Today’s example of brainless, fact-free so-called “Founding Fathers” worship

And it would have worked too, if it weren’t for you meddling Anti-Federalists!

Today’s example comes from Katherine Kersten, a fellow at something called the Center for the American Experiment in Crappy History.  It’s a twist on the “Obama is not an American” theme so popular with anti-Obamaniacs these days.  Big news, kids:  President Barack Obama’s agenda is not rooted in Kenyan anti-colonialism.  Instead, it’s rooted in Kaiserreich Germany!  Behold:

Progressivism views the roles of citizen and state very differently than our founding fathers did. The founders anchored the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in three principles. They believed that human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inherent in nature and human dignity, and preexist the state. They believed that government should be limited, and that its primary purpose is to protect these rights. Finally, they crafted our Constitution to disperse power and curb its abuse through mechanisms such as checks and balances, and federalism.

As the 20th century opened, progressives like Woodrow Wilson — a former president of Princeton University — dismissed the Declaration and Constitution as outmoded. They insisted that America’s archaic political system was unsuited to solving the problems of a new industrial age. Ironically, however, they drew their own vision for perfecting democracy from a very undemocratic place: the imperial Germany of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnnn!  Now, forget about some American intellectuals’ fascination with German education back in the 1870s for just a moment, a phenomenon to which Obama is only very, very distantly attached, to say the least.  Did you see what she did with the so-called “Founding Fathers?”  First, presume that the early U.S. was a period of consensus rather than bitter partisan conflict, and ignore the fact that it was only the anti-Federalists who “believed that government should be limited, and that its primary purpose is to protect these rights.”  Check.  Propound a distorted vision of the Founders’ agenda that fits your modern partisan goals.  (For example, use a term like “human rights” that the so-called Founding Fathers would surely have scoffed at, if they could have understood its meaning in the first place.)  Check! Finally, and most importantly, completely ignore Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which is the one that anticipates the need to revise the U.S. Constitution! (Spoiler alert:  checkcheckcheck!!!)

[Woodrow] Wilson, like many intellectuals of his generation, was besotted by the progressive vision. He scoffed at Americans’ “blind worship” of their Constitution and the limits it placed on government power. And he was impatient with checks and balances, which he viewed as an irrational obstacle to the policy changes that progress demanded.

He sought to replace our nation’s “limited” Constitution with a “living” Constitution that would “evolve” — under the guidance of far-seeing intellectuals like himself — to tackle the nation’s changing problems. “No living thing can have its organs offset against each other as checks, and live,” he wrote.

Oh noes–a living Constitution!  In fact, the so-called Founding Founders believed in a living constitution, because they made explicit provisions for amending the Constitution of 1787.  Here’s Article V in its entirety:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

And that process for amending the U.S. Constitution over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is directly responsible for the election of Barack Obama, friends, because I think most of us know that the most shocking thing to our so-called “Founding Fathers” about Barack Obama would be the fact that the Republic is governed by (in their words) a “Negro.”  (It’s also directly responsible for Kersten’s anti-Federalist vision of a limited federal government, brought to you by the First and Second Amendments to the U.S. Constitution!)

I know no one ever listens to me, but Jeezy Creezy, once more so the people in the back can hear me:  the U.S. Constitution is not holy writ, and worship of the so-called “Founding Fathers” is idol worship!  (But hell:  at least idol worshippers know what it is they’re worshipping, unlike Katherine Kersten.)

12 thoughts on “Today’s example of brainless, fact-free so-called “Founding Fathers” worship

  1. Mind boggling. Let’s see if I’ve got this right. So, Wilson dragged the country into a losing, I mean winning, war against Imperial Germany the quicker to be able to appropriate its absolutist notions of government, to say nothing of all of that living, breathing, class-warfare making, redistributionist Bismarckian social welfare experimentation? I don’t think you could claim that just because he got one of those new-fangled Ph.Ds at Hopkins, instead of something more Oxonian or Cantabridgian-sounding, he was some sort of a stein guzzling, sword-waving Juncker imperialist at heart. Too simplistic.

    The only problem I have with ‘Bam is his American League idol-worshiping, with its implicit support for the designated hitter rule; the most anti-checks-and-balances piece of unjustified regulatory intervention that’s ever been seen in God’s favorite sport (r), to wit, baseball. And still I’m going to vote for him.


  2. Right on! (About the DH rule and Kersten’s strange views on Wilson.)

    And let’s not forget what democracy did for Germany in the 1930s. The wrongness just won’t quit in this essay!


  3. I dream of a time when Kersten-type exercise of First Amendment rights causes a guardian angel to swoop out of the sky with flaming pen, make a Colbert-style split screen effect, and write “BS! (citations below).”


  4. “Living Constitution” is Federalist Society-codespeak. Their problem is not with the idea that the Constitution can be amended, but that certain rights (right to privacy, most notably) have been derived from the language of the Constitution without going through the amendment process. I think they have a point on that, but overall I think if the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence hadn’t come up with ways to make the Constitution more flexible over time, we would have had to throw the thing away long ago. Most countries don’t straitjacket their operations with a single rigid document that can never be changed except through an onerous amendment process that’s almost never successful.


  5. And why the fucke are these assebagges constantly jackeing offe about what the “Founders” intended? If you’re going play the game of fetishizing what some fucken douchebagges in the 18th Century intended, then it’s gotta be the motherfuckers who were in the ratifying conventions and voted on the motherfucker.


  6. Ah, so now I learn that no amendments or changes to the constitution (or at least none of any significance) were passed in the 19th c. Don’t tell the slaves! What’s interesting about the Germanophile Wilson as the bogeyman is that the 17th amendment was ratified before he became prez. He’ responsible for the 18th, though, if just barely.


  7. Linden, I get that “living Constitution” is a Federalist society boogeyman. I just think that wielding it like a club is transparent B.S. without any historical or intellectual justification. Conservatives clearly love judicial activism, so long as it’s on their behalf. (Witness the squeals of outrage from the stuck pigs last summer when ACA wasn’t ruled unconstitutional.) Ignoring Article V is always the first dodge they make in order to pretend that the 18th C document was preserved in amber and must be read and interpreted exactly as it was written in 1787. (This is Antonin Scalia’s vision, anyway.)


  8. Oh, I definitely agree. By pretending that they are simply taking a principled, intellectual stand, the Feddies can sidestep all those nasty issues of abortion, women’s rights, gay rights, desegregation, the reach of the Commerce Clause, and so on. No one who has ever read Scalia’s dissent in the Romer v. Evans decision could conclude that he’s motivated by anything but his own ideas of morality. I almost threw my textbook across the room after reading it when I was in law school.


  9. A-hahahahaha!

    I wonder if Scalia is familiar at all with the violent anti-Catholicism in the early American Republic? Funny that he’s comfortable with *some* change over time in terms of political representation, voting rights, and public office holding.


  10. I always liked the “stuck pig” trope, or metaphor, or simile, or whatever it is, and it’s even crept into my vocabulary now and again, but I don’t really have any coherent image referent for it, although I follow the Porkopolitan Baseball Club, Inc., and have been in the Hog Butcher to the World many many times. My father grew up on a small dairy and poultry farm and a cousin married a veterinarian, so I’ve seen about everything you could do to or with a cow, and am thoroughly versed in the with the visual meaning of a “chicken with its head off…” I’ve even tried to google the concept of a “pole-axed steer,” which has some degree of political resonance. Given that there is some scholarship on anthropomorphism, is there any literature out there about attributing animal kinetics of the most unfortunate kind to our friends on the other side of the aisle?


  11. The whole “wilson is the root of modern leftwing evil” thing is pretty popular among the nutty right. Glenn Beck is super into it. Something involving expanding the state and the income tax, really gets them riled up. And then they get to denounce Wilson for being a racist, which is just so ironic.

    The American right’s entire schtick is to identify just when things went wrong. So we can get back before that.

    Also, it is hilarious when you see people citing Madison and Hamilton along with Jefferson as supporting a decentralized farmer’s paradise. Oh well…


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