In a recent article, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne whined that “For too long, progressives have allowed conservatives to monopolize claims of fealty to our unifying national document.” He goes on to talk about how conservatives and TEA Party-types walk around with their pocket Constitutions and cite its passages in defense of their political positions, and declares it is high time that liberals use the Constitution to rebut conservative political arguments.
Reading the article, I was reminded of a recent debate with a liberal friend who was blasting the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, saying that it was setting a dangerous precedent to allow people to exempt themselves from laws based on religious objections, in this case “denying” women of their birth control. In response, I asked him to cite the passage of the Constitution which guarantees women the “right” to taxpayer-funded birth control. He responded by saying that the Constitution is not the only source we rely on to determine what government can and should do.
Actually, that is the ONLY thing that we can rely on to determine the proper role of government.
And therein lies the massive gulf between the conservative and liberal understandings of the Constitution. Liberals see the Constitution as a “living” document which can be amended by judicial interpretation to bring it more in line with societal and cultural preferences, a document infinitely malleable with endless interpretations.