Friday, September 24, 2010

Something to like in the GOP pledge

Word is getting around about a GOP "Pledge to America" meant to serve much the same purpose as the "Contract with America". The draft is here.

Not much to disagree with at all in the first several sentences. That's to be expected - lot's of good upbeat talk about what America is and stands for, etc. That's followed of course by obnoxious partisanship - more of the regular confusion that because they don't like what's been going on "the American people" don't like it. I hate this sort of talk, but whatever.

And that's of course followed by a lot of promises. Some are relatively innocuous and vacuous - of the "cut pork" variety. Some are insane - of the "balance the budget" variety. It's the predictable hodge-podge. A nice melting pot of bad ideas, forgettable ideas, fear-mongering about Democrats, and laudable shout-outs to individualism and federalism. Normal politics, essentially.

This, though, is an excellent idea:

"Adhere To The Constitution: For too long, Congress has ignored the proper limits imposed by the Constitution on the federal government. Further, it has too often drafted unclear and muddled laws, leaving to an unelected judiciary the power to interpret what the law means and by what authority the law stands. This lack of respect for the clear Constitutional limits and authorities has allowed Congress to create ineffective and costly programs that add to the massive deficit year after year. We will require each bill moving through Congress to include a clause citing the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified."

We are a constitutionally illiterate culture and that is not a good thing. There have been republics before, constitutions before, federations before, and democracies before. On their own all of these have major liabilities. Perhaps there have been constitutional, federal, democratic republics before the United States, but there are much fewer examples. That's what we offer, and that's one of the factors that has made us so successful. I think you see a lot of constitutional ignorance. The Tea Party and Tim Geithner stuttering during his Congressional testimony are only the two most prominent examples. I don't expect we'll always agree on what constitutes "constitutionality", but constitutionally justifying it in legislative language will help us deliberate over it and think about it and talk about it in a way that we often don't.

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