Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just to be Clear: Rick Santorum is an Idiot

To be fair, it is not just Rick Santorum, but also Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama and the Progressives, as well as most of the establishment figures in both parties. Let’s deal with Santorum first.

Santorum continues on with this ridiculous notion of what America is all about, the limits of the Constitution, how the 10th Amendment does not entitle the States to their own powers and ability to institute their own laws and practices, how the Declaration of Independence created an overarching “moral” code that actually governs the concept of America, blah, blah, blah… The general ignorance of this man is incredibly astounding. Santorum, like Gingrich and many Conservative know-it alls, will talk about the Founders and the Constitution with reverence and longing for their wisdom, yet have absolutely no notion of what they were talking about or trying to do. For Santorum and his claim about the 10th Amendment, and this also applies to Progressives who like to speak with some sort of authority on this subject, we should consult some actual source material. It’s a little long but try this on for size:

I mean not by these reflections to insinuate, that the new federal government will not embrace a more enlarged plan of policy than the existing government may have pursued; much less, that its views will be as confined as those of the State legislatures; but only that it will partake sufficiently of the spirit of both, to be disinclined to invade the rights of the individual States, or the prerogatives of their governments. The motives on the part of the State governments, to augment their prerogatives by defalcations from the federal government, will be overruled by no reciprocal predispositions in the members. Were it admitted, however, that the Federal government may feel an equal disposition with the State governments to extend its power beyond the due limits, the latter would still have the advantage in the means of defeating such encroachments. If an act of a particular State, though unfriendly to the national government, be generally popular in that State and should not too grossly violate the oaths of the State officers, it is executed immediately and, of course, by means on the spot and depending on the State alone. The opposition of the federal government, or the interposition of federal officers, would but inflame the zeal of all parties on the side of the State, and the evil could not be prevented or repaired, if at all, without the employment of means which must always be resorted to with reluctance and difficulty.

Do you know where that is from? That is from Federalist Paper #46, written by James Madison. For those who may have forgotten, the Federalist Papers were a series of essays that were written after the Constitutional Convention in order to generate support for the new version of the national government by alleviating people's fears and concerns over its construction and powers. In reading the above passage what is the takeaway? It can only be that the State governments have powers and responsibilities all on their own. Not only do the States have power all on their own, they also have the ability to push back against the Federal government should it attempt to encroach on those powers, and be able to pass and enforce laws that officials at the Federal level may not like, so long as they reside within the bailiwick of the State. So we can understand how wrong Santorum is, and deniers of the power of the 10th Amendment in general are, remember that this is written by James Madison. James Madison who essentially wrote the Constitution, so his grasp and understanding of the document should be hard to argue with. Also take into account this was published in January of 1788, which is 400 days before the first Congress proposes, and nearly four years before the States ratify the Bill of Rights THAT INCLUDED THE 10TH AMENDMENT. Before anyone conceived of the document having a 10th Amendment that provided the states and the people direct control over their lives away from the LIMITED power of the Federal government, Madison was saying this power was obvious and inherent in the document, no further provisos needed. When Santorum talks about what the 10th Amendment allows he is quite literally contradicting the man who wrote the Constitution. If States want to allow for gay marriage, that is their prerogative, the power rests with them, not the Federal government, the Feds are not in the marriage business. If a state wants to allow for medical marijuana, or any marijuana for that matter, it does not concern the Federal government. They have no power to stop it under this interpretation of the constitution.  When it comes to Mr. Gingrich he fancies himself a historian and a believer in the original constitution, but you can not read that passage above and come to the same conclusions about the federal government he does. You can only say it is proper for the Federal government to outlaw drugs if you take the Progressive approach of an unlimited “commerce clause” power to interfere in business best left to the States.

Now, when it comes to individual rights I have no issue in saying the 14th Amendment changed this relationship somewhat, allowing the people to claim certain protections provided by the Bill of Rights as they apply to their dealings with the State governments. This does not change the underlying dynamic though. You can ask the Federal government to protect your freedom to practice religion from an act by a State Legislature, but it does not give the Feds the power to invalidate your State sanctioned marriage. The 14th does not invalidate the 10th, and despite what the Progressive set would like to say on the subject, the 10th does not simply state a truism. If you look later at this same essay you see this:
…should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps, refusal to co-operate with the officers of the Union … would form, in a large State, very serious impediments; and where the sentiments of several adjoining States happened to be in unison, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter. But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm. Every government would espouse the common cause … Plans of resistance would be concerted. One spirit would animate and conduct the whole…You see here, once again, that Madison believed, without a 10th Amendment in place, that if the Federal government were to do something odious or unpopular that the states and the people would resist them, that they would not obey the orders of Federal officials and the States would all equally join together to say that it should not be done. So while people often talk of “supreme law of the land” and “necessary and proper” as being the defining principles of the super powerful Federal government, it is quite clear that the people who wrote the document did not believe that.

In the 220+ years since these things were written the world has changed, to be sure, and the Federal government has changed with it, and now intrudes on every single facet of life no matter how mundane. Many of these things were done for our own good, to protect us from the evils of this, that or the other thing, so as to safely Shepard us from cradle to grave while efficiently and effectively paying our taxes. Somewhere along the way we forgot the basic premise of limited government, the very logic behind it that is expressed in the Federalist Papers and other pieces of the time. You limit the power not because you are heartless, naïve, unconcerned, disconnected or selfish.; you limit the power because you are aware of the fact that not doing so opens the floodgates to expanding power into everything. Libertarians take a philosophical beating because they have to answer the “what-ifs” against straw-men about clean air and good roads, but Liberals and Conservatives never have to answer the same questions about where their platforms lead. 
You don't simply "trust" in Barack Obama to make the right call about who should be detained indefinitely. You should not provide Newt Gingrich with the power to say that a particular intoxicant is so bad you need to be thrown in jail for thinking about using it. You certainly never elevate Rick Santorum to a position of authority wherein he attempts to establish for all of us his understanding of what is the moral and proper way to live. You don't do any of these things because the next person to come down the line will invariably pick up the ball wherever it is left and continue to move it forward until, as we have seen by the world we now live in, that the concept of limited government has disappeared. After decades of growth in the power, scope and especially the cost of our National and State governments we need to all start reexamining what it is theses entities should be doing and why. People are starting to realize there is a problem, let us hope, as Madison hoped, we will start to see their repugnance escalate into some actual pushback against the intrusion into our lives and liberty.

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