(Steve Sebelius) – At the May 22 Conservative Leadership Conference at the M Resort, I found myself reaching for a copy of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence helpfully left on tables by Janine Hansen’s Assembly campaign.
“Oh, you don’t need that,” said one conservative activist.
I agreed right away, saying I had the document memorized.
Not really. But I do frequently refer to my three copies of the Constitution, one so old, I had to (literally) cut and paste in the 27th Amendment, proposed in 1789 but not ratified until 1992.
Later in the day, I happened upon the tail end of former KTNV Channel 13 anchor Ron Futrell’s angry rant, just in time to hear how Democrats hate America, and how whenever they talk about the Constitution, they do so with disdain.
Really? Because I’m registered as a Democrat, and I don’t recall hating America or ever disdaining the Constitution. In fact, I’d venture a guess that I write more about the Constitution than anybody else in Las Vegas, with the possible exception of con students at Boyd Law School.
So what gives? Why do conservatives think a liberal like me would have no need of a copy of the nation’s founding document, or that I would disdain it as part of my America-hating?
Perhaps it’s because the left has allowed — for too long — right wingers to talk as if they’re the only ones who love America, or revere the Constitution. They’re not.
In fact, many times, it’s the right that has too little respect for the Constitution, especially when it prohibits unnecessary wars, warrantless surveillance, enforcing treaties (including the Geneva Convention) to which the United States is a signatory, or limits on the powers of the executive. Republicans can surely hate on the Constitution in those circumstance, as they have well proven.
Yes, liberals criticize America, perhaps because their concept of “loving” one’s country doesn’t involving ignoring her faults.
Perhaps I should cut the conservatives some slack. It’s only been since the inauguration of Barack Obama that they’ve even discovered the notion of constitutionally protected patriotic dissent against the president of the United States, a concept that few of them had considered since noon on Jan. 20, 2001.
Still, I refuse to concede that any conservative loves or respects the constitution any more than I do. Heck, most of them think the Bill of Rights could have ended after the first five words, “Congress shall make no law….”
Now, conservatives are fond of excoriating activist judges, who through their rulings are stripping the Constitution of its original intent and substituting their own latter-day judgments. (Activist judges are less troublesome, however, when they hand down rulings that say corporations are people and can thus make political donations. But that’s a subject for another day.)
The beauty of our system lies in its ability to change as society evolves, to form and re-form the kind of government that shall seem to us to be most effective to establish the kind of nation we Americans want to live in. But the Constitution provides us some principles to follow as we go about deciding the question of who we are as a nation.
And this is one liberal who’s not afraid to admit he’s glad there are limits on government power outlined in the Constitution, and that we’d be in trouble without them.
But not need it? Disdain it? That’s nothing more than a right-wing cartoon image of liberals that’s not to be taken seriously.
(Mr. Sebelius is editor of CityLife and author of the SlashPolitics blog)