At the behest of the incoming Congressional Tea Party coalition, legislators led by Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte read the entire Constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives this morning. Except they didn’t.
It seems the group decided to omit any parts that have since been overturned by other parts. These omissions include Article 1, Section 2, which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person. Also omitted were the original method of having Senators appointed by state legislatures and the vice-president being the second place finisher in the election. And there’s no point in bringing up Prohibition either, since it just gets rescinded shortly thereafter.
It might be reasonable to argue that this streamlining was just an effort to make the process efficient. However, the motivation for the reading in the first place was because the Tea Party Coalition believes there is some magic wisdom in the words written by our founding fathers. Inasmuch as the bible is viewed as the infallible word of God, the Constitution is viewed as the infallible word of the creators of the USA.
Reading evidence aloud that the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Congress in 1787 were fallible human beings who did a pretty good job, but still made a couple of colossal blunders does not fit with the narrative of the demi-gods who graced us with our founding document. Curiously, mostly the same guys who drafted the Articles of Confederation as our very first founding document. But that didn’t work out too well. Apparently, infallibility takes practice.
Meanwhile, other Tea Partiers are working fervently to get the court to reinterpret the 14th Amendment such that birthright citizenship would be eliminated. Granted, the 14th Amendment wasn’t written by the founding fathers, but it’s 150 years old and the statement, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States,” doesn’t seem to leave a lot of room for reinterpretation.
Still, there are reasonable arguments that we no longer live in the same times we did a century and a half ago, and maybe granting everyone citizenship by virtue of being born within the borders doesn’t make sense any more. But the larger point is, the Tea Party is arguing on the one hand that the Constitution is infallible and unambiguous, and on the other that it needs to be changed or reinterpreted because times have changed.
Both these cases illuminate a pretty clear history. The constitution has evolved as the country has evolved. A dynamism still ongoing today. The Tea Party admits as much in their actions—actions contradicted by their semi-religious rhetoric.
They can’t have it both ways.