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Saturday, August 06, 2016


A worldview in their pocket

by Tom Sullivan

Khizr Khan's speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia has created ripples that continue to disturb an already disturbed political pond.

When Khan held up his pocket U.S. Constitution at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, he cannot have known it would unleash a days-long tantrum from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who attacked Khan and his wife. But it was all-too-predictable when at a Trump rally in Maine this week, anti-Trump activists stood up in silent protest with their own pocket constitutions and drew boos:

Josh Voorhees at Slate wrote:

To be fair, the pro-Trump crowd is clearly booing the protesters themselves, and not, you know, the actual United States Constitution. Still, in terms of is-this-really-happening symbolism, the reaction may even surpass the scene just days ago at a Nevada rally where the crowd shouted down the mother of an Air Force service member who dared question Mike Pence about Trump’s respect, or lack thereof, for those serving in the U.S. military.

The Constitution-themed stunt—and, yes, that’s what it was—was so clever because its success relied simply on the Trump-loving crowd reacting exactly how everyone expected they would. In that way, the angry Trump fans aren’t really any different than the man they were shouting to defend: easy to provoke.
Now the pocket constitution story continues. The ACLU version used in the Maine protest is sold out; existing orders are delayed three weeks. Amazon has seen a run on pocket constitutions since the Khan speech. The Los Angeles Times, however, reports a less-predictable twist to the story:
Published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) in Idaho, the little Constitution book became Amazon’s biggest seller in recent days, outdistancing even the new Harry Potter release. (The pocket book slipped to second place Friday when Amazon temporarily sold out of all its copies).

Some constitutional scholars say that a number of quotations in the NCCS version are either deliberate alterations or taken out of context. The underlying message is that the U.S. is a Christian nation not intended to be ruled by a single government.
This is the version carried by Cliven Bundy's merry band of misfits earlier this year in their occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” it quotes John Adams in an addendum. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

While it’s not the version Khan held, it is the one waved by Cliven Bundy during a standoff with U.S. agents over federal rangeland in Nevada two years ago and by his son Ammon Bundy during the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon early this year. "That’s where I get most of my information from,” Bundy said in an interview.

Cliven Bundy said the NCCS booklet was “something I’ve always shared with everybody and I carry it with me all the time. That’s where I get most of my information from.”

The Times continues:
“It's a perverse twist that Khan's powerful speech inspired so many people to buy a version of the Constitution that’s a recruitment tool for a movement full of so much hate, misinformation and ignorance,” Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. The Arizona center is dedicated to preserving endangered wildlife and habitats.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, the NCCS is “a conspiracy-prone think tank” founded by a leader known for his racist views.
The group which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “a conspiracy-prone think tank” has distributed millions of copies of its “Pocket Constitution” since 2004, the Times reports.