America, Conservatives, Error, Federalism, History, Rhetoric, The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, The United States of America
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
I wish I had a habanero for every time someone (usually a conservative) told me that passage was in the U.S. Constitution. My friends and coworkers would all eat really hot chili for couple of days!
Most recently, it was Jim DeMint who Declarified the Constitution, so to speak. That’s hardly an unusual mistake from right wingers, but it is a little uncommon from one who actually gets paid to sound like he knows what he’s talking about. Flat out getting the documents wrong is more common among the grunts of the culture wars, not their leaders at the Heritage Foundation. Usually, the talking heads just refer a constitutional question to the Declaration and hope you don’t notice the switch.
It would be easy to dismiss this as a mere accident, but there is a sort of logic to this, albeit a logic of deception. Usually the gambit facilitates a kind of scorched earth tactic in which all that is good and gooey about the Constitution becomes a direct consequence of Christianity (as evangelical Christians choose to understand it). See, the only mention of God in the U.S. Constitution is in the date, and that makes the explicit mention of a creator in the Declaration much more sexy for those who want their gods right up there behind the gavel of government. Now if you just ignore a few things about context of the Declaration (Jefferson’s Deism for instance), you can pretend that ‘creator’ means ‘Jesus’, pretend the Declaration is the Constitution, and pretend the whole point of the passages was not to say we have rights but to tell us where those rights come from, and voila! The Declaration is thus transformed into a speculative theological treaties and the constitution is taken along for the ride (whether by association or mis-recognition depends on whether the operative principle here is deceit or outright ignorance).
But of course such arguments are only meant for real O’Muricans! Us damned liberals aren’t expected to understand the miracles of Republican Jesus. DeMint only reminds us of the importance of God in passing, because this time he is trying to call attention to yet another of the great miracles of this document, the Declastution. This time DeMint was busy trying to convince us that constitutionalism amounts to belief in the power of small government, which is a truly miraculous transformation rivaling that of the Eucharist. This particular piece of conservative theology usually works by telling us about the importance of federalism, which is then defined as a need for balance between federal and state powers. Balance is such a magical word, because you can use it to describe the effort to increase Federal authority (which was clearly the point of the early Federalists) and then you can use it to describe the agenda of those hard at work weakening the Federal government (which is a common goal of contemporary ‘Federalists’). And you say this with enough faith and conviction modern voters won’t even notice the switch in emphasis.
Those that do can be dismissed as low-information voters!
Not content with such airy theological matters, Demint has proven himself a true charismatic, because he has performed a miracle in the name of Republican Jesus. Demint has enabled the Constitution itself and the conscience of good constitutionalists to end slavery without exercising the power of a big government. To hear DeMint tell the story, the move to end slavery was itself the work of those faithful to small government. They just willed it to happen. Some might think Lincoln had centralized our government and asserted Federal power over a states’ rights luvin’ Confederacy, but then again, some people believe in letting scientists define the science curriculum. There is just no accounting for the foolishness of liberal Apostates, but Republican Jesus will kick our asses on judgement day for sure.
And then Republican Jesus will transform water into Miller Lite.
Yeah verily, his miracles abound! In His name, phrases like “No person” or “all criminal prosecutions” will refer only to the rights of U.S. Citizens. Non-O’Muricans are just fucked! By His grace, the word “religion” appearing twice in the First Amendment will only mean ‘religion’ once. The other time it will mean “state-sponsored church.” Hell, it might even be more narrow still if Republican Jesus wants it to. He will delete the Federal Supremacy Clause entirely, or at least guide the eyes of Teapublicans safely past this passage without inflicting its terrible words upon them. In His eyes, the Fourteenth Amendment is but the scribblings of a small school-girl, and it has no more force of law than a doggie drawn with a crayon. The Ninth Amendment has been sent to the cornfield, but the police are searching your home in hopes of finding the Fourth. And by “no religious tests”, the Constitution of course means “more religious tests.” All these things are known to those filled with the spirit of Republican Jesus.
One has only to accept that the Constitution is first and foremost a half remembered paragraph from a completely different document produced by a different group of people for a completely different purpose. If you also half-remember the Second and Tenth Amendments you get to call yourself a constitutionalist.