Well, it’s over. In the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives kicked things off by reading the Constitution, with over 100 members — of both parties — taking part. And yes, they engaged in a bit of theatre — they had a woman Representative read the section that prescribed the wording of the presidential oath of office, they had civil rights icon John Lewis read the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, and even ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (mmm… that’s such a sweet phrase, I wanna say it again: “ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi”) took part.
And, naturally, the usual suspects complained that the Republicans didn’t read certain… awkward parts of the Constitution. Mainly, the part that defined a slave as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of representation.
To which I say: well, duh.
That part of the Constitution — along with other parts — are very significant in discussing the history of the document, its origins, and how it has been interpreted and revised over the centuries. Anyone who engages in a historic discussion of the Constitution without mentioning them is, at best, an ass.
But that wasn’t the point of yesterday’s stunt. It wasn’t a history lesson on the Constitution. It was a restating of the laws and rules and principles under which Congress should and must operate. And that means the Constitution as it stands today.
Which is why the 18th Amendment — Prohibition — wasn’t read, but the 21st Amendment — which says, in essence, “there is no 18th Amendment” — was read.
The Constitution is often described (mainly by liberals) as a “living document.” But that’s not true. It’s more of an embodiment of part of Newton’s First Law: a body at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by a force. And the “force” is the amending process.
Well, it has been acted upon by that force 27 times (yes, the first 10 were passed as a package, but don’t get nit-picky), and some of those amendments have changed the text of the main body. So, while those words are still in the original document, they no longer exist in the eyes of the law. They literally have no meaning any more — so they were not read.
I drive a Ford SUV. I don’t need to know the history of the Ford Motor Company or understand the history and development of the internal-combustion engine to drive it around. (However, I do need to know how to operate its manual transmission — yeah, I got an ultra-rare 4-door Explorer with a stick shift.) Likewise, the 3/5 clause, the appointment of Senators by state legislatures, and the prohibition of alcohol are not at all relevant to the day-to-day operations of Congress.
Plus, we all know that the protesters would make a huge stink about the omitted sections, so there was no chance that they’d somehow be forgotten just because they weren’t read on the floor of the House. Hell, I’d bet that some Democrat will make a point of reading them into the record at some point soon.
The point behind the protests? To nit-pick. To be a pain in the ass. To be contrary simply for the sake of being contrary.
Nice to see what lengths some Democrats will go to to make certain that the partisan bickering will continue in the new Congress.