Monday, July 22, 2013

"Constitutional Myths" by Ray Raphael (2013)

The Conservatives would have you believe that our Constitution is flawed, and that the Federalist Papers represent the framer’s original intent. Indeed, conservative radio talk show jock Jason Lewis once called for the removal of the Bill of Rights from the Constitution on his afternoon talk radio show in Charlotte, where he was working at WBT-AM, calling them unnecessary. 

The fact that he said this at the same time as he was signing off for the day, over his bumper music; allowing no time for rebuttals; infuriated me to the point that I phoned the radio station and finally the news director at their television station demanding that Mr. Lewis phone me ASAP. Much to their credit, his bosses made that happen, and I was able to remind Mr. Lewis that even God had found it necessary to write the corollary to the Bill of Rights with a finger of fire on a tablet of stone.

This book also takes the same tact as Mr. Lewis, claiming that the Federalist Papers are the real basis for the Constitution, which was written after the debate over the Federalist Papers, making them irrelevant after the Constitution became the law of the land. That Conservatives; who decry “big government”; would try to re-establish our country based upon the Federalist Papers; which, after all were merely opinion pieces exploring the type of government we should have;  shines a light on their true agenda. They want to roll back your Constitution.

Smaller Federal Government means larger local control with less oversight. Guess what? That makes people victims of local tyrannies. Imagine a country without a Bill of Rights to go along with the Responsibilities outlined in the Constitution, and then question the true purpose of placing the Federalist Papers before the Constitution as law. And, in a time when even Chief Justice Roberts states that “he looks to the Federalist Paper’s” when deciding Constitutional law in order to ascertain the framers “original intent”, you have legitimate cause for concern. Looking outside of the Constitution is decried when the Liberal Justices look to European Law, or even the biblical law; upon which Conservatives themselves claim we are founded; so why should I allow them now to look to something other than the Constitution themselves when deciding cases?

The author sites President Reagan as a proponent of "originalism" and quotes him on what were remarks made concerning the original intent of the Constitution itself, not the preceding Federalist Papers. He then goes on to use the case of United States v. Lopez as an example of justices looking only to the Constitution, rather than outside of it, when deciding a case. He quotes Justice Thomas' own agreement with the Court's decision, all the while issuing a separate opinion on the meaning of "Commerce", citing dictionaries from the 1790's as an example of what the founding fathers meant; or he thinks they meant.

The book is filled with facts, and first drafts of the “original” Constitution; all of which were later rejected in favor of the Constitution we have lived with for more than 200 years. Our Constitution allows the document to be amended from time to time, and this seems to be a source of irritation to the author, and most Neo-Conservatives in general.

When reading the Federalist Papers you have to realize that they were the first draft of what would become the Constitution. The kinks needed to be ironed out for our fledgling nation. And, due to the efforts of men like Hancock, Jefferson, Madison et al; they were. The result was the Constitution of the United States of America, which allows the document to be Amended as society deems necessary to meet the needs of a changing nation, and time in general. The doctrine espoused in this book calls for what has become known as “originalism”. This doctrine would have the nation eviscerate the Constitution, throwing us back to the days before we were even united by one. Remember, in the original drafts, only land holders had the right to vote, and servants were worth a fraction of a vote, only to be exercised by the servant's owner. I think they called it slavery; I mean state's rights.

The author states what the founding fathers thought and meant, but I take the attitude that what they thought and meant was written down in the Constitution. And that includes the Bill of Rights, which were the first of the planned Amendments and are the rock on which we, as a nation, stand.

Using one of my Constitutional Rights; which the author seems to wish to deprive me of; I have to tell you that, in my opinion, this is one of the most misleading books of non-fiction I have ever read. 

Ironically; that makes it an important book to read. Just be sure to have a copy of the actual Constitution handy, as the author has seen fit to write a 300 book about a document he doesn't want you to see in it's entirety. Although he does include the Articles of the Constitution, he does not ever show the Bill of Rights as a part of the Constitution, instead electing to show the reader Madison's draft of an additional twelve; and, in some cases altered, proposed amendments. It is a first draft version of what would become the Bill of Rights; which are the first ten Amendments to this sacred document.

The author then cleverly moves on to show the later Amendments; numbers XI through XXVII; all of which I presume he disagrees with. You need look no further than this "arrangement" to see that this book represents his own “original intent”, and as such, this author has an agenda.

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