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By now, Beto O'Rourke's unflattering comment referencing the Constitution, "Does this still work?" is old news. He was suggesting that the government is now too complicated for the Constitution to deal with 21st-century problems.

What isn't old news is that there was no backlash from the Democrat presses or Party regarding this ill-informed comment, nor pressure on O'Rourke to end his intended run for president because of it. Such would have ended the run of any contender 20 years ago. Do Democrats now oppose the Constitution?

Neither major political party has followed the Constitution, as a first consideration, in more than 50 years. Of the two, Democrats rarely cite the document and seem almost contemptuous of it. In fact, most of what they propose is easily argued to be outside the Constitution. They once defended parts of the Bill of Rights, but I no longer see much of this. Republicans sometimes carry the document on their person but do not hold to it and, thus, much of what they propose is also outside the Constitution.

Constitutional ignorance is so prevalent. Have we reached a day when a major political party is openly against it?

President Barack Obama came close when he told the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2014, referencing the U.S. Constitution. "On issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rule book written for a different century."

The obvious dig shows a definite lack of respect for the Constitution that he swore by oath to "preserve, protect and defend" (Article 11, Section 1), but Democrats did not wish to rebuke or confine their president. Still, Obama's phrase was a mockery of the Constitution and should have been unacceptable to every American, whether said by a Republican or a Democrat.

Ironically the Constitution is designed to harness presidents just like him, just like his predecessor George W. Bush, and his successor Donald Trump, but it will never work if the party in power runs interference for its own constitutional abuser, which also has happened for more than 50 years.

It shows a lack of understanding of the Constitution (whether ignorantly or intentionally), which is based upon time-tested human nature and natural law which do not change from century to century. Man and governments are still beset by the same sins as expressed in all ages. There will always be those who wish to rule over others. Governments will always attempt to grow their powers at the expense of the people. There will always need to be a list of the things governments can do, and they will always need to be harnessed to that list. There will always need to be a division of power and checks on each branch of government, and presidents will always, as James Madison said, "have a propensity for war" and wish to use military power without consent. And there will always be those who wish to use the force of government to redistribute the wealth so that they can, in effect, purchase elections by "gifting" voters.

The magic of the Constitution is that it, as designed, does not distribute benefits or preferences to anyone. These are the reasons that it is said to be outdated by those who wish to take our liberties from us. Lawmakers having problems with the Constitution are those that do not wish to be restricted in their governance of us and thus they belittle the Constitution and seek to convince us to give them more power in another one. Thus, the ignorant comments regarding it by O'Rourke.

One of my favorite college courses to instruct was Contemporary Political Topics. Students were given a copy of the Constitution and required to problem solve with it and natural law rather than political party or philosophical persuasion. This base is justified because every politician has sworn to "protect, preserve and defend" this document. It is the instrument by which everything should be judged. The students loved it. Amazingly, from food stamps to climate change, we never found an issue that the Constitution did not address. Century, language or culture were irrelevant because human nature remains the same.

The "rule book written in a different century" is still as reliable as before. What we need today are presidents, legislators and judges that know its limitations, love and interpret it as written. In this quest, we are embarrassingly in short supply. Why?

Constitutional principles were once taught at every level of education, and stories of the sacrifice of our Founders frequently recited with admiration. Today, few schools teach these principles in grade school, and fewer still in high school. In college, the Constitution is tucked in the back of textbooks as an appendix in U.S. History and Political Science courses, hence very few actually read it. The history of the Constitution's origin is housed in a chapter, but constitutional principles seemingly have only informational value.

Constitutional illiteracy is almost universal to the point that those qualified to defend the Constitution as designed are becoming extinct. Students are not likely to defend it if they have never experienced it being defended. A real danger exists that, if too few know or value its principles, we will lose it -- perhaps we already have.

Some, like O'Rourke, say it is no longer relevant for our times. They couldn't be more ill-informed.

Harold W. Pease, Ph.D., is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for more than 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit

Editorial on 02/06/2019

Print Headline: Democrats oppose the Constitution?

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