But gay marriage and abortion aren't the "fundamental questions" defining the two parties. These are merely symptoms of the real fundamental difference between the two parties, which is: We believe in the Constitution and they don't.
The whole point of the Constitution -- written by men much smarter than we are -- was to prevent the likes of William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, Franklin Roosevelt or Gary Bauer from attaining too much power. (To be fair to Gary, these braking mechanisms only seem to work with conservatives.) Our Constitution is the most brilliantly freedom-promoting document ever conceived in the minds of men. So it would be really cool if people (like presidents, Supreme Court justices and Gary Bauer) would read it.
Liberals don't read it, and certainly have no intention of living under it. They say it "grows" and, surprisingly enough, the Constitution always seems to "grow" in ways they like. It never grows a right to school vouchers or a right to bear machine guns or a right to free champagne for blondes. It just keeps growing rights like the right to stick a fork in a baby's head, and the right to discriminate against disfavored racial groups, especially white men.
But back briefly to the real Constitution, the one composed of words and not "penumbras" -- the Constitution nowhere grants the president, Congress or the Supreme Court authority either to ban or to require abortion. It grants no one in the federal government the right to ban or require gay marriage. It doesn't say anything at all about abortion or gay marriage -- or lots of other things, many of them big and important (like free champagne for blondes).
The genius of the Constitution is that it gives the federal government almost no power over anything important. It was precisely because of one Supreme Court's refusal to abide by those limits, and its outrageous arrogation of power to itself, that we ended up with Roe vs. Wade in the first place.
If given a choice between a country in which gay marriage is prohibited at the national level by federal law, and a country governed by the Constitution, I'll take the Constitution. For one thing, in brute realpolitik terms, somehow elevating every petty tribal dispute to a federal issue hasn't really worked out for conservatives. We win in Topeka; we lose in Washington, D.C.
Moreover, the states and towns would create a perpetual marketplace of laws, regulations and ideas. If you don't like porno being sold at the corner market, you could move. If you don't like porno not being sold at the corner market, you could move. (And then at the end of the year, we'll tabulate which town has more crime, venereal disease, rape and unwanted pregnancies.)
States and localities would be free to sculpt themselves into whatever kind of place the denizens prefer. If an individual feels unduly oppressed by those laws, he can move. And it's a lot easier to move to the town next door, or even the state next door, than to move to Canada. That's how federalism creates the maximum freedom possible.
Liberals always hate freedom and want to jam their hateful ideas down the entire nation's throat. But now even some conservatives have decided total federal hegemony sounds more fun than living in freedom under a Constitution (which it is, I guess -- provided you get to be dictator). If the Supreme Court can "grow" the Constitution to suit its political agenda, why can't our guy do the same from the Oval Office?
It really serves liberals right. In a way, I wish there were more conservatives like Gary Bauer demanding federal laws that would outlaw sex education, communism, atheism, condoms, Birkenstocks, New York Times' editorials -- everything you can think of that would cause a liberal to screech.
But George Bush and Dick Cheney recognize that they are not running for dictator. The greatest president America ever had was the only man who didn't want the job -- and the first man to hold it. It ought to warm conservative hearts that Bush and Cheney eagerly admit that there are limits to the powers of the offices they seek.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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