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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

 

Give me that old-time constitution

by Tom Sullivan


Ammon Bundy

Say what you will about the excesses of Rome and the papacy (and not to ignore Constantinople), prior to the Reformation there was some central authority to define Christianity for much of the West, to set standards and protocols, if you will. The Reformation may have decentralized the faith and brought it closer to the people, but it also meant by the late 20th century that any American huckster with a flashy suit, an expensive coif, a sonorous voice, and a black, Morocco-bound, gilt-edged, King James red-letter edition could define Christianity pretty much any damned way he pleased. And did. Who was to say he was wrong?

That do-it-yourself spirit extends as well to Americans' understanding of their founding documents. Every born-again, T-party convert carries a pocket Constitution and becomes an instant expert and his own defining authority on what is and isn't the true American faith. It's the American Dream: every man his own Supreme Court; no priestly judicial caste interposed between a man and his God.

Dana Milbank looks at how, like the stand-oafish Bundy militia in Oregon, they love them some law of the land until they have to live under it. Then it's "unconstitutional." Conservative thought leaders (oxymoron?) regularly wink at lawbreaking when it furthers their purposes. Because their leaders condone it, the Bundy bunch believes the atmosphere is right for challenging "unconstitutional land transactions" 108 years after a Republican president set aside public lands for conservation:

A few months ago, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and others rushed to defend Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk jailed for refusing to obey federal law. A federal judge had held her in contempt of court for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages, and the Supreme Court specifically declined to give Davis relief. But Cruz identified her jailing as “judicial tyranny” and said Davis was operating “under God’s authority.”

Donald Trump has put at the center of his campaign an extra-constitutional ban on admitting Muslims into the country. Marco Rubio said that if the law conflicts with the Gospel, “God’s rules always win,” and that “we are called to ignore” the government’s authority. Huckabee and Rick Santorum signed a pledge not to “respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law.” Huckabee floated the notion of using federal troops to block people from getting abortions and questioned the Supreme Court’s authority.

And, of course, there was the 2014 standoff in which Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay grazing fees for his use of federal land, got support or sympathy from Cruz, Trump, Huckabee, Rand Paul and Ben Carson. Cruz denounced the federal government for “using the jackboot of authoritarianism.”

It takes an authoritarian to know one, I suppose.

Insurrectionist leader Ammon Bundy held a press conference. TPM reports:

"We have allowed our federal government to step outside the bounds of the Constitution. They have come down upon on the people," Ammon Bundy said in a press conference Monday. “They are coming down into the state and taking over the land and the resources, putting the people into duress."

They've named themselves Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, naturally.