Who Says We Hate The Constitution?

The other day in the Chicago Tribune’s guest editorial section, a headline immediately grabbed my attention. The headline said, “Trump isn’t the biggest threat to the Constitution. Democrats are.” — I had no idea destroying the Constitution was our goal. 

Whenever I see a news lede worded in such a clearly partisan way, the first thing I check is the name of the article’s author. In this case, the guest editorial was by Marc A. Thiessen. You may be familiar with this writer. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and his guest opinions appear periodically in the Trib. His AEI is also a guiding light for some of the most active right-wingers here on the North Shore. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think free enterprise in a democracy is a brilliant thing. And responsible capitalism can benefit a society. But we should be clear on what is driving the efforts of Mr. Thiessen and his organization. To be blunt, I think the overriding priority of The AEI is to do everything it can to make sure its most moneyed supporters (I’m talking really BIG-money supporters) enjoy a future of virtually unfettered wealth accumulation.  

This, of course, also means that any government policies that might interfere with extracting maximum profits from the sources of that wealth —corporations, financial institutions, natural resources — must be contested. No matter how positive the reason for such government action might be. Based on the stands AEI has taken, government involvement in search of ways to make the lives of every citizen better is dangerous.  

But let me get to the specifics of why Marc Thiessen says we Democrats are out to destroy our nation’s Constitution. The basis for Thiessen’s alarm is the fact that several Democratic presidential candidates have said that if elected in 2020 they will work to abolish the Electoral College. 

According to Mr. Thiessen, getting rid of the Electoral College will marginalize Americans who don’t support the Democrats’ “increasingly radical agenda.”  

Thiessen says, “Today Democrats have become “the party of big-city elites.” — Really? I find it a bit weird that these guys who live comfortably in the Washington D.C. area (highly populated) are speaking up in defense of the residents of Kirwin, Kansas or Lost Cabin, Wyoming. 

According to Mr. Thiessen, a main reason the founding fathers created the Electoral College was to make sure that less populous, rural states would not be dictated to by “large, big city populations.” – Well, not really. — Mr. Thiessen is skilled at telling compelling stories, however they aren’t always completely true. (In his younger days, he spent some time as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush.) 

The truth is, when the constitution was written, the most populous state was Virginia. It didn’t have the biggest city, but it had lots of rural plantations loaded with slaves. Today, city versus rural might be a polarizing issue, but back then the divide was between slave states versus free states. In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But the Electoral College allowed states to count slaves as three-fifths of a person. This gave the South the inside track in presidential elections for years.  

So what about that “radical agenda” fear? Thiessen says the Electoral College protects our nation from “unconstrained radicalism.” His examples of radicalism are the “Green New Deal” and government involvement in health care, energy and transportation. He says without the Electoral College, Democrats will feel free to pursue full socialism without constraint.”  

I wonder if the AEI thinks the government’s initiation of the interstate highway system under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower was as socialistic a proposal as, for instance, federal funding to rebuild our nation’s electrical power grid to be more green? 

He also says Democratic Party dependence on the support of voters living in our more rural states will force the party to broaden their appeal. And he falsely claims this is why “more and more Democrats want to get rid of it (the College).” — To be honest, there actually was a time when our party did broaden its appeal in the rural south by going along with their Jim Crow laws. But it seems to me that is an excellent example of why we should walk away from any future possibility of Electoral College blackmail. 

With all that said, I do think it’s always worth taking note of everything Mr. Thiessen writes because to me his editorials are basically right wing talking point bulletins. There’s a good chance that whatever you “takeaway” from his editorials will soon be repeated in other right wing print, radio or TV propaganda. 

Now that the Mueller cloud is no longer hanging above President Trump’s impressively coiffed head, the country’s attention is turning to the presidential candidates vying to replace him in 2020. There are some exciting and inspiring proposals being presented that, contrary to Marc Thiessen’s opinion, should interest many voters in those rural states that Marc is so eager to “protect.”  

As those proposals are refined to become more appealing, we Democrats will be increasingly attacked as radicals, socialists, big-city elitists. At least that’s what it appears Marc Thiessen and the AEI plan to do.

Nels Howard, NTD Member Since 1973