Sunday, November 02, 2008

Constitutional protections under fire in this election, or not?

By Carol Gee

Is the United States Constitution powerful enough to be a bulwark against the threats of its internal enemies? TPM Muckraker published (10/31/08) the Department of Justice's list of counties where DOJ election monitors will be deployed, adding that it "looks on the level." This sounds good. Five counties in Texas will be involved. Other TPM Muckraker related election stories do not sound so good:

"Even the least of these" -- Diverse Americans must come under the protection of of the eagle's wings. Racism does not die easily, as this election has unfortunately shown. This is a wonderful piece that illustrates my point: "Commentary: Republicans summon ugly old ghosts"# is by my favorite, Joey Galloway, a McClatchy columnist extraordinaire. He concludes with wise words:

Here's a prediction for you, for them: McCain and Palin will go down to defeat by 15 to 20 points, and they'll take a heap of Republicans down with them.

The financial collapse and the painful fallout that's stalking the nation won't be righted overnight, however. Putting Barack Obama in the White House and giving the Democrats a veto-proof majority in Congress won't mean that happy days are here again.

Hard work, sacrifice and suffering lie ahead. It could take a decade or more to repair all the damage that Bush, Dick Cheney and all their henchmen in prison, out of prison and on their way to prison have done to our economy, our military, our standing in the world, our Constitution and to civil discourse, common decency and competent governance.

In the meantime, we Americans would do well to try to remember all those things that our grandmothers told us about how to get by in hard times.

How to get by on a lot less.

How to grow a vegetable garden.

How to squeeze a nickel till the buffalo bellows.

How to appreciate the small joys of family and friends.

How to share what you have, no matter how little you have, with those who have nothing.

Someday we may be able to tell our grandchildren about the Election of '08 when we, the people, turned away from anger, hate and greed and once again embraced the better angels of our nature.

Defending their rights to say these awful things is tough but necessary. Sarah Palin made a head-spinning statement in a radio interview Friday that Glenn Greenwald brilliantly explored in a recent post. Palin's comment was to the effect that press freedom is a threat to the First Amendment. Unfortunately, this time the Constitution protection of free speech may be on the side House Minority Leader John Boehner's recent use of an expletive to describe Senator Barack Obama#. It may also be on the side of Elizabeth Dole's vile campaign ad.# Her opponent has every right to go to court protesting that she has been defamed, but candidates open themselves to being unfairly targeted when running for office.

Equality under the law -- Another right-winger, Dennis Prager's comment, that "Equality is a European value,"* is also allowed. But, thankfully, others, such as Ali Frick at Think Progress, can rebut the statement with sarcastic irony:

Or if they had looked to the United States Constitution, they may have erroneously thought “equality” was an important American value:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Thankfully, Dennis Prager is here to protect and defend American inequality.

Help is on the way -- Thinking ahead and probably assuming that OBama wins (I cannot imagine MCCain would be interested), Anthony Romero of the ACLU announced that his organization has developed an action plan for helping the next administration to restore the Constitution. To quote his e-mail:

October 31 , 2008
ACLU Releases Presidential Transition Plan to Restore Civil Liberties

In anticipation of the presidential election, the ACLU released a set of recommendations detailing steps that the new president should take to “clean house,” renew freedom, and restore the nation’s reputation.

“This past administration has left us with a disastrous legacy of bad policy, abuse of power, and civil liberties violations,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington Legislative Office. “The next president, whoever he is, must immediately begin the process of undoing this far-reaching assault on our nation’s freedoms and core values, and the ACLU’s ‘to do’ list provides a detailed roadmap for achieving that.”

”Actions For Restoring America,” outlines actions to be taken by the next president on his first day in office, in his first 100 days, and in his first year.

The 83-page document proposes actions across a wide variety of topics, including national security, human rights, women’s rights, civil rights, drug policy, the rights of LGBT Americans, immigrants and prisoners, privacy and free speech.

Read the entire ACLU transition plan including suggested executive orders, mandates and directives from the president.

A few ideas on other questions posed in my post -- "When Judges Make Foreign Policy - United States Supreme Court," is a great analysis of how important constitutional checks and balances in foreign policy have become in recent years. Worth the read, it was written by Noah Feldman at The New York Times (10/28/08). Feldman begins,

Every generation gets the Constitution that it deserves. As the central preoccupations of an era make their way into the legal system, the Supreme Court eventually weighs in, and nine lawyers in robes become oracles of our national identity.

. . . how the justices will address critical issues of American foreign policy in the future hangs very much in the balance. This may seem like an odd way of thinking about international affairs. In the coming presidential election, every voter understands that there is a choice to be made between the foreign-policy visions of John McCain and Barack Obama. What is less obvious, but no less important, is that Supreme Court appointments have become a de facto part of American foreign policy. The court, like the State Department and the Pentagon, now makes decisions in cases that directly change and shape our relationship with the world. And as the justices decide these cases, they are doing as much as anyone to shape America’s fortunes in an age of global terror and economic turmoil.

. . . Charged with interpreting the Constitution and therefore shaping its contemporary orientation, the Supreme Court needs to be extraordinarily sensitive to the demands of history. When the court gets it wrong, the consequences can be serious. The Constitution we get will still be the one we deserve, but our deserts need not be good ones. The Constitution, let us not forget, gave us slavery and segregation. It gave us dysfunctional limitations on progressive legislation that was desperately needed in the years before the Great Depression. We like to think the Constitution is always leading us toward a more perfect union. But this has not always been the case, and as with any experiment, there is no guarantee that it will be in the future.

My conclusion today is that the Consitution will be up to the current challenges, ALL of them. Bring on the election!

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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