The other day, I wrote about the question that I would ask the Republican candidates for President. Today, I will answer that question as that will unpack it a bit and make the deficiencies of various candidates more evident:
I do agree that certain “Republican” candidates sound more like Jefferson Davis than Abraham Lincoln.
In some cases, they express anti-American sectionalism such as Gov. Perry endorsing secession, former Speaker Gingrich attacking federal civil rights law by endorsing essentially literacy tests as a qualification for voting, and Rep. Paul sounding like President Thomas Jefferson’s contemporary critic Rep. John Randolph of Roanoke.
Speaking about the antidisestablishment advocates, they express a hostility to the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment in the name of an appeal to a democratic trampling of individual rights…they would make failed former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan proud.
To be specific, this error in constitutional interpretation is expressed on the Supreme Court today by the anti-conceptual orginalist doctrine advocated by Justice Scalia.
Let me attempt to summarize my own view briefly…I agree with President Jefferson who advocated a role for the federal courts as a power to protect individuals from abuse by a state. Through the leadership of George Mason and James Madison, our constitution was enhanced with a Bill of Rights identifying civil (procedural) rights that were so fundamental, although not exclusive, that the government may not infringe them. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment guaranteed citizens the protection of due process and equal protection of the law against abuse by a state. Through Supreme Court decisions, this has been interpreted as a federal guarantee of fundamental rights (the incorporation of aspects of the Bill of Rights) such that individuals are secure in their individual rights from abuse by state action.
Many Republicans recently cheered when the Supreme Court incorporated the 2nd Amendment as a check against overreaching state and municipal gun control laws. Yet, as if ideas and principles do not matter, many of these same Republicans (some currently running for the Presidency) oppose the incorporation of the 1st Amendment’s establishment clause. Given the history of ours states abusing Christians of various sects, including the sects of these same people, they have failed to learned the lessons of history, which led to disestablishment–the separation of church and state.
Some may say that these are a lot of words that do not amount to much, so let me concretize it with a couple of examples of protections against state power that you risk taking for granted:
* buying condoms in Connecticut (Griswold v. Connecticut 1965)
* marrying the person you love in Virginia, even if you are of a different race (Loving v. Virginia 1967)
* attending school as a Jehovah’s Witness without getting beaten up for failing to pledge allegiance (West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette 1943)
* just compensation for property seized by the state (Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad v. City of Chicago 1896)
While I could go on, these examples demonstrate the principles and consequences of those who seek democratic state governments unchecked by federal constitutional protections for individual rights.
* they promise to make abortion illegal, and they will take your condoms
* they seek to revoke the voting rights of blacks, and they will decide who you can marry
* they command praising the Christian god, and they will oppress the wrong kinds of Christians
* they take a citizen’s property for Pfizer’s benefit today, and they will take your property as a gift to the collective tomorrow
Related to court appointments, I would not advance advocates of Justice Scalia’s anti-conceptual originalism nor Justice Breyer’s subjectivist living constitution model; instead, I would nominated judges who appreciate that the purpose of government is the protection of individual rights and that our Constitution, civil rights statutes, our laws, and regulations are to be means to that end.