“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself” – St. Augustine
Those who know me will know that I think Ron Paul is the best choice for president out there. I may not agree with all of his positions – but he holds that the Constitution means what it says and says what it means and should be held as the highest law of the land. It can be changed any time we want, by a super-majority, but not twisted and contorted and re-interpreted to mean anything we want at any time we want.
Who knows exactly how much support Paul will attract from the caucus and primary voters – I hope a lot. He is not the only Republican candidate playing to the Constitution however. Michele Bachmann, an avid Tea Partier, has branded herself a “Constitutional Conservative” in this race. To my mind this can only mean one thing (though we’ll consider alternative definitions shortly) – she agrees in principal with Dr. Paul about the Constitution as the foundational governing document in our country and a need to return to the restraints that it put on government. I don’t mean to put words in her mouth, this is just how I would interpret her slogan.
I can’t say that this is, without a doubt the case – I know considerably less about Michele Bachmann than Ron Paul. As such, I have clicked around to several articles considering her history, political views, and past statements. I also caught an article (just today) from one Ed Kilgore over at the New Republic, who also considers what it means to be a Constitutional Conservative. The Kilgore article is mainly tripe and blather, and not the intended subject of this post. I will point out though that he has played the same “hidden message” canard that the left-wing media used on Reagan.
The claim was, back in the Reagan years, that Reagan used “subtle language” to sound normal to most of America, but convey a clearly racist mission to those “in the know” in the deep south. They called it his “southern strategy” – and it was utter rubbish. Similarly, the claim is that Bachmann will try to run as a middle-of-the-road economically concerned citizen, all the while giving a wink and a nod to the radicals to hold firm to her true message.
As I note, this isn’t my point. My point rather is that the “Constitutional Conservative” line can only go one of two ways. In fact, I think you can drop “Conservative” – you are a Constitutionalist or not.
Consider the St. Augustine quote on the gospel. Either you believe the gospels or you do not. If you say “I believe this or that piece” of the gospels, then what you believe is yourself, and the gospels when they happen to align with you. But if that is the case, then the gospels are quite irrelevant to your worldview. They only matter when they agree with you and are cast aside when they do not.
We Christians will certainly debate what this or that passage means. We will search the context of the times in which scriptures were written, to give us greater historical understanding. What we can’t do though is say “well, I think maybe that part isn’t right” – once we do that, we no longer believe the Bible at all.
In like manner, you either support the notion of the Constitution as the basis of our governance, and that it means what it says, or you do not. We certainly search historical texts to consider the context of its writing. But we can’t simply twist its meaning into whatever we care.
Unlike scripture, the Constitution is not immutable. We can (and do) change it – and should if we see fit. But we must do so the right way, in accordance with its dictates.
But if we wrangle the words to mean any-and-everything we want then we don’t view the Constitution as the basis of government at all. Rather, our whims and whatever we can convince the majority to believe is the basis of law and order. At this point, it matters rather little if you are a conservative who ignores the constitution or a liberal who ignores the constitution. You have ignored the basis of law and governance, and cannot be trusted any further.
I hope to ascertain in the future if Bachmann is, in fact, a Constitutionalist. If so, then I bet I’ll support her (in a rather mild sense of the word … I’ll probably blog nicely about her). To my mind though, there is no hidden message in her claims.