A perfect summary of the Grand Old Party’s relationship with the U.S. Constitution comes from Texas Governor Rick Perry at Mike Huckabee’s candidate forum on Fox News last Saturday. Governor Perry claimed as president he could overturn a law passed by Congress by executive order (he can’t), and then to show his bona fides on the subject he pulled out a copy of the Constitution from his breast pocket – displaying it proudly to the national audience.
Of course, he held his prop upside down.
And said, “It’s all right here.”
Republicans love to worship the Constitution as scripture. Perry keeps his next to his heart. They also love to talk about adding some Even Newer Testaments to this sacred document. They’re strict constructionists believing in the original intent but they’d prefer to see it improved drastically. Translation: It’s so perfect they’d like to see it changed.
Saturday, candidates talked about amending the Constitution to outlaw abortion, keep marriage heterosexual, term limit the Supreme Court and take away citizenship from children born to illegal immigrants.
English author Samuel Johnson famously said patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. For Republicans, talking about amending the Constitution is the first defense against having actual policy discussions. The 112th Congress has ground to an all-out halt by GOP obstructionism and instead of having an authentic plan to help the country that elected them, they opted to vote in (among other symbolic bills) a Balance Budget Amendment. This of course, like the majority of the bills the House will pass this year, will never become law.
In order to amend the Constitution you have to get two-thirds majority in both Houses and then it has to be approved by three-fourths of state legislatures. Meaning: You have to build a broad consensus to change the founding document of our nation.
Republicans are not consensus builders – they’re talking point pounders. They’re re-branders. They’re more likely to ram through laws on the fly like Ohio Governor John Kasich’s union busting law which was months later overturned by voters – than super majority-sized popular things like taxing the rich. The middle-class will see a tax hike this year due to the payroll tax expiring. It appears Republicans are going to allow this to happen in order to protect the wealthiest Americans from paying more of their easier-earned cash to the federal government. Those who are being squeezed? Tax hike! Those who are squeezing? Lowest tax rate in two generations. Not a popular stance – but Republicans are taking it.
Face it: they will never amend the Constitution even though it’s their favorite go-to non-starter.
However, a group that’s all about consensus building – at least at their meetings I’ve sat in on across the nation – is the Occupy movement. And their list of grievances includes money in politics and corporate personhood.
To Occupiers, corporations are like robots in every sci-fi movie ever made: they’re created by man, having taken on human traits (or in this case legal rights) and are turning on their makers … to eventually destroy the world. The Occupiers don’t see one party or another as an answer. They’re not like the tea party who are just a voting bloc for conservatives. They see both parties as being hostages to corporate money and complicit in the extreme economic inequality in the country.
How do they plan to tackle this? By calling for an amendment to end corporate personhood – to in effect overturn Citizens United. You’ll hear whispers of this among activists as a way to solve the problems that have prompted nearly 5,000 Americans to be arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience all across the country. Some polls show that over two-thirds of Americans would like to see the Constitution amended to overturn that decision.
The problem is we’re very used to this empty go-no-where non-solution of a Constitutional amendment from Republicans who know theirs will never happen; in that way Republicans have already preempted any earnest campaigns for an amendment.
I’ve brought this up to Occupiers and they are undeterred. They tell me they are, after all, the 99 percent, and there’s power in those numbers. They replied with what I’ve heard them say before: “We’re not going fast. We’re going far.”
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far