Defend the Constitution or Be Sensible?

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

The dualistic mind is enjoying the on-going debate between “purity trolls” and “sell-outs.”  And most people on both sides of the issue appear to be quite certain of their stance.  Feeling somewhat queasy from the shaky ground under me, I’ve been looking in vain for the solid ground others seem to have found.  All I see is a Sophie’s Choice:  which one do you choose to kill–the Constitution of the United States or any chance of participation in the process?  I don’t know.  But I’m here to urge people to accept that we have a tough decision which cries out for meaningful, respectful debate.  And during this debate, may we keep in mind the most important political question we face–what action gives us the best chance of rescuing the constitution from imminent demise.

(This interesting diary, having already plunged off the rec list, stimulated my reaction here.)

To paraphrase, all I need to know about our current political dangers I learned from George Washington’s Farewell Address. I once claimed that Washington had come out for Obama on the basis of Obama’s understanding of the importance of unity.  I’m here to report that Washington’s support has recently weakened.  See, he’s worried that Obama doesn’t understand that the basis of our all-important unity is the constitution.

What unites us politically?  Some like to say we’re a Christian nation.  That answer makes me feel bad for my Buddhist neighbors.  Without examining it (or much of anything else), some think it’s our common culture, which is to say television.  Well, that would explain a lot,

The American Psychological Association Help Center reveals that children’s TV programming alone contains about 20 violent acts an hour.


but I can’t help feeling that television is not quite enough.  Some think it’s our hatred of everything French, but that’s mostly just for fun.  WWWS (What would Washington say)?

Well, after agreeing with Obama on the importance of unity:

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.

he goes on to specify the source of our political unity:

Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

then he makes clear that protecting the constitution trumps unity:

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts.

Do you think the FISA surrender would give George pause?

One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.

I have recently decided that many of our representatives are traitors.  I use this word carefully, not for effect and without venom.  I use it because I think the definition of a traitor is someone who fails to protect the constitution of the United States from domestic enemies. Or at least someone whose sworn primary duty is to defend the constitution of the United States.  If you don’t believe the Bush executive branch is a domestic enemy of the constitution, we’ll have to start another discussion another time.  If you have reached the obvious conclusion that they are a domestic enemy, then the legislative branch is burdened with a special sworn duty, in addition to the patriotic duty of every American, to protect the constitution against these enemies.  In my thinking, failing to do so would make them traitors.  Of course I’m not blind to the pragmatic difficulties:  if everyone in the government is a traitor, who will enforce the law?

So to repeat, I fail to understand how anyone can feel certain of a course of action in these challenging times.  A difficult question is before us.

If, as I believe, the current executive is making a complete shambles of the constitution, then the current executive is, without hyperbole, a domestic enemy.  If Congress fails to honor their oaths and protect the constitution against this enemy domestic then, strictly speaking, they are traitors to the document which is the essential protector of our freedoms.

If, otoh, too many Congresspersons are complicit in the dismantling of the rule of law, resistance becomes token and futile. Vote for Nader?  What exactly would that accomplish?


   a) vote for Obama in order to keep the imperial presidency more benign but don’t stand up for the constitution, or

   b)vote for neither Obama nor McCain in order to stand up for the constitution while wasting your vote.

This is a real question worthy of rational debate.

[On GOS, commenters broke free of the dualistic mind with the following options.]

Update 1:  Bubbanomics has offered option c) in the comments.  I add it here to make this diary more complete:

well, in looking for nuance…

may one consider an option (c)?

Vote for Obama (who is CLEARLY preferable to McCain) and fight like mad starting 2009 Jan 21?

In my experience progress is very slow and occurs in small steps, while loss is fast and occurs in large steps.  No one seems to have the patience for progress.

With the following clarification re not waiting until 2009 to fight the fight:

well, what I meant but did not say

is that one has to fight for the constitution with all of the congresscritters (Obama included).  The fight beginning 2009 Jan 21 is with President Obama.

Update 2:  option (d) from MakeChessNotWar

There is a 4th option: Vote for Obama but give him no support, devoting your available resources to electing progressive members of Congress. That’s the path I’ve chosen.

Since Obama isn’t going to deliver what we need, it is essential to elect people who will fight for what we need.

Update 3: lgcmp blows the lid off the lettering system.  There are several possibilities:

Going all out to defend the constitution

could encompass a lot of things.  Demonstrations.  Armed revolt.  Quitting my job to become a full-time activist.  

But I don’t see failing to vote for the lesser of two evils as any kind of defense against ANYTHING.  Honestly,  what would it accomplish?  It doesn’t even effectively send a message, since the reason for a non-action is imponderable, unprovable, and rightly ignored.

To which I will add, it’s one thing to speak theoretically about doing all these things, but it’s another step to acknowledge that voting for Obama is not nearly enough.


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    • geomoo on July 2, 2008 at 16:54

    Perhaps this essay should have been cleaned up, but there you go.  In discussing the original essay, I realized that in my rush I had failed to carry my reasoning to the logical conclusion.  Here’s where I am now:  The choice is an impossible one, and no choice at all.  The point of this whole exercise is to understand that although it is important to elect Obama over McCain, the most important action is to work to defend the constitution with full acceptance that neither Obama nor Congress can be counted on to do the job.

    It’s the constitution, stupid.

  1. The only thing I would add is that, for me, I also recognize that our common agreements/laws (of which the constitution is one – albeit sometimes flawed – example, but so are our treaties and worldwide agreements) have been being eroded for a long time. The current examples are just out-of-the-park obvious and wrong.

    So I sort of see it the way Bubbanomics does in his comment. We can’t get too caught up in the idea that ONE election is going to turn it all around.

    But we have to keep working at it in every way we can.  

    • Alma on July 2, 2008 at 18:34

    I don’t think there’s many, if any, people here that think just getting Obama elected will fix it all.  

    We have a long road ahead of us, and I think our children and their children will still be cleaning it up after we are long gone.  Its so easy to lose things and so hard to get them back.

    • brobin on July 2, 2008 at 18:35

    More and more the certainties I once held are falling away to become more questions than bold answers.  I am every bit as certain of my uncertainties today as I once was of knowing I knew the answer.


    • robodd on July 2, 2008 at 18:49

    False Dualistic Mind.

    As BD says, if the people lead, the politicians will follow.

  2. Now let’s see if we can put our thinking caps on and find

    the way back to the Constitution (and let’s not forget the

    Bill of Rights).

    WWWD… love this!

  3. …live with the consequences of our choice.

    Personally, I agree with Bubbanomics.  Am I happy with that soultion?  Not really, I’ve written to my Senators, to my Representative, and at least 20 others Senators about voting against the FISA/ telecom immunity bill & I’m still furious with Congress for continuing to cave in to bush & the corporations.  

    But right now here’s what’s worrying me:   Polls showing close race between McCain & Obama.

    You can’t change anything if you have no one in power to appeal to for change–and we’ve been in that position for at least 7+ years, and really for the many years before that, since the Republican domination of Congress.

    President McCain won’t give a damn about the Constitution, FISA restrictions, or ending the War in Iraq.  More people will die, and more will be wounded and broken in body, spirit and economically.  I personally couldn’t live with myself if this were to happen and I hadn’t done all in my power to prevent it.

    President Obama, who will be far, far from “perfect” will at least be more open to change, and more concerned about all of the above life and death issues, as well as more receptive to pressure to uphold the Constitution.  

  4. where it will persist long enough for some discussion.

    I think the cedar tree cracking its way up through the limestone is the way to make lasting change.  We can’t get discouraged when politicians let us down (as we know they will).  We have to keep on them, on ourselves, and on the hunt for good folks who can run for office.

    I also like lgcmp’s suggestions.  Demonstrations sometimes turn me off, as a feel-good thing to do that don’t make for change.  Like the Donahue or Oprah show, we talk about it for an hour and go on to the next thing.  But regular and large demonstrations that actually cause a disruption in the flow of commerce can have an impact.

    Good essay: thought-provoking!

  5. Do you do the right thing, or the thing you think will get you what you think you want. And, not subtly, is there deception involved?

    The right answer is always the Constitution. If it is the wrong answer, then change the Constitution. You notice no one setting out to do that. The reason is, all the things that will get brought up TO SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS the moment the floor is opened.

    The folks putting forward the choice, the Constitution or what’s behind door number two…are not being honest. The real choice is between the Constitution and the improved, amended Constitution.

    But that is a public process. Revolt is also public, but the rules are few. The main one, is get most folks to shut up. Then what you say seems true.

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