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http://jacobinmag.com/2011/03/burn-the-constitution/

Seth Ackerman Wrote:
The worldwide revolutionary turmoil of the years just after World War I witnessed the single biggest leap in labor’s long forward march.

At least, it did in most places.

But while general strikes were panicking European elites into making sweeping concessions to their working classes, here in America the Wilson Administration was swiftly re-privatizing the economy and dismantling the progressive wartime labor codes — prompting Felix Frankfurter to render a despairing judgment: the United States, he wrote, appeared to be “the most reactionary country in the world.” When the unimpeded rule of the plutocrats was confirmed by Calvin Coolidge’s election six years later, William Howard Taft concluded with satisfaction that Frankfurter had been right: “This country is no country for radicalism. I think it is really the most conservative country in the world.” But why was that so? There were many theories. The patrician editors of The New York Times had given this matter some thought, and on Constitution Day, 1921, they provided one plausible explanation: “If it is true, as there is much evidence to prove, that Americans are showing themselves the most conservative nation in a turbulent world, the largest cause of it lies in our Federal Constitution.” The Constitution, the editors explained, “makes the American people secure in their individual rights as citizens when these are imperiled by passing gusts of sentiment.”

These dubious “gusts of sentiment,” in the lingo of American constitution-speak, are precisely what other societies call “the democratic will.” It stands to reason that a document drafted by a coterie of gilded gentry, openly contemptuous of “democracy” and panicked by what they saw as the mob rule of the 1780s, would seek to constrict popular sovereignty to the point of strangulation. Thus, brilliantly and subtly, the system they built rendered it virtually impossible for the electorate to obtain a concerted change in national policy by a collective act of political will. The Senate is an undemocratic monstrosity in which 84 percent of the population can be outvoted by the 16 percent living in the smallest states. The passage of legislation requires the simultaneous assent of three separate entities — the presidency, House, and Senate — that voters are purposely denied the opportunity to choose at one time, with two-thirds of the Senate membership left in place after each election. The illogical electoral college gears the whole combat of presidential elections around a few, almost randomly determined, swing states that happen to contain evenly balanced numbers of Democrats and Republicans. And the entire system is frozen in amber by an amendment process of almost comical complexity. Whereas France can change its constitution anytime with a three-fifths vote of its Congress and Britain could recently mandate a referendum on instant runoff voting by a simple parliamentary majority, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the consent of no less than thirty-nine different legislatures comprising roughlyseventy-eight separately elected chambers.

There was a brief moment in U.S. history when these truths were acknowledged by the Left. During the Progressive Era, the Socialist Party branded the Constitution a menace to democratic government and a number of progressive intellectuals, including Charles A. Beard, Vernon L. Parrington, Carl Becker, and J. Allen Smith, lucidly recognized the document’s reactionary constraints and sometimes called for their overthrow. Beard established a Committee on the Federal Constitution which advocated subordinating the Constitution to popular control, declaring that “the people of the United States have not control over their fundamental law at the present time, save in a minor degree. The consequence is, our institutions do not reflect the popular will, but in reality other forces over which we have only a measure of control.” The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, authorizing a federal income tax and direct election of Senators, were the most enduring (if inadequate) fruits of this period of ferment.

But unfortunately it was the counterattack that proved far more lasting.

During the 1920s and 1930s, as historian Michael Kammen has demonstrated, constitutionalism “assumed a more central role in American culture than it ever had before,” thanks in large part to “the efflorescence of intensely partisan organizations that promoted patriotic constitutionalism as an antidote to two dreaded nemeses, governmental centralization and socialism.” The National Association for Constitutional Government, the American Legion, the Constitutional League, the National Security League, the Sentinels of the Republic, all came together to “pledge themselves to guard the Constitution and wage war on socialism.” A national Constitution Day was instituted. Local school boards were pressed to further glorify the sacred parchment. All of this, I would argue, amounted to America’s version of the anti-democratic nationalist populism that was spreading in Europe in the same years. Today’s Tea Party, with its mania for constitutionalism, is the direct heir to this venerable conservative tradition that embraces the Founding Fathers’ masterwork as a bulwark against democratic adventurism — hence the Congressional Republicans’ ritual Constitution-reading, and their new rule requiring that specific constitutional authority be cited for each bill. Like Action Française or the antirepublican peasant leagues of Weimar Germany, the Tea Party’s patriotic constitutionalism originated in the 1920s as a conservative reaction against the working class movements that had surged forward to remake the state into the democratic instrument of popular aspirations.

It’s easy to make fun of the Right’s bizarro Constitution fetish, especially in its current Glenn Beck-ified form. Beck’s late guru, the Bircher and Mormon extremist W. Cleon Skousen, is now the main source of the Tea Partiers’ constitutional wisdom; his books, once out of print and gathering dust, have become posthumous bestsellers and required reading at Tea Party training courses. A true fanatic and weirdo, Skousen believed the Founding Fathers were inspired by the example of the ancient Anglo-Saxons, who in turn were inspired by the Biblical Israelites. All adhered to the divinely sanctioned principles of limited government, a system under which America made more progress in its first century than the world had made in the previous 5,000 years (hence the title of Skousen’s magnum opus, The Five Thousand Year Leap). But it all started falling apart at the start of the twentieth century, when progressives and socialists attacked the Constitution and Woodrow Wilson embraced their Satanic cause, taking the first fateful steps on the road to the serfdom we know today: minimum wages, a Federal Reserve, national parks, Medicare — all, Skousen insists, are unconstitutional.

All of this is nonsense, of course. But what is equally lamentable is that the recent rise (or, rather, return) to prominence of this constitutional crankery has spawned a whole genre of anxious liberal commentary aimed at rescuing the document’s honor from the clutches of uncouth reactionaries. It is an article of faith in this commentary that the Glenn Beck crowd simply misunderstand the Constitution and the intentions of the Founders. They labor under the illusion that our founding text enshrines conservative principles, when in reality (the claim goes) it’s an ambiguous document whose meaning is contested and always changing — or maybe even a warrant for ceaseless progress and change. But whatever it is, the Constitution according to today’s liberals is always misunderstood and never at fault, usually treated with a fond if wised-up reverence and never with the disapproving righteousness of the more advanced progressives. In a take-down of Tea Party constitutionalism, Dalia Lithwik in Slate writes that “the fact that the Constitution is sufficiently open-ended to infuriate all Americans almost equally is part of its enduring genius.” “It is an integrative force — the cornerstone of our civil religion,” writes Andrew Romano in Newsweek; but “the Tea Partiers belong to a different tradition — a tradition of divisive fundamentalism.” “The Constitution is ink on parchment,” writes Jill Lepore in a recent New Yorker piece (“The Battle Over the Constitution”), “it is forty-four hundred words. And it is, too, the accreted set of meanings that have been made of those words, the amendments, the failed amendments, the struggles, the debates — the course of events — over more than two centuries. It is not easy, but it is everyone’s.” That sounds nice and awfully inclusive, but unfortunately the Constitution is much more than that: it is a charter for plutocracy.

It is a measure of our current ideological morass that liberals, in their own enlightened and open-minded way, still masochistically embrace a throne-and-altar orthodoxy that subordinates the people’s will to a virtually unalterable diktat handed down by an ancient council of aristocratic, semi-deified lawgivers. At this very moment, when expansionary monetary policy and debt relief for homeowners are demanded by the Left to address the ongoing, grinding social crisis, it should not be forgotten that “a rage for paper money” and “an abolition of debts” were precisely the sorts of “wicked project[s]” that James Madison, writing in Federalist No. 10, specifically hoped his Constitution would rule out.

You would almost think Madison had been listening to Glenn Beck.

The right wants to include austerity articles and debt caps in constitutions. I really don't care how americans view the constitution of their country, but I know I hate that of my own country. And would gladly see it changed. And done away with all the articles which are confusing and mixing up the and dividing the powers of the executive between the PM and the President.
And holding a religious like love for a constitution, is really the naked zeal of a small and ignorant mind. The US constitutions had to be amended a lot of times, cause those angel-like founding fathers (wealthy and hypocritical but smart slave owners) forgot a few things, like slavery and racism. All men are created equal, except for neggars, indians, and women. And only the aristocratic class was allowed to vote.
It's one thing to declare a system of class and race, without any form of shyness or bs. And it's another to be hypocritical, to say we'd like to have a de jure society based on equality, but actually, we'd rather not. But it sounds better to say that we do.

"Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability." James Madison

They were basically the wealthy land and slave owner aristocrats of ancient Rome, fearful of ambitious and charismatic aristocrats like Julius Caesar. The only minority they cared for, was the minority which owned much of the country's wealth. The only freedom they were concerned to defend, was their freedom of having privileges and squeezing more wealth, and their freedom of ruling over the commoners.
As far as why the US has never had the strong radical left seen in other countries, the best explanation I've ever seen is Barrington Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.

Basically it's a book about Modernization Theory, but he suggests that the political structure of all modern states can be traced back to the class politics of a political crisis that always emerges from economic modernization. England had theirs in the 1640's with the Puritan Revolution, China had theirs in 1949, etc.

The US had our last "revolution" in the 1860's. It pitted the agrarian aristocracy which had dominated national politics up until then against the emergent class of industrial/financial elites growing in the northeastern cities. The decisive factor in provoking the crisis was the breakdown of the Jacksonian Democratic coalition between the southern aristocrats and the "peasants" (owners of small farms) in the recently acquired western territories. The main conflicts over slavery (and by extension the southern economic model of huge quasi-feudal plantations) were happening in the west. ("Bleeding Kansas" and so forth) "Free Soil" farmers, in addition to moral sentiments against slavery, didn't want huge slave plantations appearing next to their farms because this would reduce them to the same position as their noticeably poorer counterparts in the southeast.

Most of these western farmers had taken advantage of free land grants from the government to start their farms, a policy that the northeastern industrialists (Republicans) had up until this point been opposed to--the option of migrating west at low cost was an attractive option to urban industrial workers, creating upward pressure on wages. However, they reversed their stance on it to earn western votes for national Republican candidates, leading to Lincoln's election in 1860, sparking the war.

So in other words the last major crisis that shaped our present political framework involved a peasant/worker/industrialist coalition basically overthrowing an agrarian aristocracy. This as opposed to low-level aristocrats and a nascent "bourgeois" class uniting to extract concessions from a monarch while containing peasant rebellions (England), an outright pro-monarchy alliance of industrialists and rural barons uniting to repress peasants and workers (Japan, 1868; Germany, 1871), or a peasant uprising against aristocrats being coopted by urban industrial bureaucrats (Russia, 1917; China, 1949--the peasants always get screwed in these things.)

Combined with the free-land policy (made possible by the conquest and displacement of the native population), the legacy of the Lincoln coalition is that we never quite ended up with a landless "proletariat" as a distinct, restive political faction the way most of Europe did, at least not until much later and in a much more muted form. We never had a Luddite uprising or a Paris Commune, because North vs. South/Urban vs. Rural has remained a very salient feature of our politics, perhaps more so than Industrial Bosses vs. Industrial Workers.

Other than weapons, our one major export sector these days is still agriculture. In terms of history is and culture--actual demographics notwithstanding--we've always been a very rural country, whether that makes us a "conservative country" or not. (The late 19th century saw the rise of a Populist movement centered on disputes between farmers and bankers--the end of the Lincoln romance, basically--and not so much a Socialist movement based on disputes between industrial workers and their employers, which happened but was significantly smaller and weaker.)

I don't know that the Constitution is all that much of a factor. Switzerland seems to also have an aggressively decentralist form of government, and if I'm not mistaken that hasn't stopped them from passing some progressive laws that we have not--they have universal health care, correct?

I like having an amendable document that outlines the purview of each arm of the government and defines the basic legal rights of citizens. Whatever its original text, it currently states that slavery is illegal, everyone can vote, and a local government can't violate civil rights established at the national level. I like that. That's just my $0.02.

Roger Mexico Wrote:
I like having an amendable document that outlines the purview of each arm of the government and defines the basic legal rights of citizens. Whatever its original text, it currently states that slavery is illegal, everyone can vote, and a local government can't violate civil rights established at the national level. I like that. That's just my $0.02.

Everyone likes something that can be changed. Bakto's article speaks about religious adherence to a piece of paper written by well-to-do slave owners that wanted to be free. This religious adherence to the argument of "constitutionalism" is a cover for blocking and demonizing any social progressive policy that the citizenry might like to see implemented, and all those who'd be willing to implement such policies. You'll hear the republicans and Ron Paul talking about free-markets, claiming that free markets "worked" for America. It's a blatant lie. All sovereign nation states that managed to become great powers, first developed by implementing mercantilist/protectionist policies (state interventionism), and only after that did they commit to free trade.
The british empire is the best example of this. They consolidated themselves with tariffs and only afterwards did they impose via military might the free trade doctrine upon other countries.

Free land delayed, rather than prevented, the emergence of an American Proletariat. For most of the 20th century there was no more free land to claim. In the 20th and 21st centuries most Americans were and are landless proletarians.

The fact that the US had its last major political crisis in 1860 makes my point. America did pretty much all of its modernizing well after 1860, yet this did not produce a crisis which changed the political structure. The Swiss do not worship their constitution the way Americans do, they have made the achievements they have in spite of it. The fact that it was completely rewritten in 1999 shows how different its cultural role is.

That slavery is illegal, everyone can vote and local government cant violate civil rights is guaranteed by the universal charter of human rights. The US constitution is now superfluous. The way the US constitution sets up the different arms of government and their roles is an insidious and very clever design to thwart progress and genuine democracy.

If the US is to become a first world country, it will only be when people start to see the constitution as a big part of the problem. I believe it is the most destructive document in history.

Helsworth Wrote:
>forgot a few things, like slavery and racism.
Many wanted to do away with slavery, but that wouldn't do if they wanted a unified country.


>All men are created equal, except for neggars, indians, and women. And only the aristocratic class was allowed to vote.
It was the Supreme Court that decided women couldn't vote.
The Three-Fifths Compromise meant slaves were counted as 3/5.
Or maybe you forgot about black slaveholders...
Anthony Johnson

Read the book, “Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860″ by Larry Koger.

"By 1830 there were 3,775 black families living in the South who owned black slaves. By 1860 there were about 3,000 slaves owned by black households in the city of New Orleans alone."

"According to the federal census of 1830, free blacks owned more than 10,000 slaves in Louisiana, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia. The majority of black slave-owners lived in Louisiana and planted sugar cane.

Slave holding among the mulatto class in South Carolina was widespread according to the first census of 1790, which revealed that 36 out of 102, or 35.2 percent of the free Black heads of family held slaves in Charleston City. By 1800 one out of every three free black recorded owning slave property. Between 1820 and 1840 the percentage of slaveholding heads of family ranged from 72.1 to 77.7 percent, however, by 1850 the percentage felt to 42.3 percent."

>They were basically the wealthy land and slave owner aristocrats of ancient Rome, fearful of ambitious and charismatic aristocrats like Julius Caesar.
Oliver Ellsworth, John Adams, Sam Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine, Roger Sherman, Robert Treat Paine, John Dickinson, Ceasar Rodney, William Livingston, George Wythe, John Randolph

The only minority they cared for....
The only freedom they were concerned to defend...
See above. Or read some Alex Hamilton. Or some Northwest Ordinance of 1787 etc...

You can't make the argument that a white slave owner or white non-slave owner viewed blacks (slave owners or not) as equals. Thus, why put "All men are created equal"? Answer. Because people love to boast about principles and values and de jure reality - while in real life, they operate with double standards on almost every issue. I can't regard hypocritical treaties and individuals with religious zeal or romantic admiration.
I understand the historical, political, cultural, and economic context of the time, but that's no reason to worship "the good old days". The constitution established a long lasting plutocratic system of elections, designed to introduce a two party (two faces of the same coin) system, while leaving no chance for a third party or independent candidate to take the office. Hell, the side branded as "the constitutionalists" attack welfare as "unconstitutional", and anyone wanting a progressive policy is labeled a socialist or communist, seeking to rob them of their supposed freedom as citizens.

BaktoMakhno Wrote:
If the US is to become a first world country, it must do what I want according to my politics.

Pls go, fallacy person..


Helsworth Wrote:
>You can't make the argument that a white slave owner or white non-slave owner viewed blacks (slave owners or not) as equals.
I wasn't.

>Thus, why put "All men are created equal"? Answer. Because people love to boast about principles and values and de jure reality - while in real life, they operate with double standards on almost every issue.
Sure people do. I understand.

>I can't regard hypocritical treaties and individuals with religious zeal or romantic admiration.
I understand the historical, political, cultural, and economic context of the time, but that's no reason to worship "the good old days".
No one is worshiping the 'good ole days'. Well, at least not me. I just saw misinformation that could be defeated with a quick google search.

>The constitution established a long lasting plutocratic system of elections, designed to introduce a two party (two faces of the same coin) system,
Wrong. The U.S. has and had many parties.

>while leaving no chance for a third party or independent candidate to take the office. Hell, the side branded as "the constitutionalists" attack welfare as "unconstitutional", and anyone wanting a progressive policy is labeled a socialist or communist, seeking to rob them of their supposed freedom as citizens.
And anyone wanting the opposite of you gets called names by you also. Don't lie.

birdstwinn Wrote:
I just saw misinformation that could be defeated with a quick google search.

I did not claim that there weren't any blacks owning slaves. I was merely deconstructing the saying "All men are created equal" and the provisions of the constitution. It didn't stipulate that blacks could vote, or that women could vote for that matter. After the civil war, blacks were allowed to vote - though, they were stymied from exercising this right for more than 100 years after that, especially in the South. In 1965 things changed for the better in this regard.

Whatever I call reactionaries, I don't call them "unconstitutional". That would be unethical, wouldn't it?

Helsworth Wrote:

birdstwinn Wrote:
I just saw misinformation that could be defeated with a quick google search.

>I did not claim that there weren't any blacks owning slaves.
The point was powerful, and wealthy blacks existed doing the same things you accuse other groups of.

>It didn't stipulate that blacks could vote, or that women could vote for that matter.
It didn't say they couldn't. Election matters in the start was handled by states.
"New Jersey, they wrote in the constitution the right for women to vote. So women started to vote in New Jersey in 1776."

>After the civil war, blacks were allowed to vote - though, they were stymied from exercising this right for more than 100 years after that, especially in the South.
Yes. Fun fact: Many wealthy black slaveowners supported the Confederacy.

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