The Constitution has received quite a bit of attention this election cycle. Particularly amongst the tea party candidates, whose mantra of “protecting* the Constitution” can be heard at just about every stump speech. Now I understand the dim reality that few folks in our country really know much about the U.S. Constitution. That’s a problem. At a minimum, however, anyone going around saying they intend to protect this incredible document should at least have some sense of its content and meaning. Otherwise, it’s just empty rhetoric.
Try as though I might, I cannot read the news without learning of another Constitutional tea party guard dog revealing his or her complete ignorance of the most basic of Constitutional values and concepts. Earlier this week I mentioned Delaware’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate Christine O’Donnell who in a debate professed surprise upon learning of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Today I read about Alaskan Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate Joe Miller’s private security team handcuffing a reporter asking questions of the candidate’s background. The details of which include false imprisonment, possible assault and erasing of the reporter’s video footage. Clearly, Joe Miller has not read the 1st Amendment either.
Let’s not forget Kentucky’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate Rand Paul, who supports legislation discontinuing automatic citizenship for babies born in the United States. The problem here, whether you agree or disagree, is Paul’s failure to understand that this form of citizenship is granted by the 14th Amendment (ratified in 1868) to the US Constitution. Thus, any alteration requires a new Constitutional Amendment, not mere legislation.
And finally, I am constantly reminded of, and baffled by, one the favorite planks of tea party candidates: repeal of the 17th Amendment (ratified in1913) that requires direct election of US Senators.
Thus, as we approach November 2nd, I cannot kick this gnawing feeling that these tea partiers don’t actually want to protect the whole Constitution, just parts they like. Our great nation though is not about parts. We figured that out about 150 years ago the hard way. Great nations are about the whole; and that suits me just fine.
*From who they are protecting the Constitution from will have to be dealt with at another time.