechanism that keeps what most members, left and right, would consider overtly unConstitional bills off the floor and provide a basis for bi-partisan rejection of those that do reach the floor.

So all in all, I see some advantage to the measure.  That advantage is limited to be sure, but it is a step in the right direction to return the focus of the national legislature toward the founding legal document of the land.  And while the SCOTUS will continue to be the final word on Constitutional legitimacy, perhaps fewer “ObamaCare” type bills will be a result of such internal discussion and debate.  I don’t know about you, but I would see that as a very welcome change.

~McQ

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