Relevance of Constitution Reading on House Floor
- 9 January 2011 by Author 0 Comments
Relevance of Constitution Reading on House Floor
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 01/09/11
For some, the first-ever reading of the Constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives this week was merely symbolic, having no meaningful significance to the country or to the legislative process. To others, not only was the symbolism powerful, but it represented perhaps the beginning of a return to fundamental principles in the governance of our nation.
Based on reactions and even the debate prior to the reading, the symbolism was both positive and negative. The positive, as mentioned, comes from the perspective that there is some effort to return the country to its constitutional roots, since it’s obvious from the legislation that has emanated from Washington for many years that few of our federal legislators have ever read, much less understood, the Constitution.
The negative symbolism was evidenced by a reluctance of some to read the original version of the Constitution as ratified in 1787. To some, the reference to slaves being “three-fifths of all other persons” was politically incorrect, even though the phrase was later voided by the abolition of slavery. This reluctance to peruse primary documents and commentary contextually with the reality in which they were penned is a symptomatic ailment of contemporary historical analysis that has led to massive historical revisionism.
Most textbooks these days say little of the historical verities that “formed us a nation,” but devote entire sections to politically correct topics written from an “enlightened” 21st century perspective. As such, historical revisionism is an illegitimate process of “whitewashing” history, and a willful distortion of historical fact in such a manner as to make certain events more or less favorably perceived. Such a practice is antithetical to legitimate scholarship. As an example, we see the process employed with regularity by contributors to the Journal who willfully ignore the vast primary source material evidencing the Christian influence in the founding of the nation, in favor of scant evidence to the contrary, in order to secularize, or make politically correct, our history and portray any Christian influence as nefarious.
The reading of the Constitution is significant also because it is that document to which federal elected officials are required to declare obeisance and fealty. They don’t take an oath to do the will of the people, to enact good programs replete with good ideas, or to create new programs that may be popularly viable. They take an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution.” Consequently, it’s imperative that those officials know the language thereof, and understand the limited enumerated powers stated therein, and abide by those limitations, whether it comports with their personal ideologies or not. The language is specific, and limiting, which was even admitted to by then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama who, on a 2001 PBS radio program, admitted the Constitution gets in the way of implementing his ideology.
James Madison recognized this problem over two hundred years ago, when he said, “If congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”
This has to be a bit disconcerting to those who think the document is archaic and anachronistic rendering it insignificant. If our elected officials take an oath that demands by their “sacred honor” that they “support and defend the Constitution,” the document is not only relevant today, but its content is to govern every decision they make in our behalf. Ezra Klein, a Washington Post columnist, earlier this week in an MSNBC interview asserted that the Constitution is “too hard to understand” because it was “written over a hundred years ago.” You can’t get much more specious than that as a reason to disregard our founding document!
To those like Klein, the Constitution is a “living” document which, as Thomas Jefferson warned, has become “a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.” They willfully ignore the fact that, as Jefferson declared, “To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition. … [The Constitution] was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers. … In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
While the reading of the Constitution this week on the floor of the House may have been largely symbolic, those of us who love America and what she stands for hope that it is much more than that. We pray that it represents a return to constitutional principles of governance.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.