Saturday, January 31, 2009

Perverting the Preamble

Earlier on DailyKos, I posted a comment to the effect that the neo-con corporatists and their GOP clients have have inverted and perverted every word and clause of the preamble to the Constitution.

I do not accept that the text of the Preamble is just window-dressing. Rather it is the framing spirit of the document, embodying the intentions of the Framers, encompassing what they are attempting to accomplish beyond the bare frame of the words on the page. It is the offset to the minimalist, strict constructionist school of Constitution interpretation. These words are in the Constitution as well, put there by those same sainted Founding Fathers.

If you're a certain age, you can literally hum along with me (Schoolhouse Rock rocks!), but if not, well, you know the words....

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Let's take those one at a time shall we...

n order to form a more perfect union,
Well, let's be honest, President Obama has said more and more eloquently than I could ever dream of about this one. The union is not perfect, will never be perfect. But it can be made more perfect. And it is a binding obligation laid on anyone who swears an oath to the Constitution to do so.

establish justice,
Okay, let's go over this again, kids. The same law applies to everyone. The law treats people fairly. It is not one law for rich and privileged people and another law for everyone else.

insure domestic tranquility,
Millions in fear, hundreds of thousands in want and desperation -- real tranquility. Of course it's hard to be tranquil when you're broke because your job's in China, your health insurance is in fantasyland, your retirement fund has been evaporated to pay some unearned bonus for some phony mandarin toady investment banker, and your future is well, hard to imagine as any better. Happy Holidays, everyone. (And yet, we hope anyway. Yes we can.)

provide for the common defense,
More and bigger guns is not the common defense. Attacking enemies we don't have in pursuit of your own wishful thinking fantasies is not the common defense. Dogged pursuit and extirpation of the people who DO attack us IS the common defense. Accurate assessment of the real threats we face is the common defense. Defense funding decisions by campaign contribution is not the common defense.

promote the general welfare,
General welfare, not corporate welfare. We seem to have covered this before but we'll go over again. And again.

and secure the blessings of liberty
Wireless wiretaps. Emprisonment without trial. The Unitary Executive theory. I could go on, but I don't have any more bricks to throw at things I can afford to break. You might be surprised to know that the Unitary Executive theory has a long tradition in the constitutional tradition the United States, although it reaches back to the English roots of American constitutional law. Charles I tried to implement this, under the heading "the divine right of Kings." He couldn't make it work, and ultimately, provoked a civil war that caused the rebel (New Model) army to brand him "Charles Stuart, that man of blood" and cut off his head. As an appellation for Cheney "that man of blood" works for me.

to ourselves
The antecedent was "We, the People" not "We the corporations," nor "We, the Rich People." Despite stringent attempts at keeping all those poor unwashed masses out of the body politic, they are part of it, even those, crazy, only count for three-fifths of a person African-American type persons. Them, too.

and our posterity
We are thus bound and required to take a long view. How long? Next week? Next month? Posterity is a long time. Generations upon generations. Your grandchildren's grandchildren. One cannot anticipate all of the consequences of one's action over that time, but one can have the humility to be aware that your actions will echo down the years in ways that you cannot now understand.


Reading this over, there are some themes I want to develop further. First the notion that the Preamble to the Constitution is in fact part of the constitution, not just window-dressing. One cannot declare oneself to be in favor of the original intent of the Framers and ignore that the original intent of the Framers was captured by the Preamble and their purposes were defined by that Preamble, with the remainder of the Constitution the instrument for those purposes.

Second is the idea that American constitutional history begins, really, with the accession of Charles I. and that the core of American constitutional thought was formed between that time and the evolution of parliamentary government under the Hanoverians

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