Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mobile vulgus

It's not news that most Americans use the Constitution primarily as a rhetorical weapon against their opponents. We saw that the right just doesn't care when President Bush was building his imperial Presidency and ignoring the Fourth Amendment in the name of national security, and we see that the left doesn't care today as President Obama insists that the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce gives it the power to force a citizen to purchase a service he doesn't want from a company that's inside his home state. Liberals and conservatives both shout about one and ignore the other.

Again, not news. But there's something I'd like my American liberal friends to think about for a second:

One of the most common arguments by supporters of these excesses is that the government in question was elected by the people, and thus its actions are just and legitimate, reflecting the will of the people. If they get out of hand, you can always vote them out, right? But the big problem with democracy--the problem constitutional republics with strict limits on government power were invented to address--is just that: the tyranny of the majority. When you allow the majority to elect a government unconstrained by strong legal limits and institutional checks and balances (which I understand are called "gridlock" in modern political discourse), it really sucks to be a minority.

As we perennially allow the federal government to extend its power in the interest of addressing this session's new earthshattering crisis, our Republic is gradually becoming a democracy. And in a democracy, whatever group produces the most voters makes the rules.

Now, think about the conventional left/right model of US politics, however simplistic it may be, and tell me which is more likely to produce the rulemaking population of the future United States. Is it the side that believes in sexual freedom, teaching their kids to use birth control, giving same-sex couples equal representation in law and society, and making abortion available on demand? Or the side that fervently believes their god commands them all to enter sexual relationships with members of the opposite sex regardless of individual sexual preference, shun birth control and abortion, and have only vaginal sex with their partners?

"Stretching" the Constitution sounds like a great idea when you're thinking of all the poor people out there who can't afford needed medical care. But frankly, liberals have much more to lose by failing to stand on Constitutional principle than conservatives do. Before you hand more power over to a government that's friendly to your interests, think hard about how that power will be used by the future government that will be much less to your liking.

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