Sunday, February 5, 2017

Constitutional Originalism

"We" are in the process of confirming a new Supreme Court Justice. While there are a lot of reasons to be pissed at how the Republicans have handled this process in the past, there is one point I'd like you all to think about. They bring it up in every inquiry into the qualifications, i.e. political leanings, of all candidates this century, and probably earlier. I just wasn't paying attention to the term then.

The question raised is about Constitutional Originalism. Sounds great, doesn't it? Does this potential Justice follow the intentions of our Founding Fathers in how they will make their rulings? I mean, who wouldn't, right? Those guys are up there on pretty sacred pedestals.

Unfortunately, it's a "dog whistle." Meaning, in case you haven't heard the term, that there's information, or code if you will, in the question that is only apparent to those in the know, just like a dog whistle is pitched so high that only dogs can hear it.

Let's start with the obvious, that our founding fathers had different ideas among themselves about how our government should be run. What principles? What philosophy? They fought and they compromised and they contradicted each other, so exactly which parts of the constitution and the explanations behind it are you asking your justice to return to?

And I do mean "return" to. Look at who did and didn't have rights back then. Slavery was not just accepted, but practiced by many of those Founding Fathers we unthinkingly idolize. You want to go back to that? All non-white persons were lesser, as were the poor and women. You had to own property to have a voice. You had to be a white male. Women not only couldn't own property, they were property. You want to go back to all that?

Make no mistake: some do.

In case you're missing the point here, the far right extremes of the Republican party want to do exactly that, think it's a wonderful idea from the standpoint of their personal power and wealth. Those extremists are the ones leading the party right now. They might call themselves the Tea Party, with it's nostalgic Revolutionary ring. By now they've pushed the party so far right that they don't even have to do that any more. They're "normalized."

We weren't watching, not closely enough. All those lovely laurels of our glorious past, all that progress, wasn't it all immutable, carved in stone now?

Our Founding Fathers did realize that the world would change, and the constitution would need to be changed in ways that adjusted to those changes. Originalists disagree. Well, the second amendment was OK, as they reinterpreted it as going away from militias and to individuals, but principals of justice and civil rights as we understand them now? No way! How about the right to my own body and privacy in what I do to it? We're not just talking about eliminating abortions here, but all access to contraception, just because somebody else's religious freedom is being interpreted as their having the ability to force their beliefs on us. Religious freedom should mean my right to chose and practice what I believe for and by myself. I can try to persuade others to my beliefs, but they have the right to their own choices. Or should.

The Hobby Lobby decision means an employer can chose for you what is and isn't permissible for females to do with their bodies, and only the rich have the practical freedom to move around and buy what fits in with their own needs and beliefs. How many folks who work at Hobby Lobby qualify as rich enough? Is this truly where you want this country to go?

There are so many other ways originalists can screw up this country while deluding us that they are doing what is honorable rather than power-hungry and greedy. It's time to dig out your old dusty copy of the constitution, study the amendments, look through the court rulings, and see where this country is heading, learn to hear the dog whistles.

Let's find out just who still thinks this country is worth saving. Then activate to protect it. Turns out progress wasn't carved in stone after all.

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