Uncle Mikkie is not smart enough to leave a good thing alone. Last week he earned kudos for his frank assessment of the relationship between black folks and the Republican Party. This week, after apparently a little “re-education” in the back room about speaking factually he stepped in it big time with the RNC response to the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court by President Obama…
“Given Kagan’s opposition to allowing military recruiters access to her law school’s campus, her endorsement of the liberal agenda and her support for statements suggesting that the Constitution ‘as originally drafted and conceived,’ was ‘defective,’ you can expect Senate Republicans to respectfully raise serious and tough questions to ensure the American people can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine Kagan’s qualifications and legal philosophy before she is confirmed to a lifetime appointment,” Steele said in the statement.
The Constitution, “as originally drafted was defective.” was a quote from Thurgood Marshall.
In 1987, Marshall delivered remarks at the annual seminar of the San Francisco Patent and Trademark Law Association. At the time, the Constitutional Bicentennial Celebration was underway, and, as Marshall noted in his speech, the year 1987 was “dedicated to the memory of the Founders and the document they drafted in Philadelphia,” and Americans were invited to “recall the achievements of our Founders and the knowledge and experience that inspired them, the nature of the government they established, its origins, its character, and its ends, and the rights and privileges of citizenship, as well as its attendant responsibilities.”
I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever “fixed” at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight, and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite “The Constitution,” they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.
For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document’s preamble: ‘We the People.” When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America’s citizens. “We the People” included, in the words of the Framers, “the whole Number of free Persons.” United States Constitution, Art. 1, 52 (Sept. 17, 1787). On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes at threefifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years. The 19th Amendment (ratified in 1920).
These omissions were intentional. The record of the Framers’ debates on the slave question is especially clear: The Southern States acceded to the demands of the New England States for giving Congress broad power to regulate commerce, in exchange for the right to continue the slave trade. The economic interests of the regions coalesced: New Englanders engaged in the “carrying trade” would profit from transporting slaves from Africa as well as goods produced in America by slave labor. The perpetuation of slavery ensured the primary source of wealth in the Southern States.
So in other words, if the Republicans (and Uncle Mikkie) are going to claim that conservative principles define the Constitution as inviolate, and perfect as originally written – then what they are advocating is the removal of the vote from women and minorities, and the re-institution of slavery and the counting of black folks as 3/5ths of a person.
Conservative heaven, indeed…Which only leaves the question as to who’s Plantation House is Mikkie going to be Lawn Jockey in.
Marshall’s speech marked a clear enunciation of the interpretation of the Constitution as a “living” document — an position that many conservatives, most notably Justice Antonin Scalia, reject outright. And therein lies the reason in this writer’s opinion that President Obama and the Democratic Senate should consider the historical expedient of expanding the Court to 11 Justices. The Court as structured today has become a political foil with it’s 5-4 majority, intrusion into the Electoral process in 2000, and as such does not even represent the principles laid out in the Constitution or it’s purpose.
I know one thing – trying to take on the only black Justice we’ve ever had for being factually correct – isn’t going to get Uncle Mikkie or the RNC anywhere.
Filed under: Stupid Republican Tricks | Tagged: Constituion, Kagan, Lawn Jockey, Michael Steele, RNC, thurgood marshall, Uncle Tom | Leave a comment »