James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, August 25, 2006

If This is Strict Constructionism...

Sheldon Richman writes:
Conservatives pride themselves on being “strict constructionists,” the keepers of the one true interpretation of the Constitution. But this claim rests on a weak foundation. There is no one true interpretation. The historian Merrill Jensen noted that Alexander Hamilton, a staunch nationalist, and Thomas Jefferson, a staunch decentralist, looked at the same Constitution and saw two contradictory things. Each saw a plan of government consistent with his own predilections.

These days conservatives oppose implied congressional powers while seeing implied presidential powers everywhere (as long as they like the president). I smell an agenda.

When I thought I had common cause with mainstream conservatives, it was generally for four reasons:
1. Federalism: The federal government shouldn't do what is best left to the states and to the people.
2. Smaller government: Cut spending, cut taxes, de-regulate the economy.
3. Realist foreign policy: opposition to "nation-building" and using our military to fight other people's battles for ideological reasons.

Conservatives have abandoned the above three positions. (Yes, Bush has cut some taxes, but he's increased the Inflation Tax and the Grandchild Tax.) The last area of agreement was this:

4. Strict construction: not that there is a "one true interpretation" of the Constitution, but that it can be interpreted objectively - apart from personal predilections and ideological agendas. Courts can exercise deference to common practices and the will of legislatures while protecting the actual - not made-up - Constitutional rights of individuals.

Judge Anna Diggs's ruling that Bush's warrentless wiretapping of Americans making international phone calls seems to me an example of strict constructionism. Both Congress and the Constitution back her up. For mainstream conservatives to attack her because she's a Carter appointee does not, as Richman points out, refute her decision.

If "strict construction" of the Constitution gives the President dictatorial powers, then conservatives can shove it. Having already abandoned federalism in education and drugs, substantially increased the size of government, and sent our troops on Democracy Crusades, conservatives are now abandoning my last area of agreement with them.

Mainstream onservatism seems to be nothing more than hatred of Democratic Congresses and Presidents. There doesn't seem to be any actual thought behind anything they say they believe in.

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