Monday, January 16, 2012

The Right is Wrong

We all know the Right-wingers are engaged in an ideological battle with the intent to make the rich richer and marginalizing those who are not. This false narrative is being done by using the tried and true method of quoting the Constitution and those good Ol’ Boys, the so-called Founding Fathers, as a convenient way to get the American people or some ill-informed Tea Party types to vote against their own interests.

One of those candidates is Rep. Ron Paul who has lured a lot of these so called “Real American” into that camp by creating a false narrative about America’s Founding, claiming that the drafters of the Constitution wanted a weak central government and one that was equal for all people. But that’s not the real or accurate history.

Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas who has topped 20 percent in the first two Republican contests, is fond of claiming that the U.S. Constitution was written “to protect your liberty and to restrain the federal government,” thus making modern laws, from Social Security, to civil rights statutes, to health-care reform, unconstitutional. But that isn’t true either.

While the framers of the Constitution in 1787 undeniably cared about liberty, at least for white men, they were also practical individuals who wanted a vibrant central government that would enable the new nation to protect itself both militarily and economically, especially against European rivals.

The broad powers that the Constitution granted Congress were designed to let this central government address national problems that existed then as well as any that would arise in the future. For instance, the Constitution gave control over interstate commerce to Congress in order to counter economic advantages enjoyed by foreign competitors.

Far from Paul’s assertions that the Founders wanted a weak central government, the Founders, at least those at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, understood that a great danger came from having a national authority that was too weak, what they had experienced under the Articles of Confederation, which governed the nation from 1777 to 1787.

The Articles of Confederation embraced the concept of state “sovereignty” and called the United States not a government or even a nation, but “a firm league of friendship” among the states. In the Confederation’s Article II declared: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated.” And very few powers were delegated to the federal government.

So, in 1787, the framers of the Constitution led by Gen. George Washington, James Madison and others in the Virginia delegation scrapped the Articles and put forward a very different plan, eliminating state sovereignty and creating a strong central government with broad powers, including control over “interstate commerce.”

The Commerce Clause wasn’t some afterthought it was part of the original proposal outlined on the Constitutional Convention’s first day of substantive business on May 29, 1787. The Virginia delegation had one of its members, Edmund Randolph, include it in his opening presentation.

Virginia’s plan laid out the framework that would later become the U.S. Constitution, transferring sovereignty from the 13 original states to “we the people of the United States” as represented by a new national Republic.

Where Rep. Paul claims the Constitution was designed to let the American people do what they want using the word liberty as his reference point. This is just not true! Unless, of course, he is referring to the people that represent the privilege class of Americans, who happen to be wealthy and white. We needed a government that could co-ordinate commerce in order to compete effectively with other nations. So, from that first day of substantive debate at the Constitutional Convention, the Founders recognized that a legitimate role of Congress was to ensure that the nation could match up against other countries economically.

Many conservatives to include Ron Paul have worked hard in recent decades at constructing an alternative narrative. Claiming that the Founders envisioned a weak national government and were big supporters of states’ rights happen to be a storyline that is simply not supported by facts. Key framers of the Constitution even objected to adding a Bill of Rights to the original document, accepting the first 10 amendments only later as part of negotiations over ratification.

The other thing they cry about is Obamacare. This speaks to Congress’s power to address difficult national problems, like the tens of millions of Americans who lack health insurance but whose eventual use of medical services would inevitably shift billions of dollars in costs onto Americans who must pay higher insurance rates as a result, what courts have described as “substantial effects.”

Paul claims: It certainly is an encroachment on individual liberty, but it is no more so than a command that restaurants or hotels are obliged to serve all customers regardless of race, that gravely ill individuals cannot use a substance their doctors described as the only effective palliative for excruciating pain, or that a farmer cannot grow enough wheat to support his own family. They also pray for fewer regulations to the benefit of the rich.

There are some conservative legal scholars examining the Constitution and precedents who could not find a convincing argument to overturn “Obamacare” and that is because the Founders intentionally empowered Congress to address national economic problems. It was, as the Virginian delegation understood, one of the key reasons for the Constitutional Convention.

Now I say the larger goal of the right-wing is not to uphold the ideals of the Founders, who wanted a vibrant central government, but to reverse government policies dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The plan is to return the United States to a pre-Depression “gilded age” of a society divided into a few haves and many have-nots.


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