Why is Knowing the Constitution Somehow a Conservative Thing?

While I was working on The Odd Clauses and doing research on all of the clauses I was working on and reading articles and blog posts and whatever about all these clauses, it struck me that a lot of the best articles about the weird clauses came from self-identifying conservatives, or at least people who went on to work in the Administration of conservative presidents.  It was like only the conservatives were really concerned enough with the specifics of the different clauses of the document to write about them.  Then there was the conservative House of Representatives which made a big deal about reading the Constitution aloud on the floor.  And then there’s the Constituting America website, the one run by Janine Turner that I talked about last week.  Turner is an outspoken conservative who has taken on this project of trying to spread the word about the Constitution and all of its specifics to kids and others.  As she says in this video here, in which Fox guy Chris Wallace calls her a “modern Paul Revere,” the Constitution is both “relevant” and “cool.”

I agree with Turner that the Constitution is relevant and cool, and I agree that we should all pay attention to the Constitution, and I think the odd clauses are really interesting, and I think it’s totally fine to read the Constitution on the floor of the House, but I really don’t get why all these things tend to be associated with conservatives. I mean, I do get why all these things tend to be associated with conservatives.  Somehow the idea has become prevalent that conservatives pay attention to old and unchanging things like text while liberals just go off and do whatever they want, act all spacey and loosey goosey and “protect the poor” and hug trees and everything, regardless of what the text of the founding document might say.  But of course this is just a bunch of simplistic crap.  One thing I’d like to try and do a little with The Odd Clauses is reclaim this interest in the specifics of the Constitution for us liberals, or I guess I should say I want to reclaim the popular perception of being interested in the specifics of the Constitution for us liberals, because in fact liberals do pay attention to the specifics of the Constitution even if they might choose to focus their energy on other things, like “helping people” and “saving the earth.”

All this is to say that I think it would be really fun for me and Janine Turner to go on a national tour discussing the Constitution.  Or at least can I be on your radio show?  I don’t think quick on my feet, so you’ll probably crush me like a bug just like O’Connell used to crush Fleischman.  [whispering]: call me.




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2 responses to “Why is Knowing the Constitution Somehow a Conservative Thing?

  1. I absolutely agree that liberals ought to know more about the constitution. I think the reason conservatives seem to have a monopoly on knowledge of the constitution is that they are very authoritarian. They are sort of constitutional fetishists. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to be more cognizant of the fact that the constitution was written by a bunch of human beings who are just as fallible as human beings normally are and that hence the constitution ought not to be elevated to the status of a sacred text.

  2. gospace

    People who bother to take the time to learn what the constitution says are conservative, because thay actually know what it says.

    I quizzed a 25 year old yesterday, and asked the old standby, “Where does the phrase ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ come from?” His answer, “The constitution.” I suggested he read it.

    It’s not required reading in schools BECAUSE people actually reading it realize it doesn’t say what they’ve been taught it says. Can’t have that.

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