Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The More Perfect Union 

We have the occasional good fortune to receive an e-missive from Zemblan patriot D.R.B., who suffers the daily disillusionment of working in our nation's capital but remains a student of history nonetheless. Today he reminds us that we as Americans must choose our moral visions wisely, because not all Founding Fathers were created equal:
John Roberts says the courts should defer to legislative bodies--ie, majority rule--on matters involving basic civil rights; Arnold Schwarzenegger says either the courts or the people should decide such matters--so politicians are safe from political fallout.

In truth, both are wrong. The gap between reality and vision in the Constitution was apparent to the Founding Fathers, who debated many issues of individual rights and freedom, including slavery, during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence (“all men are created equal”) and the Constitution.

It is essential for all Americans to understand that the Founding Fathers set forth a vision of a “more perfect union” in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that was much grander than anything they expected to achieve in their own lifetimes. They made such an extraordinary leap toward freedom in throwing off the rule of kings that no one can argue that they expected less of future generations of Americans. They expected every generation would continue to work toward that more perfect union in which all Americans had equal rights and opportunities. And they established an independent judiciary as an arbiter of the gap between current political realities and their vision.

The Founding Fathers risked their lives in the fight against a status quo that subjugated Americans to the rule of kings, and they clearly expected no less of us. Strict constructionists like Judge Roberts seem to take the view that “The values of the Framers of the Constitution must be applied in any case construing the Constitution” (Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 547 (1969)). However, the values of the framers were not uniform—many did not support slavery, and many did support women’s equality. Thus the language in both the Declaration and the Constitution had to represent the political compromises – in other words, doublespeak – necessary to obtain votes.

In the history of America, the judiciary has had a critical role in advancing the perfection of our country’s union. The fact that the courts are insulated to some degree from the political pressures that corrupt politicians made it possible for them to challenge Americans to achieve the more perfect union that the Founding Fathers envisioned. To say that in 1776 there was slavery, and that the poor and women could not vote, and such was the intent of the Founding Fathers is a great anti-American blasphemy. Like the rule of kings, all that was part of the yoke of the imperfect world that the Founding Fathers sought to throw off.

The Founding Fathers were great men and they understood that the future they foresaw for America would take centuries to achieve. To abandon the progress toward their vision of a more perfect union that we as a Nation have made in the past 225 years is to abandon utterly their vision of America as the greatest democracy in the history of the world. And for any politician or judicial nominee to say that the Founding Fathers sought a lesser union than one in which “all … are created equal,” that they desired a union defined by the most obstructionist views of the most obstructionist States, is to spit upon their graves.
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