Virtual Voices

The Constitution as a Magic Slate

Campaign 2010

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., was being pressed in a live TV debate, so he may be excused for blurting out the truth.

Here's a portion of what he said (see the video clip below):

"We have a lousy Supreme Court decision [in the Citizens United case] that has opened the floodgates, and so we have to deal within the realm of constitutionality. And a lot of the campaign finance bills that we have passed have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I think the Constitution is wrong. I don't think that money is the same thing as human beings."

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What a stunning statement. There are several things to consider in this argument. For constitutional conservatives, it's entirely acceptable to disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court. I say every day that Roe v. Wade was a terrible decision and should be corrected. The Kelo ruling set a dangerous precedent. That 2005 case allowed the City of New London to condemn a private homeowner's beautiful house, not for a bridge or tunnel, not for a fort or a federal highway, but simply because the city government could gain more revenue by taking the house and leasing the property to a private developer. That's a shocking ruling. If that ruling is not corrected, your home will no longer be your castle; it will only be your trailer.

But Rep. McGovern doesn't take issue with the Supreme Court. He says the Constitution itself is wrong. Did Mr. McGovern take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution? Does he consider himself bound by his oath?

Sure, you can responsibly disagree with portions of the Constitution. Ronald Reagan, for example, disagreed with the two-term limit for president. He thought the 22nd Amendment had been a mistake. But he dutifully left office after two terms. Reagan would have supported an amendment to repeal the 22nd Amendment, but as long as it was in the Constitution, he felt bound to respect it.

But in Rep. McGovern's case, we see why liberals believe in a "living Constitution." Justice Antonin Scalia compared that idea to a Magic Slate. You can write on it, get the interpretation you want, and then lift up the plastic screen and rewrite your Constitution according to the passions of the moment.

I think Rep. McGovern is wrong in his analysis of the Citizens United ruling. The Supreme Court did not say that money was more important or even the same thing as human beings. It said nothing like that. What the high court did say is that you don't lose your First Amendment rights because you express your ideas through a corporation, a union, or a non-profit organization.

In striking down major portions of the McCain-Feingold Act, the Supreme Court ruled that government couldn't, for example, stop pro-life groups from shedding light on the records of politicians like Jim McGovern before an election. By preventing pro-life citizens from drawing voters' attention to how their elected representatives actually vote, this unwise and unconstitutional measure denied citizens their rights to communicate about political matters. That's one of the main reasons for the First Amendment's protection of free speech.

Now that he mentions it, does Rep. McGovern really think "money is [not] the same as human beings?" If so, maybe he'll join the drive led by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., to defund Planned Parenthood. That outfit gets billions in taxpayer funds and it kills 350,000 unborn children-undeniably human beings-every year.

It would be great to welcome Jim McGovern to the ranks of those of us who believe human lives are more important than money. I'm not cynical, but I must admit I have doubts that Rep. McGovern, should he win reelection next month, will put his fine words into practice when it comes to unborn children.

Now we can see why "constitutional conservatism" is important. Without a firm reliance on the Constitution as our anchor, the entire ship of state is adrift. Under the current administration and the current Congress, our ship of state is headed for the rocks.

Ken Blackwell
Ken Blackwell

Ken, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, is the co-author of The Blueprint: Obama's Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency. Follow Ken on Twitter @kenblackwell.

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