Conservative To The Core — The Constitution not an evolving entity

By Tom Seymour | Apr 10, 2014

It amazed me when not so many years ago people began arguing that the U.S. Constitution was applicable only to the time in which it was composed and that things have “evolved” to the point that now, the Constitution is in a large measure, irrelevant. Indeed, our president has said as much. And that thought sends shivers up my conservative spine.

The host on a recent broadcast of a weekend National Public Radio quiz show accused conservative thinkers of  “ … worshiping a 200-year-old parchment.” Sadly, this comment drew gales of laughter. His meaning was unmistakable. He was saying that those who strictly adhere to the words of the framers of our constitution are on a par with religious cultists, or fanatics. In my mind, the ultimate and only possible result of such thinking is to come to a point where we have no immutable laws, only rules that are continually subject to change according to the whims of whoever is in power wishes to change them.

Judge Scalia

On March 7, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia offered his views of how the court needs to deal with the Constitution. Justice Scalia spoke on interpreting the Constitution as it was originally written, and with the same intent as when written.

Scalia pointed out that something called “originalism,” or working to determine exactly what the words in the Constitution mean, is the only way in which the Supreme Court may legitimately rule on Constitutional subjects. Specifically, Justice Scalia said: “The Constitution is not a living organism. It’s a legal document and it says what it says and doesn’t say what it doesn’t say.” I say let those words soak in. The Constitution, in view of this, is within the realm of understanding of the majority of our citizens, since it only means what it says, and nothing more.

News media

Let’s consider some Constitutional Amendments and see how Justice Scalia’s views conflict with those of left-wing politicians. The First Amendment comes immediately to mind. Although public opinion against the idea caused them to withdraw from further action, the Washington administration let the cat out of the bag by announcing its plans to monitor how news media outlets chose what news topics to feature. The idea of such censorship flies in the face of the First Amendment, which reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press … ”

So why would the government want to monitor and assess newsroom procedure? If not to regulate by law those procedures, then why bother intruding into the news media at all? Keep in mind that the threat of intrusion and eventual regulation was only tabled, it wasn’t ended. The government made no promise that it wouldn’t resurrect these tactics again in the future.

Thinking of the bad results of regulating the news media, we have only to look back at the former Soviet Socialist Republic. The party commanded the news and whatever the party wanted was aired and what the party didn’t want was hidden. Thus, people in Soviet bloc countries had no news except for party-line drivel, which, presumably, many of them knew was pure bunk.

A bit of much-needed enlightenment for people living in dictatorships came in the form of Radio Free Europe. Younger readers may not remember Radio Free Europe, but it was the voice of freedom and truth and in many instances, the only manner in which oppressed people could ever hear the truth.

Is it good for government to regulate the news? Consider the North Korean news media. The North Korean people live in poverty and misery and the only news they ever hear is party-biased fantasy from their chubby little dictator. This same dictator would just as soon chop off the head of his grandmother if he thought that she disagreed with him on some small point.

So thus we see the value of strict adherence to the Constitution of the United States and in this case, the first article in its list of amendments: freedom of the press, such an important freedom. It’s little wonder that it is included in the first article of amendment to the Constitution.

Gun rights

In Maine, a bill to allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit failed by only a slight margin. That was last year and now, in a very short time, a similar bill comes up for vote again. Should it pass, it will signal Maine’s belief in the basic freedom defined in Article II, the Second Amendment. That amendment states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

An originalist such as Judge Scalia would say that the meaning of the framers here was very clear. The militia included everyone, all able-bodied people who could carry a gun. Today, dissenters argue that the militia is the National Guard. But that isn’t what the framers were saying.

That idea of an armed populist being a de-facto militia is well founded. James Taylor, who was held captive in a German prison camp after being shot down during World War II once confided in me that part of the U.S. Government’s plan for the ultimate defense of our country included the armed citizen. Indeed, past aggressors deferred from invading U.S. soil because they knew that our citizens were well armed.

Getting back to those individuals who consider the constitution an aging, irrelevant document, let us remember that the situations and human emotions that the framers dealt with have not changed one little bit since 1787. Human nature, especially the thoughts, actions and deeds of those in power is always ready to present its bad side. Power begets power and in some cases, unlimited power. Our Constitution prevents that from happening.

Comments (10)
Posted by: Harold Richardson | Apr 16, 2014 12:39

Mr Davis-This is a great country-better than any other by far-so I agree with you.  Now let's get to fixing RSU 20.

Posted by: Jeff Davis | Apr 16, 2014 08:34

Harold, that's a pretty simplistic overview of the history of America. It was these imperfect men who realized the need to make the Constitution an amendable document. They had the foresight to see the need, made the first ten changes and some lived to see the next three or four become law. In my life time, we have only changed it five times. So, I don't wish to be their judge.

I also recognize that history may wish to judge every thing we accomplished in our time because we had the arrogance to tell gay people that they couldn't get married. So, I don't want to set a precedence.

Before you commend the framers of the constitution, show me one document written in your lifetime that matches it.

Posted by: Harold Richardson | Apr 15, 2014 19:05

Ms. Bucklin, I will not argue that the founding fathers weren't the great men of their time.  They were also not perfect or else we wouldn't have 27 amendments, blacks would not have been considered 3/5's of a person and women wouldn't have had to wait until 1920 to vote.  The guns available during the 2nd amendment involved loading a ball and black powder into a musket.  Manifest destiny was responsible by many accounts, as the largest act of genocide in the history of the world.  As far as us being the freest people in history, that may have applied to the white men, for people of color, women and American Indians not so much.  For the author of this article to suggest that we need to look no further than the framers for guidance ignores this horrible legacy and truly evil things that were done to get us where we are today.  By the way, your Hillsdale college is widely known for it's ties to Rush, Rove and other neo-cons that got us into 2 wars that are largely responsible for the current economic problems we are having so I'll pass on your suggestion.

Posted by: Victoria Bucklin | Apr 15, 2014 17:16

Mr. Richardson, from your comments on our founding fathers, it is clear that you do not know who they were and what they believed. Before you criticize them and the profound legacy that they left to the freest people in history, I suggest that you take the free on-line Hillsdale College course entitled “Constitution 101” ( I also highly recommend the Economics 101 course offered free by the college. If more of our citizens knew the real history of our country, not the one rewritten by Progressives, and understood basic economics, we would not be in the trouble we are today. Today the issues appear complex because our federal government has subjugated the rights of the individual and entrapped us in numerous laws and regulations.

Posted by: Alan Wood | Apr 15, 2014 09:33

Tom: Your article was very good because it will stimulate discussion. I am very much against former criminals, or others to carry around machine guns or whatever weapon of choice, without even applying for a permit. My mind does not catagorize liberals or tea party as evil, only as free speech. WE already have more guns then any place on earth and one after another point of taking away a constitutional right if we do not have as many guns and weapons as possible. It seems the world will end if we register guns but right now all I can see is one killing after another by individuals who want their constitutional right to kill others on a whim of any threat. If I knock on a door I can be shot to death, if someone desires to call me an intruder. I of course die and the shooter keeps his gun. for in case he wants to kill another. In a law biding modern society; we just compromise and register deadly threat weapons. But no we can not have that option because we would become a real threat of democracy, called a liberal. For myself I just do not want people being killed by violent people who want to hide all their guns and no one get to know where they are.  It is scare tactics that the government is going to pass a law and NO one will be allowed a gun. We have ton after ton of weapons hidden away in this country and it is so scary about how many killed have no guns, so to gun people it means every man, child (with training) needs to be armed and shoot when needed; if you suspect something is wrong.

Posted by: Whitney Aitken | Apr 14, 2014 13:15

Great article, Tom. 

Posted by: Harold Richardson | Apr 13, 2014 12:35

We must genuflect to the decisions of a handful of rich white men that have been dead, by the way, for over 200 years. These men, who didn't see anything particularly wrong with owning slaves are the ones to guide us through the complex issues of today.  Yes that makes perfect sense.

Posted by: Jeff Davis | Apr 13, 2014 11:44

Do you read the paper, Mr. Bridges? I only ask because they are rather liberal in their views and this column is the "balanced journalism" that you seek.

And, MS Fischer, stay put, hon. We already have enough people here trying to tell us what everyone else should be doing. This from a guy who doesn't own a gun.

Posted by: Glen S. Bridges | Apr 13, 2014 10:22

So in the interest of "balanced journalism", is the RJ going to be offering a progressive liberal column?  This makes me miss the Waldo Independent more & more & more...

Posted by: maureen h fischer | Apr 12, 2014 18:34

wow you really lost me on that article. everyone who carries a gun should have to have a permit, take instruction at a firing range, and have a background check. this from a gun owner who is moving to your state in the near future.

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