Fuck the Founders

The constitution is not a suicide pact

By now it’s pretty obvious that when conservatives swoon over the Founders, it’s not because they respect the rights their Constitution was supposed to preserve, but because, like themselves, the Founders considered women and blacks to be sub-human. (Hell, in John Eastman’s famous Newsweek essay about how the Founders didn’t want Kamala Harris to be Vice-President, he managed to hit both women and blacks with the same swipe.)

Seriously, though: No one who watched Republicans try last fall to invalidate tallies in districts with heavy black voter totals in order to rig the Electoral College — that eminently racism-friendly institution — and keep Trump in office, and heard conservatives defend it because, in the words of David Harsanyi at The Daily Signal, “the fact that the Electoral College doesn’t align with the ‘popular vote’ isn’t alarming. It is the point,” can possibly doubt that conservatives only haul out the periwigs and buckled slippers to make their racism and their will to power look respectable.

And they still do, as Republicans work to suppress votes unlikely to go their way in every state where they have the power to do so, and conservative “anti-majoritarians” defend them: “Our Founding Fathers,” sniffs Kevin D. Williamson at National Review, understood that “democracy is at best a procedural convenience for choosing representatives and ensuring a minimum level of accountability in elected officials. Democracy is not a synonym for ‘good government’” etc. — a fairly typical right-wing What’s Best For You Whether You Want It Or Not argument (though, this being Williamson, with a little extra assholishness).

On those rare occasions when conservatives try to tell us this is not what they’re up to, they just look ridiculous — as with this Jonah Goldberg column in which, after a long weep over Kids Today failing to show their statues sufficient respect, he defends the Founders’ racism as some sort of anti-racist jiu-jitsu:

It would have been better if the founders had never been hypocrites. But we should feel deeply grateful for that hypocrisy, because it was the irritant that created the pearl.

Kind of a roundabout way of doing it, eh?

But equally ridiculous, if not as amusingly fart-filled, are all the wingnut screeds that tell us that every part of the Constitution must be interpreted the most rightwing way possible because the Founders whispered their Divine truth into their ears: we can’t stop America from having an assault rifle mass murder every couple of days, they tell us, because the FOUNDERS said so in the Second Amendment (and the “well-regulated militia” bit means Every Nut With The Money for 600 Rounds Per Minute, because Jefferson and Madison confirmed it via Ouija board), and you liberals may think the freedom of the press applies to government investigations but the FOUNDERS as divined by Clarence Thomas really wanted the press on a short leash, devoting themselves to printing their leaders’ press releases, etc.

You may have heard the House just passed a DC statehood bill. Senate Republicans and their cat’s-paws Sinema and Manchin will block it, but it’s going to be a well-publicized and close-run thing and many voters may look at it and wonder: What reason do they have for depriving these people of the rights that we enjoy? (I’m not talking about Republicans, who will note the racial makeup of the District and understand automatically, but about Democrats and Independents, some of whose votes Republicans will want going forward to fill some of the gaps that may be left by their voter suppression.)

So the rightwing think tanks have troubled to defend resisting it. But not well. The Senate Republican Policy Committee issued this very brief “Practical and Legal Problems with D.C. Statehood” paper. Get a load of their arguments:

The District of Columbia is a creation of the Constitution, which limits what Congress can do to change its status without a constitutional amendment. Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution establishes that Congress has “exclusive” legislative power over “such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.”

Because the Constitution is so clear on this point, a constitutional amendment would be required to actually make the District of Columbia, as currently established, a state.

“As currently established” is your tell; we can simply make the Mall, or even just Congress and the White House, the “Federal District,” and the rest of us can live peaceably as citizens. Ah, but then the SRPC riddles us this:

Meanwhile, the federal district left over after the creation of a D.C. state would potentially award the president and his family as many votes in the Electoral College as the state of Vermont.

“Potentially” means “in your dreams.” No law requiring this is cited. Also:

The Constitution outlines how land can enter the possession of the District of Columbia − “cession of particular states” − but not how land can leave it. While this might seem to means [sic] Congress can give the land back, similar provisions in the Constitution regarding statehood raise some doubt. For instance, the Admissions Clause gives Congress the power to admit new states but no power for expulsion or secession. The Supreme Court held in 1868 that once a state enters the union, the relationship is “indissoluble.” In that vein, some legal scholars have contended that just as the Constitution provides a way for states to enter but not leave the union, the Constitution provides a way for land to enter the district but not to be given away.

Opposing this legal view is the fact that...

Ugggh. You can read it all if you are not put off by the odor of Obvious Bullshit. Conservatives, however, smell nothing but roses, and act as if this Bizarro-World West Wing fantasy means anything at all, talking about having DC “retrocede to Maryland as a compromise” as if it were not gibberish.

The reason is simple. If Congress were merely to say, “LOL whatevs” and make DC a state, there is no likelihood that the Founders would rise from the dead, march on Washington like the Justice League, and stop it. And it’s not like the Equal Rights Amendment where conservatives were able to call down a tsunami of ancient sexist grievance to bamboozle the public. Sensible people, who still constitute a bare majority in the U.S., simply do not give a shit.

But conservatives have been getting away with anti-democratic fuckery for so long they’re inclined to try anything to keep the ball rolling, so they rattle their Constitutional bones and shake their 18th Century costumed mannequins and hope it’ll scare us off.

But in fact, I think there’s a good chance that by constantly going to that well these guys may have broken the spell. People’s eyes may now begin to roll the second conservatives yank the Founding Fathers out of their sarcophagi to defend their anti-democratic nonsense. I know mine do. So fuck the Founders, I say; if it’s not literally prohibited by the Constitution — and nearly nothing we want is — let’s just do it whenever we can, and let the Three-Fifths Compromise Reenactment Society go cry in their milk punch.

Oh, yeah, I know the Supreme Court might make trouble. So pack ‘em.