Michael Gerson is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He’s now a columnist for the Washington Post. He’s taken on the TEA Party movement in several recent columns.
Mike Gerson was entirely right to commend the TEA Party for giving a quick axe to a local activist who wrote a parody of slaves asking “ Massa ” Lincoln not to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a wholly offensive and witless piece that only fueled the left’s false claims that the TEA Party is racist. If only the left would give such a quick heave-ho to such thoroughly offensive characters as Bill (Mocker) Maher.
But Mike Gerson stumbled badly when he writes that black Americans have good reason to fear the TEA Party’s jubilant populism because, after all, “the Constitutional Convention was a conspiracy against their rights.”
What histories, what biographies, what commentaries on the Great Convention at Philadelphia must Mike Gerson be reading? To make such a statement is to concede the major, flawed premise of the left. If you think the Founders were so fundamentally wrong about a great moral question, you are unlikely to have much respect for the great charter of liberty they gave us.
If you think the Founders were engaged in a conspiracy against anyone’s rights, you are much more likely to view the Constitution as a document—like Justice Scalia’s famous magic slate—that you can write all over, then pull up your plastic page and start writing again. In short, if you think the Constitution the Founders wrote was morally flawed, you will be forced to accede to Justice Breyer’s notion of a “living constitution,” one that evolves with time so you can find in it new “rights”—like abortion, like counterfeit marriage, like nationalized health care.
No less a commanding figure of nineteenth century political theory than Frederick Douglass disagreed with Mike Gerson’s negative assessment of the Founders’ handiwork.
…the Constitution of the United States not only contained no guarantees in favor of slavery, but, on the contrary, was in its letter and spirit and anti-slavery instrument…
Douglass candidly admitted he did not always think this way. Originally, he agreed with the white abolitionists, as Gerson apparently does today, that the Founders’ Constitution was a pro-slavery document.
But Douglass carefully studied the Founders’ work.