In the midst of a lot of great speeches and the Ted Cruz induced chaos, the Republican Party’s “Committee on Arrangements” (this is the newfangled term for Platform Committee) produced what is being called “the most conservative platform ever written.” In addition to a very strong statement on pro-life issues, the 2016 platform calls for a few constitutional amendments:
- Human life – ensures the status of the unborn, doubling their protection under the 14th amendment.
- Balanced Budget – requires a super majority for a tax increase, and can only be suspended in times of war.
- Term limits for Congress.
- Marriage is to be between one man and one woman.
- Children’s education is to be determined by their parents.
In a very thorough discussion at The New American, Warren Mass dissects each of these proposed amendments and essentially declares them superfluous, illegal due to a violation of states’ rights (10th amendment) or an over reaction to various Supreme Court decisions – sometimes all three.
Before all good conservatives get their shorts in a bundle over the idea that conservative principles and values are at stake here, consider a few realities:
- Legislating morality does not work. Think of the full abortion argument. Subjective morality – even if conservatives think of morals as absolute – on its own does not sell itself. The procedure would not be subject to legislation at all if the pro-life forces were successful in selling their moral absolute argument. So far we haven’t been.
- The constitution ALREADY has a provision for legislating everything not laid out in the original document. It’s called the 10th amendment. Social issues regarding the state contract for marriage and school choice are local in nature. If the constitution itself was enforced even discussing school choice, marriage contracts, abortion and a whole lot more at the federal level would not happen.
- A balanced budget amendment, according to most versions of it, could be suspended in times of war. If we thought the war on terror was never-ending, imagine if having an unlimited credit line was linked to such a condition. And then there is the matter of balancing the budget without addressing entitlements. They must go hand in hand.
- Term limits sound great to get ineffective “lawmakers” out of power, but one of the things that happens is that the good politicians are booted out with the bad. The ones who wish to stay in power simply run for a different office. That just moves the bad people around. If voters really wanted politicians out of office, they can VOTE and make it happen. (Not that this has worked all that well of late.)
These are just some of the arguments against amending the constitution for these purposes. Frankly, hardly any of the issues outlined above would make it out of either house of Congress. In some ways the effort would be akin to tilting at windmills.
On the other hand, these issues do need attention at the party level. Several do address some real social fabric issues that the courts – not legislatures – have done the heavy lifting on for the political left. The call for the constitution to be amended, though, is a bit over the top. Replacing judges…that’s another story.