Burn the constitution

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday August 2, 2012 07:43 PM

I'm not always a big fan of Jacobin magazine, but my attention was recently called to a very fine piece online there. As Alex Cockburn was once kind enough to say about something of mine, I wish I had written that. Excerpt:

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.”

... 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.”

... 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 ...

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

It’s easy to make fun of the Right’s bizarro Constitution fetish.... 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....

Good stuff, eh? Read the whole thing. If I were his editor, there are a few things I would have cut, or at least questioned. But as Oliver Cromwell said, he has the heart of the matter in him.

Comments (8)


I remember when the pwogs threw a fit over Dubya calling the Constitution just a piece of paper, even though he was absolutely right.

Al Schumann:

Pwogs become very conscious of the Bill of Rights whenever a Republican plants his ass in the imperial swivel chair. The rest of the document rarely registers with them at any time.


Old Garrison burned it every July 4

The D of I day

The bill of rights can be worshiped as a separate outcome obviously
An outcome of
The amrendation process
which of course itself needs a serious amendation itself

Cultural Liberals love process reform
it costs nothing
One can broaden the " change " front thru that reform door
All too easily

But it makes a change movement look constructive
While getting across the agit - prop points

I prefer burning the fucker of course in the manner of our own
big mike flug The Potomac runs red when big miike
That mad man shits in our national flowerbed

Taking such well warranted craps
Alas remains A delicious luxury
For us of the Frivolous trouble making set
and wildly taboo for earnest pointy hat
change types

The real move is congress changing the court appointment
and " staffing "system


Almost as much fun a burning it is enjoying the spectacle of purists, right and left, gnashing their teeth and wailing that the old, weathered parchment hasn't been properly "interpreted." Or hearing them argue that somehow Supreme decisions are made at a remove from the prevailing political and corporate culture.

Al Schumann:
Or hearing them argue that somehow Supreme decisions are made at a remove from the prevailing political and corporate culture.

That's one of my favorites. It's devoid of supporting arguments, but the lack of substantiation never troubles the arguers.


Just about all of the supporting arguments are against them.


In instances such as these, I pose the Magical Era question. As in: "in what Magical Era did the Supremes operate outside of the prevailing political and corp culture'l " In what Magical Era was the US a meritocracy?" "In what ME was US foreign policy not cynical, depraved'l " "In what ME did America posses the innocence the country is said to have lost'l


In what ME was this a free country.

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