RealClearPolicy Newsletters: Original Articles

We're All Constitutionalists

We're All Constitutionalists

Dear Reader — 

If there are, as the saying goes, no atheists in foxholes, there are also no post-constitutionalists in times of political crisis. 

Leave aside the truth about the Trump-Comey affair — whether it represents an authoritarian consolidation of power or so much manufactured partisan hysteria or neither — it is noteworthy that critics of the administration from both sides of the aisle default to the language of “constitutional crisis.” Despite popular denunciations of the Constitution as “outdated” — and those who defend it as hidebound or idealistic — constitutionalism remains the language in which Americans, Left or Right, express discontent with those in power.

It has been thus throughout our history, from John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts, Abraham Lincoln’s wartime machinations, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, to George W. Bush’s War on Terror and Barack Obama’s lawmaking by “pen and phone.” Allegedly tyrannical acts by American presidents are denounced not so much as morally or politically wrong as incompatible with our founding documents. Even today, when moral consensus looks like a lofty ideal (at best), hackneyed epithets such as “unconstitutional” and “monarchical” still carry weight in the public sphere. They are clichés precisely because they speak to a characteristically American political sensibility, one that has thus far survived our age of fracture.

There is much talk these days about nationalism — nationalism vs. globalism, nationalism vs. patriotism, economic nationalism vs. economic liberalism. Less frequently discussed is what constitutes a nation. As Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero put it, “a people” is not just “any group of men assembled in any way.” What, then? According to Cicero, a people is an “assemblage of some size associated with one another through agreement on law and community of interest.” There may be more to it than that. But our collective and almost instinctual constitutionalism suggests that the “tie of social affection, which originally united [us] in political associations for the sake of public interest” may indeed bind us together, after all, despite our seemingly insurmountable divisions. 

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past week. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy


The Path of Most Resistance. According to The New Republic’s Jeet Heer, progressive “resistance” should be understood as a “repudiation not just of Trump, but of the Democratic Party” as well. 

Is the Gig Economy Working? In The New Yorker, Nathan Heller asks whether the “sharing economy” can live up to liberals’ expectations.

Discrimination Is Not De Facto. For Slate, Rachel M. Cohen takes issue with an influential Supreme Court interpretation of racial segregation. 

President Trump's Agenda Meets Reality. The Brookings Institution’s William A. Galston considers how the president’s campaign promises measure up against his track record thus far.

Republicans Don’t Feel Your Pain. The New York Times’ Thomas B. Edsall criticizes President Trump for aligning himself with “the establishment and business wings” of the Republican Party.

Conservatism in an Age of Alienation. In Modern Age, Yuval Levin reflects on the future of conservatism in the Trump era.

Declaring War on Fiscal Responsibility. In our own pages, Maya MacGuineas criticizes GOP lawmakers for using a “budget gimmick” to boost military spending without paying for it.

Trump's Federalism Violations Would Make Obama Jealous. The Washington Post’s George F. Will critiques President Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities.

Do Criminal Courts Threaten Privacy More Than FISA Courts? Also in RealClearPolicy, Arthur Rizer & Daniel Oglesby contend wiretapping in criminal investigations should worry privacy advocates even more than NSA surveillance.

How the Senate Can Write a Better Health Care Bill. In RealClearHealth, James Capretta describes the changes that need to occur for a successful overhaul. 

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