Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We love the Constitution, just hate them Amendments (VIDEO)

This was a fantastic (and funny) segment with Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar, who made point about the 14th Amendment I had not considered.

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It's the Amendment that protects the other Amendments.

By the way, here's the text of the 14th Amendment; which, for the record, was adopted by Congress on July 9, 1868.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. 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.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Another view from Harold Meyerson (of the Washington Post):

By proposing to revoke the citizenship of the estimated 4 million U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants -- and, presumably, the children's children and so on down the line -- Republicans are calling for more than the creation of a permanent noncitizen caste. They are endeavoring to solve what is probably their most crippling long-term political dilemma: the racial diversification of the electorate. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are trying to preserve their political prospects as a white folks' party in an increasingly multicolored land.

Absent a constitutional change -- to a lesser degree, even with it -- those prospects look mighty bleak. The demographic base of the Republican Party, as Ruy Teixeira demonstrates in a paper released by the Center for American Progress this summer, is shrinking as a share of the nation and the electorate. As the nation grows more racially and religiously diverse, Teixeira shows, its percentage of white Christians will decline to just 35 percent of the population by 2040.

The group that's growing fastest, of course, is Latinos. "Their numbers will triple to 133 million by 2050 from 47 million today," Teixeira writes, "while the number of non-Hispanic whites will remain essentially flat." Moreover, Latinos increasingly trend Democratic -- in a Gallup poll this year, 53 percent self-identified as Democrats; just 21 percent called themselves Republican.

To be sure, the wretched state of the economy could drive some otherwise Democratic-inclined Latino voters to the GOP this November. But Republicans are doing their damnedest to keep this from happening. Their embrace of Arizona's Suspicious-Looking-Latinos law and their enthusiasm for stripping Latino children of their citizenship will only hasten Latinos' flight.

Sentient Republican strategists such as Karl Rove have long understood that unless their party could win more Latino votes, it would eventually go the way of the Whigs. That's the main reason George W. Bush tried to persuade congressional Republicans to support immigration reform. But most lawmakers, reflecting the nativism of the Republican base, would have none of it.

By pushing for repeal of the 14th Amendment's citizenship clause, the GOP appears to have concluded: If you can't win them over -- indeed, if you're doing everything in your power to make their lives miserable -- revoke their citizenship.

And E.J. Dionne (Washington Post) from a couple of days ago:

Nothing should make Republicans prouder than their party's role in passing what are known as the Civil War or Reconstruction amendments: the 13th, ending slavery; the 14th, guaranteeing equal protection under the law and establishing national standards for citizenship; and the 15th, protecting the right to vote. In those days, Democrats were the racial demagogues.

Opponents of the 14th Amendment used racist arguments against immigrants to try to kill it, even though there were virtually no immigration restrictions back then. President Andrew Johnson played the card aggressively, as University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps reported in his 2006 book on the 14th Amendment, "Democracy Reborn."

"This provision comprehends the Chinese of the Pacific States, Indians subject to taxation, the people called Gipsies, as well as the entire race designated as blacks, people of color, negroes, mulattoes, and persons of African blood," Johnson declared. "Is it sound policy to make our entire colored population and all other excepted classes citizens of the United States?"

Republicans were taken aback that Gypsies were suddenly transformed into a great national peril as part of the campaign against the amendment. In his definitive book "Reconstruction," historian Eric Foner cites a bemused Republican senator who observed in 1866: "I have lived in the United States now for many a year and really I have heard more about Gypsies within the past two or three months than I have heard before in my life."

The methods of politics don't change much, even if the targets of demagoguery do.