Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Constitutional Compound Republic" revisited as this blogger calls out the extremist, reactionary FRAUD!

Sometimes, "¡Ay, ay, ay!" is all I can say. Still trying to maintain my moderation when passion tempts to overwhelm, I revisit my post of yesterday.

I did a couple of little tests today. The first was a quick little check of some of my friends at work during our lunch break (potato leek soup for St. David's Day). I asked three federal attorneys if they had ever heard the term "Constitutional Compound Republic" and what they thought it meant. All three had blank expressions and two astutely responded that it might be something from the tea party crowd about states rights. (Of course, they are also aware of my intellectual struggles.) Now, before all the tea-partier-Libertarian-Skousenite-Glenn-Beckians jump in here to say how that proves their point that federal attorneys are clueless, let me tell you about the second little test.

The computer age makes these kinds of things so much easier. I did a quick little word search of all 85 Federalist Papers for the term "compound republic." It appears exactly twice, Federalist Nos. 51 and 62, both by Madison, and yes, both in the immediate context of the complex arrangement between states and the federal government. The word "compound" or variations thereof by itself only occurs five more times (Federalist Nos. 22, 23, 39, 82 and 85). A couple of these can even be interpreted to relate to the federalism of the proposed Constitution. There are a few more modern references to the term in self-described "right wing" internet sites generally linking back to Federalist No. 51.

Now watch as I pull the cloak of darkness off  the fraud to let in the cleansing sunlight. I'm sure that many tea-party-type conservatives and even the Glenn Beck followers, Skousenites, etc. are well-intentioned. I know a few of them. I'm even related to some. They look around and see a lot of trouble in the world and look for a possible solution. Believing in a divinely inspired Constitution, they rationally think that if things are wrong with our current situation, maybe it's because there is something in that Constitution we have lost. Then someone comes along to reveal the grand secret (this is the Fraud part). Ta da! The liberal elites, lawyers, judges in black robes and certainly that "whatever" in the White House are all trying to steal your freedoms and corrupt our society! Or, the elites don't understand that local, small government is the best government! Or, they don't respect "states rights!"  There is a secret or two, the elites don't know or are trying to hide from you, that we "true Americans" can pull out of that sacred document, the Constitution. Then they show you some obscure provision from the Constitution or the Federalist Papers, written by the hand of one of our inspired Founders AND IT PROVES THEIR POINT. Of course. That's called proof-texting or the art of pulling words out of context from a sacred document (usually the Bible) to prove whatever point you're trying to make.

So, that's where we are with "Constitutional Compound Republic" that the Utah Legislature wants to shove down the throats of our school children. (And people were worried about a speech from the President to encourage them to do their homework!) The words "Constitutional Compound Republic" do not appear in the Constitution. They don't even appear in the Federalist Papers in that exact form. And yes, the words "compound republic" are used twice by Madison in the Federalist papers to try and sell the new proposed federal Constitution to skeptical state legislators of a powerful state (New York in Nos. 51 and 62).

Now, I guarantee you that I have the skills, and smarts to pull out dozens of quotes from the Federalist Papers to "prove" my views of the Constitution. I don't want to do that for two reasons. The first is that it's a lot of work and I am basically lazy. The second is that I don't want to manipulate such an important thing. I certainly want to influence and inform, and I'm obviously very free with my personal opinions, but I don't want anyone to just believe what I say because I manipulated some text. And I certainly don't want anyone to just believe what Glen Beck, Skousen, the JBS, or so many others say about our Constitution including quite a few in the Utah Legislature even if they appear to reveal "secret knowledge" or have great spirituality.

The test I made of my friends at work who have been to law school, studied the US Constitution, and even use it in their daily work as they deal with all kinds of crazy challenges to federal government action, indicates that the words "Constitutional Compound Republic" are not the subject of much intellectual discussion or debate as are concepts like "due process" "civil rights" "freedom of religion" and even "states rights" and so many others are constantly. It is a trick and a manipulative "secret code" to proof-text such things as in "government by paranoid conspiracy theory." Yeah, I think there are secret combinations but I haven't been invited to any of those meetings at work. Why couldn't they just as easily be among the tobacco companies (I think Congress actually proved that one), or when Glenn Beck and Rush have dinner with the Koch brothers? I don't know. But I don't think it makes any more sense to believe it's Pelosi and Soros.

Sure, you can say that my friends and I are corrupted by our law school education, legal profession, and government employment. Fine. And maybe that's true. But I didn't go to law school or seek federal employment to prove or promote any particular dogmatic point or philosophy. I did it because I had read our Constitution, US History - particularly about Lincoln and the Civil War, and I believed in the ideals of America - and still do. (I've even read a little Skousen.) The main influence I had to guide me to a career in the law and government service were my Citizenship in the Community and Nation merit badges in Boy Scouts. Absolutely true story.

Here's what I want. I want all Americans, in fact the whole world, to read the US Constitution. Read the Federalist Papers if you're so inclined (honestly, I don't think I've read every word of all 85). Read US History. (Try not to ignore Slavery and the Civil War). Read world history. Discuss with your friends and family. Listen to all and make your own decisions. Best is to just keep learning and changing. You don't have to go to law school. To the extent my profession plays the same games with proof-texting or quote-mining to prove a point, or even worse, the arcane language of medieval legal terms, I deplore it and try to get away from that. (Dictionaries and the internet are great for exposing that darkness.) Don't seek out any particular dogma or doctrine. In fact, the minute someone proposes a perspective or interpretation, ponder on it, question it. Don't allow yourself to be manipulated by emotional responses often misinterpreted as even religious feeling.

I'm probably wrong in a lot of things I believe and say. But I'm not wrong in this. I keep trying to respect, promote, and benefit from the processes of our free, Constitutional system. I only hope the same for you. We still live in the greatest nation on earth, IMO.

Maybe I'll be able to calm down when the Utah legislative session ends.

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  1. This is a great post. I am also a lawyer in Utah (but in private practice, although I do represent a few government entities now and then) and have been following this bill closely. I've had my suspicions about it since I read the newly-coined term, "constitutional compound republic", but hadn't been able to pin down my exact complaint. You've ably done it for me.

    This is my first foray into your blog, and I imagine I'll be visiting it often in the future. Keep up the good work.

  2. Okay, I did think of something to add. The use of the word "compound" is the problem - it implies that the balance of power is properly framed as state governments against the national government. As you deftly explain in other posts, the question of supremacy has been answered for 150 years and the national government is clearly the winner. I believe that in light of that shift and the subsequent amendments to the Constitution, the balance of power shifted to one where it was not the states who would protect against national government oppression, but the people. (Think about the direct election of senators, incorporation of the Bill of Rights, the Fourteenth Amendment, etc.)

    Thus, this change in the rhetoric is an obvious attempt to reassert that states are the primary bulwark against the national government, thus creating in the minds of our schoolchildren an idea that the state is more powerful than it really is. The goal, I assume, is that through fostering this change in attitude, future generations will reestablish the state as supreme in our political landscape.

  3. Thanks, Daniel. I appreciate the input on this. Yes, they are all about asserting state power against the national government.

    With my admitted federal bias, I am still waiting to hear some concrete, historical or even present use of "states' rights" for a positive good. Historically, it's pretty much been in support of slavery or segregation, and in current days, for anti-Hispanic legislation and exploitation of the public lands (oh yeah, and fighting health care reform and a historically-unique president).

    The only exception I am aware of are the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 challenging the Alien and Sedition Acts. They came to naught except that they helped the political cause of the Jeffersonian Republicans to win in 1800 and the Alien and Sedition Acts went the way that the "Patriot Act" should IMO.

  4. I've had mixed feelings about this bill. At first, I thought, "ahh, another wacky Tea Party bill, trying to score points against democracy and us socialists". But I listened to the debate our Representatives had in the House, and read the bill. I have second thoughts now. Maybe this bill isn't so bad after all. Currently, socialism is vilified beyond all measure now, so nothing new there, but this bill makes it a requirement to study and talk about socialism in the school setting, with others, who might have a different point of view. In some ways I think this bill may produce different results than the ones the authors of it intended.

  5. Thanks, Didymus! I like your perspective on this. I checked out your blog. Almost thou persuadest me to be a Socialist Episcopalian!


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