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By Harold Pease Ph D
Special to Anza Valley Outlook 

Do Democrats now oppose the Constitution?


Last updated 2/14/2019 at 7:13pm

By now Beto O’Rourke’s unflattering comment referencing the Constitution, “Does this still work?” is old news. He was suggesting that government is now too complicated for it to deal with 21st century problems. What isn’t old news is that there was no backlash from the Democratic presses or party regarding this ill-informed comment, nor pressure on O’Rourke to end his intended run for president because of it. Such would have ended the run of any contender twenty years ago. Do Democrats now oppose the Constitution?

Neither major political party has followed the Constitution, as first consideration, in more than 50 years. Of the two, Democrats rarely cite the document and seem almost contemptuous of it. In fact, most of what they propose is easily argued to be outside the Constitution. They once defended parts of the Bill of Rights, but I no longer see much of it. Republicans sometimes carry the document on their person, but they do not hold to it and thus much of what they propose is also outside the Constitution.

Constitutional ignorance is so prevalent. Has the nation reached a day when a major political party is openly against it? Former President Barack Obama came close when he told the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2014, referencing the U.S. Constitution. “On issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rule-book written for a different century.”

The obvious dig shows a definite lack of respect for the Constitution that he swore by oath to “preserve, protect and defend,” according to Article 11, Section 1, but Democrats did not wish to rebuke or confine their president. Still, Obama’s phrase was a mockery of the Constitution and should have been unacceptable to every American, whether said by a Republican or a Democrat. Ironically the Constitution is designed to harness presidents just like him, just like his predecessor former President George W. Bush, and his successor President Donald Trump, but it will never work if the party in power runs interference for their own constitutional abuser as also has happened for over 50 years.

It also shows a lack of understanding of the Constitution, whether ignorantly or intentionally, which is based upon time-tested human nature and natural law which do not change from century to century. Man and governments are still beset by the same sins as expressed in all ages. There will always be those who wish to rule over others. Government will always attempt to grow its power at the expense of the people. There will always need to be a list of the things governments can do and they will always need to be harnessed to that list. There will always need to be division of power and checks on each branch of government and presidents will always, as James Madison said, “have a propensity for war” and wish to use military power without consent. And there will always be those who wish to use the force of government to redistribute the wealth so that they can, in effect, purchase elections by “gifting” voters. 

The magic of the Constitution is that it, as designed, does not distribute benefits or preferences to anyone. These are the reasons that it is said to be outdated by those who wish to take liberty away from the people. Lawmakers having problems with the Constitution are those that do not wish to be restricted in their governance of the people and thus they belittle it and seek to convince the people to give them more power in another one. Thus the ignorant comments regarding it by O’Rourke.

One of my favorite college courses to instruct was “Contemporary Political Topics.” Students were given a copy of the Constitution and required to problem solve with it and natural law rather than political party or philosophical persuasion. This base is justified because every politician has sworn to “protect, preserve and defend” this document. It is the instrument by which everything should be judged. The students loved it. Amazingly, from food stamps to climate change, the class never found an issue that the Constitution did not address. Century, language or culture were irrelevant because human nature remains the same.

The “rule book written in a different century” is still as reliable as before. What the nation needs today are presidents, legislators and judges that know its limitations, love and interpret it as written. In this quest the nation is embarrassingly in short supply. Why?

Constitutional principles were once taught at every level of education and stories of the sacrifice of the Founders frequently recited with admiration. Today few schools teach these principles in grade school and fewer still in high school. In college, the Constitution is tucked in the back of textbooks as an appendix in U.S. history and political science courses, hence few students have read it. The history of the Constitution’s origin is housed in a chapter but constitutional principles seemingly have only informational value.

Constitutional illiteracy is almost universal to the point that those qualified to defend the Constitution as designed are becoming extinct. Students are not likely to defend it if they have never experienced it being defended. A real danger exists that if too few know or value its principles the people will lose it and perhaps they already have. Some, like O’Rourke, have said it is no longer relevant for the times. They couldn’t be more ill-informed.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and to applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit


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