It is the singular measure of the extremes our nation is swinging between that our political debate so often involves the Constitution. A brilliant document and the creation of great compromise, our Constitution serves as the foundation and framing of the nation. The cement was poured and set over 200 years ago, and the framing has been added, in the form of amendments, at various intervals since that time. In our great arrogance today, we have decided that every problem requires a Constitutional remedy. This practice is apparent at the level of state politics, where activists have turned to amendments to codify attacks on marital rights. It is now becoming evident at the federal level, where both “sides” of the ideological spectrum have lined up the Constitution in their sights.
Changing the foundation and framing of our great structure is, first and foremost, an act of destruction. Demolition must occur, and in this type of work, blow back is inevitable. Typically, an amendment is added to correct an overwhelming injustice when that injustice is favored by the bulk of society. Representative Aaron Schock’s recent statements on the judicial ruling against California’s Proposition 8 (a referendum that banned gay marriage), were beside the point. He disagreed with the ruling because he stated it was against the will of the people. He is wrong because protecting individual rights, after all, is the act of protecting those classes who cannot protect themselves against the power of the majority.
Another week in American politics down, another week closer to the end of the American republic. Partisan politics was once the province of logical debate. As the U.S. became comfortable with 24 hour television coverage and gossip pseudo-journalism, personal attack ads became the currency of partisanship. Now, in the parlance of our times, Americans have “kicked it up another notch!” If we don’t like a law, or a tax, or a President, we can threaten to destroy the country or its foundation.
In the past 18 months, we have heard persistent threats and even calls for secession and revolution, by pundits and politicians alike. The universal link is the conservative backlash against Democratic control of the House, Senate, and Presidency. But, breaking away from the defined politics of our time, the fuel for these efforts runs far deeper than any one issue or party. The recent brouhaha over Arizona’s immigration law is, I think, an indication of the real issues that run beneath. In this case of Arizona S. 1070, the backlash hasn’t included calls for secession, but it has reached a fever pitch with the recent calls by Senators Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyle to repeal the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
What makes our nation the United States of America; what makes us Americans? The pervasive fears of a coming “new world order” and “one world government” are largely limited to the political right and evangelicals. The most explosive emotions on the subject of immigration, illegal or otherwise, are found at both edges of the political spectrum. Everywhere in our politics, there is a sense of confusion and anger attendant to the subject of trade and open borders. In a nation with increasingly fractious politics, it is critical to first identify the ground rules; who gets to play in our park, and what are the rules of entry?
The Rational Middle has argued before that racism is not the principal cause driving opposition to immigration reform; the RM has also argued that having a good reason to take legislative action does not guarantee that the resulting law will make sense. Unsurprisingly, these arguments have not been accepted by the media and punditocracy whose well-appointed livelihoods depend on interesting stories. In today’s cable media, you are a do nothing politician or baby soft liberal if you oppose “tough” legislation. If you happen to support laws like the one that Arizona passed, then you must be a racist. In a nation with 300 million unique individuals, our media is uncomfortable unless it is easily able to identify heroes and villains. Our media, friends, is becoming steadily less informed and more sensationalized. This fact accounts for the total lack of reporting, with any basis in fact, on the notions of borders and free trade.
Nazi Arizona? Well, not quite. The new immigration statute in the state is however, over the top, ill-considered, and ill-conceived. When Governor Brewer signed the measure into law, she opened up Arizona law enforcement agencies to enormous public pressures and liabilities. This is a measure, after all, that is supposed to “fix” illegal immigration in the state. The law, in short, is a travesty.
So what is wrong with this state? To be blunt, nothing that isn’t wrong with the rest of our nation at the moment. We have, collectively, taken leave of our senses. As a nation we have become all to comfortable giving up our hard-earned civil liberties; all we need is the Serpent in the Garden to tell us who the problem is and how to catch them. Currently, we also lack an objective media able to show us the fools we are becoming. In the last decade, some members of the media briefly (and quietly) suggested that the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act were serious violations of the 4th Amendment. The suggestion (for the point of historical context) was that elements of these two acts were reminiscent in tone and scope to the laws passed by the German parliament in the 1930′s.
I hate the subject of immigration. Much like abortion, the mention of the word immigration is enough to end rational discussion in a heartbeat. The issue is charged by history, geography, cultural differences, cultural loss, mistrust, racism, and callous political pandering. Just like abortion, I hate writing about this subject, but it is a topic at the front of our democracy.
I hope to have a good and rational debate on this topic, so I would ask everyone to put as many of their preconceived notions, political leanings, and cultural predispositions down, and step away. The format for this post will be familiar to RM regulars; I will lay out some facts framing the discussion in bullet point form, then state my position on the issue. I really do hope for a long thread in the comments section, and will also post a discussion on Facebook. As an editorial note on the structure of this blog, allow me to remind you that this post (and most others) are longer than two paragraphs….click on “continues here” to read the full post. When you are done…make a statement; attack, support, debate. All responsible comments are welcome!
Representative Joe Wilson yelled at the president last night. His outburst was a departure from the normal etiquette of the chamber, and was rebuked by Republicans almost as quickly as Democrats. He apologized to the President and the President’s chief of staff almost immediately, and was torn to pieces by several columnists and commentators throughout the post mortem.
Representative Joe Wilson is a passionate defender of his constituents and a deeply committed patriot. His outburst represents the norm in today’s idealized debate, and accurately reflects the feelings of perhaps one third of the American public. His actions last night, calling the President a liar when he insisted that he had never tried to get illegal aliens coverage during the health care debate, are a microcosm of the whole process.