Tag Archives: Constitution

A Constitutional Question

I’ve done a pretty bad job of posting lately. My interest in politics has been tested throughly. I’m just tired of the same arguments coming from either side over government spending and taxation. The Tea Party has thoroughly destroyed my faith in Congress, and the American public. I will talk more about that in a later post. Today, I want to pose a question. It’s a question I thought of a long time ago, but never got around to asking. First, a little reminder of our recent history.

Back in March, all the talk was about Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker was trying to push a bill that stripped the collective bargaining rights of public employees. State Senate Democrats fled in an effort to obstruct him. In the end the bill was passed, but not without gaining significant national attention and a repeated FOXNews claim that was completely wrong. In the last six months, I’ve been mulling this issue over in my head. Education is very important to me. I’ve been a public school system employee. I have strong views about the issue. Personally, I don’t believe that public school teachers have the awesome, easy job that conservative talking heads say they do. I also believe that we should be encouraging people to become teachers not discouraging it. Having the smartest people want to be teachers is good. Education in the cornerstone of everything we do.

All that aside, I thought of an argument that makes the repeal of public employee’s collective bargaining rights is unconstitutional. This argument maybe crazy. It may have been addressed already. I would genuinely like to know what you think. So please leave comments below. As long as their civil and honest of course.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says:

     “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We’re going to focus on the last part of that amendment. The government cannot abridge our “right to peacefully assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”  The way I read that is that collective bargaining is a right of public employees. Collective bargaining is people assembling (as a union) and petitioning the government over grievances (such as pay, working conditions and so on.)

I know that a strict constructionist view of the Constitution would not allow this, because it doesn’t talk specifically about collective bargaining, but collective bargaining didn’t exist. I believe we have to view the Constitution in the era it was written in, and decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Let me know what you think.

Palin’s Trickle-Down History: George Washington

In the aftermath of the so-called “folksy word salad,” in which she described Paul Revere’s midnight ride. It seems Sarah Palin may have been giving history lessons to her supporters.

According to the British newspaper, The Telegraph, Peter Singleton is a lawyer and representative of the group Organize4Palin. He’s been going around Iowa trying to drum up support for the former Alaska governor. He believes that she is going to run. He said the thought of her staying out of the race was  “unthinkable” and likened Palin’s situation to that of George Washington saying:

“Can you see George Washington in 1776 sitting it out? Unthinkable. He wanted to be back on his farm but they said we need you to be president of the republic.”

I would just like to point out that no one was asking George Washington to be President in 1776. There wasn’t even a country for him to lead as President. To go even further, when the country existed under the Articles of Confederation George Washington did not serve as the Executive. It wasn’t until 1789 that George Washington became the first President elected under the Constitution.

Now, I have to admit that perhaps he just misspoke, but then I went to the Organize4Palin website and found a page detailing Palin’s views on issues. Under “American Exceptionalism” is a quote from a SarahPAC post:

Please remember we must learn about our past – our great successes, our bitter struggles, our enduring strength – in order to navigate through the challenges ahead so that we might remain a shining city on a hill and the abiding beacon of freedom.”—SarahPAC post(6/8/2011)

Not only is this coming from the woman who mangled Paul Revere, it’s being reposted by a guy who put George Washington in charge of a country 13 years early. That’s a great example of learning about our past to help us in the future.

Singleton claims he has never met Palin.  A claim I find interesting considering he is canvassing Iowa finding volunteers and supporters. However, it could be true. The Palin team should realize this is just another example of things that make Palin look like she isn’t qualified to lead a nation. If they truly aren’t associated with this guy, they should really try to shut him up.

On a side note, do you think this will get Wikipedia’s George Washington page shut down?

Tea Party: The Founding Fathers aren’t Yours

It seems anytime anti-government rhetoric, or even partisan rhetoric to an extent, ratchets up one side always claims the Founding Fathers. They say we have  gotten away from our roots. We are taking the country down the wrong path. This is not what they wanted for us. So you should really ask: “What DID the Founding Fathers want?”

That answer is far from clear.  My first question is which Founding Fathers? Washington, Franklin, Jefferson? How about Madison, Hamilton, or Adams. Try these, Bartlett, Sherman, Gerry, Livingston, or Wolcott.  Never heard of them? Don’t feel bad. I had to look them up. Those are all signers of the Declaration of Independence.  There are a number of people who can be named as Founding Fathers. Those who participated in the Continental Congress, those whose framed and signed the Articles of Confederation, and those at the Constitutional Convention all qualify as the people who formed this country. Even if we look at merely the men who wrote the Constitution and served in the government you find little agreement and much argument. Ron Chernow wrote  a wonderful piece in the New York Times about this very issue. You can find it here.  After reading it, I realized something about the Tea Party movement. Like many other anti-government movements they think they know what this country is supposed to be and the rest of us are wrong. It’s the belief that “I’m right, you’re wrong”  that characterizes them. That belief is what steers them off track.

The Founding Fathers didn’t know what they meant exactly.  As Chernow points out Hamilton immediately believed the Constitution gave the government the right to form a central bank even though it wasn’t explicitly written. Jefferson and Madison thought he was crazy. Not a day after the ink was dry, they were debating the interpretation of the document they wrote.  That basic argument of how to interpret the text is still being had today.

The simple fact is that the Constitution was a framework not for a country of 18th century, but a country of any century. That’s why they added the amendment process.  They wanted to plan for the future. The Founders didn’t anticipate a country of multinational corporations, or of global trade or certainly a nuclear bomb.  They didn’t give us a country. They gave us the framework to have a country that develops through the unknowable changes of time.

If the Tea Party wants to get back to what the Founders considered in the late 1780s, we need a time machine.  What we know is they gave us the unending debate. We shouldn’t focus on what America was supposed to be, but what we can be.  What the Founders truly wanted was to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,”

What that means is  221 years ago they debated how to best govern this nation. The argued, they persuaded and they voted. Today, we are still having that debate.  I hope we are still having that debate 221 years from now.