What's with the New York Times and the Constitution these days?
If only our country had not been founded upon the document, it seems, the NYT editorial board would be running the country.
It started, as far as I'm aware, with an op-ed by a Georgetown constitutional law professor exhorting us to "give up on the Constitution." In his frustration at congressional gridlock, the author wrote:
As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.
But before abandoning our heritage of self-government, we ought to try extricating ourselves from constitutional bondage so that we can give real freedom a chance.
Naturally, the author thinks it's obvious we would continue to respect the "important" parts of the Constitution, such as freedom of speech and equal protection of the law. And he's very certain we would continue to kick a president into retirement after two terms, that we would have two houses of Congress and that it would provide a check on presidential power. "Nor, finally, should we have an all-powerful president free to do whatever he wants." Phew. What a relief. I might feel a little better about this idea if we didn't have a president running around, half-complaining that he's "not a dictator," but since I'm sure the good professor wouldn't mind if Rand Paul was the one deciding which rules to keep and which to chuck, I think we're good.
It's kind of, but not really, funny that a professor of constitutional law doesn't seem to want to explain why we have a Constitution in the first place. Read it lately? It's boring, and not at all inspirational, once you're past the preamble. It's a set of rules that the federal government needs to follow, a set of protections from federal power for the people of many states who joined together to form a nation. In other words, following the rules set out by the Constitution was basically the essence of the deal that convinced representatives of the many states to join. They didn't have to. And if the federal government doesn't take those rules seriously, why should the states be bound by it either?
A similar attitude migrated to the news page last week. Ostensibly reporting on moves by several liberal groups to challenge the rules and makeup of the Senate, as well as the electoral college system of electing a president, the story doesn't hide its sympathy for their goals. It repeatedly calls the Senate the "malapportioned upper house."
(Would be nice if the author cared to explain the fact that the Senate was not set up to represent people; it was supposed to represent each state as a whole, which is why state legislatures originally were the ones to elect senators. And this, too, was a major reason why many small states agreed to join the nation in the first place.)
Now, it's certainly true that our constitutional system kept slavery in place longer than it might have been, and unjustly stymied civil rights laws. But you'll have to excuse me if I don't see any issue of quite the magnitude of slavery and subjugation of human rights on the menu today. In the latest NYT article, for example, the issues supposedly showing that our Constitution is broken run the gamut from not-that-pressing to trivial to plain-old venal: higher gas taxes, changes to campaign spending disclosure – and more federal subsidies for big states with bankrupt budgets. All of them, of course, are mainstays on a liberal agenda frustrated by the existence of an opposition party. Could it be that the NYT is willing to trade our constitutional system for a blue-state pension bailout?
One way you can tell this is a hugely bad idea is that the folks who want to change our "malapportioned" Senate are sneaking around the federal court system, trying to convince a judge to do their dirty work, instead of doing it the right (and hard) way by amending the Constitution.
They seem awfully convinced that their points of view will never be the ones to be marginalized in the wonderful future when the feds consider the rules it lives by a mere suggestion. With overreaching crackpot ideas like this, they shouldn't be so sure.