Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) was being pressed in a live TV debate, so he may be excused for blurting out the truth.
Here’s a portion of what very liberal Mr. McGovern said:
We have a lousy Supreme Court decision [in the Citizens United case] that has opened the floodgates, and so we have to deal within the realm of constitutionality. And a lot of the campaign finance bills that we have passed have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I think the Constitution is wrong. I don’t think that money is the same thing as human beings."
What a stunning statement! There are several things to consider in this argument. For us as constitutional conservatives, it’s entirely acceptable to disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court. I say every day that Roe v. Wade was a terrible decision and should be corrected. The Kelo ruling set a dangerous precedent. That 2005 case allowed the City of New London to condemn a private homeowner’s beautiful house, not for a bridge or tunnel, not for a fort or a federal highway, but simply because the city government could gain more revenue by taking the house and leasing the property to a private developer! That’s a shocking ruling. If that ruling is not corrected, your home will no longer be your castle, it will only be your trailer.
Congressman McGovern doesn’t take issue with the Supreme Court, however, he says the Constitution itself is wrong. Did Mr. McGovern take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution? Does he consider himself bound by his oath?
Sure, you can responsibly disagree with portions of the Constitution. Ronald Reagan, for example, disagreed with the two-term limit for President. He thought the Twenty-second Amendment had been a mistake. But Reagan dutifully left office after two terms. Reagan would have supported an amendment to repeal the Twenty-second Amendment, but as long as it was in the Constitution, he felt bound to respect it.In Congressman McGovern’s case, however, we see why liberals believe in a “living Constitution.” The living Constitution idea was characterized by Justice Scalia as a Magic Slate. You can write on it, get the interpretation you want, then lift up the plastic screen, and re-write your constitution, according to the passions of the moment.
I think Mr. McGovern is wrong in his analysis of the Citizens United ruling. The Supreme Court did not say that money was more important, or even the same thing, as human beings. It said nothing like that. What the Court did say is that you don’t lose your First Amendment rights because you express your ideas through a corporation, a union, or a non-profit organization.
In striking down major portions of the McCain-Feingold Act, the Supreme Court ruled that government cannot stop pro-life groups, for example, from highlighting the records of politicians like Jim McGovern before an election. By preventing pro-life citizens from drawing voters’ attention to how their elected representatives actually vote, this unwise and unconstitutional measure denied citizens their rights to communicate about political matters. That’s one of the main reasons for the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
It would be great to welcome Jim McGovern to the ranks of those of us who believe human lives are more important than money. I’m not cynical, but I must admit I have doubts that Mr. McGovern, should he win re-election next month, will put his fine words into practice when it comes to unborn children.
Now, we can see why “constitutional conservatism” is important. Without a firm reliance on the Constitution as our anchor, the entire ship of state is adrift. Under the current administration and the current Congress, our ship of state is headed for the rocks.