January 7, 2011

Constitutionalism, or Why America Is an Exception

There was a highly symbolic moment at the opening of the House of Representatives yesterday with a reading of the Constitution. This had never been done before. Why? Perhaps, as Charles Krauthammer puts it in today’s Washington Post, for the simple reason that it had never been so needed. And as a matter of fact, after fighting for decades over “who owns the American flag,” now the core of the debate between Democrats and Republicans is over “who owns the Constitution.” A healthier debate, says Krauthammer, because flags might be seen as pure symbolism, while Constitution defines concretely the nature of a country’s social contract.

Americans are in the midst of a great national debate over the power, scope and reach of the government established by that document. The debate was sparked by the current administration's bold push for government expansion - a massive fiscal stimulus, Obamacare, financial regulation and various attempts at controlling the energy economy. This engendered a popular reaction, identified with the Tea Party but in reality far more widespread, calling for a more restrictive vision of government more consistent with the Founders' intent.

Call it constitutionalism.

Constitutionalism. Namely, “the intellectual counterpart and spiritual progeny” of the originalism movement in jurisprudence. And, like the latter, the former will require careful and thoughtful development. “But its wide appeal and philosophical depth make it a promising first step to a conservative future.”

A great, “pedagogical” piece, indeed. It reminds me a quote by Margaret Thatcher, “Europe was created by history, America was created by philosophy.” What a profoundly true statement! Both America and the American Constitution are a philosophy, no matter if that philosophy itself has deep European roots. Call it American exceptionalism or whatever else, it’s something to preserve and protect, and something to fight for, too. [Thanks: Candice Miles]

1 comment:

  1. Great article, indeed! Krauthammer is a brilliant and balanced journalist.