I thought it was a good idea for the Constitution to be read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives as that body kicked off its new session. The reading reminded those present of the contents of our fundamental law and symbolized a commitment to adhere to that law.
But what seemed like a good idea turned out to be a great one. For instead of good naturedly going along with the exercise, or suffering in silence, a number of leftists publicly displayed their lack of comfort with, if not contempt for, the Constitution. Thus, the public received its clearest indication to date that the left regards the words of the Constitution as an impediment to its agenda.
Today, the day of the actual reading, the left was at it again. At least two Democratic representatives, including Jesse Jackson’s son, protested that the document read on the floor did not contain provisions of the Constitution that have been superseded by amendments. In particular, Jackson was unhappy that the provision counting slaves as only three-fifths of a person for the purposes of taxation and apportionment was “didacted” as he put it.
But if the purpose of the reading was to remind people of the contents of our fundamental law and to symbolize Congress’ commitment to adhering to that law, then it makes no sense to read portions of document that no longer apply. The reading Jackson and others wanted would make sense only if this were a history lesson. But it was not. History lessons are for speeches by individual members, each of whom has his or her own view about which aspects of history to emphasize. What all members of Congress have in common is their oath to uphold the Constitution as it stands today.
The goals of Jackson and other leftists who supported him are plain enough – to make America look bad and, simultaneously, to create skepticism about the quality of the Constitution as a whole. How sound, the thinking goes, can the rest of the original document be if it originally contained a provision counting slaves as three-fifths of a person for some purposes?
Again, however, this sort of argument is the stuff of speeches, not of a reading of the document members of Congress are sworn to uphold. But I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for speeches by members of Congress that attack the Constitution.
That is why the reading exercise proved to be such a stroke of genius. It gave the country a revealing glimpse of how the left really views the Constitution. Would monthly readings be overdoing it?
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell