Two law professors from Harvard and Yale wrote in the New York Times last week that our Constitution is “broken” and should be not be reclaimed. Not only that, the whole notion of constitutionalism – the idea we should have ANY constitution – should be thrown out. This is the logical conclusion of the thinking of the Progressive Left which has been pushing toward direct democracy for more than a hundred years.
It’s not clear what the professors would do with the current Constitution, but they outline a number of steps they would like to see taken. First, make the Constitution easier to amend to inject more democracy into it. Create more states in the Union to help make this happen. Next, reorganize the Congress to make it more democratic and reduce the power of the Senate so it could not obstruct the will of the People as expressed in the House. This would put the basic structure of government, including how presidents are elected, into the hands of today’s voters. Only then do we get to the glorious Progressive future where we are no longer beholden to the past, present and future demands are fully met, abortion and labor rights are guaranteed, and values like racial equality and environmental justice would be protected – all achieved through ordinary statute without having to bother with a constitution. Then society can undergo constant reinvention and no longer be chained to old ideas.
It is folly, the professors say, for Progressives to try to work within the existing constitutional framework which has pesky things like the Electoral College, the Senate, and conservative Supreme Court majorities, which are mere impediments to be brushed away in the new nonconstitutional order. It’s time to radically alter the rules of the game, they say – time to openly defy the Constitution and usher in total democracy without constraints. Wow, how come they haven’t been arrested for insurrection, yet?
All of this might sound pretty good, if you were born yesterday. The Founders studied every constitution known to humanity and rejected direct democracy as completely unworkable. It invariably descends into mob rule and the tyranny of the majority tramples the individual – the most important minority of all – as well as individual rights. It’s rich that these professors use their constitutional rights to speak their minds and earn a living to trash the Constitution. What if new congressional majorities decide the good professors should be silenced and canceled? If you throw out individual rights, they would have no recourse. How much do you think they would like unconstrained popular rule, then?
What if new congressional majorities did other things the professors didn’t like? What if it became a conservative majority governing from the Right and saying things like ‘climate change is a phony narrative and we’re going to throw out every law and policy based on it’? The professors would be back arguing for a constitution to keep this from happening. Which is why I can’t take their argument seriously – it’s just left-wing expediency to advance Progressive policy goals.
Then there’s the notion that society needs constant reinvention at the fundamental level, 24-7. Congress settles the basic structure of government and fundamental values one day only to turn it all upside down the next. Who wants to live in a system where the rules change by the minute? Change, change, change. I first ran into this while studying the Marxist theorist Grace Lee Boggs of Detroit. She was all about constant and perpetual change. I’m sorry, but the desire for constant change is pathological. It’s sick. Society does not need constant uproar at a fundamental level every alternate Tuesday and Thursday.
Some old ideas are pretty good, like having a roof over your head instead of sleeping in the park at night. But the professors are right – some old ideas aren’t worth preserving. Harvard and Yale – established by dead white males of European descent three or four centuries ago – those are old ideas, too. As long as we’re throwing out old ideas, why don’t we start with Harvard and Yale? If the Marxist claptrap we’re hearing from the professors is any indication, the Ivy League is broken and should not be reclaimed.
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