The Conservative Constitution is very different from the actual Constitution. Much like American history, and the Bible, conservatives like certain parts of the Constitution. The parts they don’t like, they simply ignore. Now to be fair, some liberals also have problems understanding portions of the Constitution. However, since conservatives are the people who consider themselves the party of the Constitution, and can often whip out their pocket version of said document, they are the focus of this piece.
Before we continue, we need to understand that the Declaration of Independence is not the Constitution. Conservatives often confuse the two, and in rather spectacular fashion. The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, in order to assert our independence from Britain. The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. The Declaration of Independence is where we find “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” while the Constitution is where we find this:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The word “God” never appears in the Constitution. Never. The only possible reference to God is in the Signatory section, where the date is written “Seventeenth Day in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.” However, that was a common method used at the time, in both religious and secular contexts. But many conservatives not only believe the Constitution was “divinely inspired,” and at least one guy thinks Jesus delivered the damn thing to the Founders.
For example, in a commencement speech to a graduating class at Liberty University, Glenn Beck stated:
It is God’s finger that wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is God’s country; these are God’s rights. I have no idea what he wants us to do with them, other than protect them, and stand with Him.
If God’s finger wrote the Constitution, you would think his name would be in there, right? I mean, other than some fairly common reference to “Lord.” There would be God this, and God that, not just some “Year of our Lord” signature, used in both religious and secular contexts.
This is common among the constitutional conservatives. They don’t really get it. Michele Bachmann said the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery. Really? When? Before or after they declared black people 3/5 of a person? Did they work tirelessly to free their own slaves? Well, no, she meant John Quincy Adams, who was nine years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed. He was not one of the founders, but Bachmann insisted he was instrumental in… I just can’t.
David Barton claims the Founders yanked whole passages out of the Bible, and shoved them into the Constitution. He believes the Constitution was taken “verbatim” from the Bible. Barton also likes to trumpet the fact that many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence had “seminary degrees.” In David Barton’s world, this means they were all right wing Christians, when the truth is, in the early days of this country, the phrase “seminary degree” meant college or some formal schooling. John Witherspoon was the only signer with a divinity degree, trained as a minister.
It goes on and on, but we need to get down to some details. There are states that have laws on the books, banning atheists from running for public office. Conservatives cheer these laws, because they believe what Glenn Beck believes about God’s finger. And I would bet that many if not all of these conservatives claim to understand and support the Constitution. Guess what? Here’s what the Constitution says about religion and public service, from Article VI, paragraph 3:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Well, that’s awkward. Oh, they’ll claim states rights, while championing the Constitution. It’s like Cliven Bundy, bellowing he doesn’t recognize the United States government, while waving a giant American flag. They like the parts they like, and the rest, screw it.
Conservatives’ favorite part of the Constitution is the Second Amendment, except for the “regulated” part. Right to bear arms, they cry, while marching through the parking lot of a strip mall, because you never know when terrorists are going to invade a tanning salon. Our favorite Constitutional non-scholar, David Barton, once said he thinks American citizens should have the same weapons as the military:
Whatever the government’s got, you’ve got to be able to defend yourself against.
I wonder when Armslist will start selling surface to air missiles and enriched uranium?
Finally, the First Amendment. I love the First Amendment, because it lets me write everything from this article to The Bachmann Diaries. Is satire mentioned in the Constitution? Nope, but thanks to Larry Flynt, it falls under the protection of the First Amendment. Conservatives seem to believe this protection is only for them. They can boycott everything under the sun, but when liberals do it, we’re stomping on someone’s First Amendment rights. Burn Dixie Chicks CDs? First Amendment! Boycott Chick Fil-A? Stomping! Ted Nugent was joking, the New York Times misquoted Cliven Bundy, nothing conservatives say is hate speech, it’s all a liberal conspiracy to destroy America.
I wish the “constitutional party” would read the Constitution, but given how badly they perform as the “party of family values,” I’m not going to hold my breath.