There is a delicious irony in the kerfuffle over Donald Trump’s attacks on Khizr Khan, the father of a US soldier who died in Iraq, after Khan’s speech at the Democratic National Convention last week. Khan challenged Trump’s stance on Muslims and other minorities, and hit home with:

Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.

Trump, in typical style, counterattacked and self-aggrandized, and made himself look foolish in the process. I didn’t pay too much attention to this most recent hullabaloo, content to simply add it to the ever-growing list of Trump’s unforced errors. Until, that is, I saw a story that reported a spike in sales of pocket Constitutions following the speech.

“How deliciously ironic!” was my first thought. Khan held aloft a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution in front of an assemblage of people who have little use for it. Sure, the Democrats won’t come out and actually say that they don’t like the Constitution. That would be too overt. The evidence, however, is quite compelling.

A hundred years ago, Woodrow Wilson ushered in Progressivism by massively expanding a government that had spent well over a century within its original Constitutional limits. In the 1930s, FDR threatened to pack the Supreme Court because it wouldn’t go along with his New Deal programs. In the 1970s, liberal Senator J. William Fulbright stated, “The President is hobbled in his task of leading the American people to consensus and concerted action by the restrictions of power imposed on him by a constitutional system designed for an 18th century agrarian society far removed from the centers of world power.”

Regarding the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton stated, “If it is a constitutional right, then it, like every other constitutional right, is subject to reasonable regulation.” Clinton, I believe, would rather use the Constitution for fish wrap than as a guiding document for her presidency.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has a problem with due process. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer has a problem with the First Amendment. President Obama hates the separation of powers.

When the Court stands up for Constitutional rights, e.g. the Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, Heller, and McDonald cases, the Left goes bonkers. Obama’s administration, clearly one that favors expanded government power, has an abysmal track record at the Court. The New York Times carried an editorial a few years back titled Let’s Give Up on the Constitution.

The Left speaks of a “living document” Constitution, which is code for “we don’t like what it says when it gets in our way, so we want it creatively interpreted.” Arguments for circumventing the Constitution’s plain language often take a tone of “well, they were a bunch of 18th century slave owners, who couldn’t envision the modern state.” The Left ignores the fact that “they” recognized that times can change by incorporating an amendment process (invoked 17 times after the passage of the Bill of Rights). Again, what they really mean is “we want to do what we want to do, so we’ll make up any lame excuse to pretend the Constitution isn’t relevant.”

I could do this all day. The fact is, the Constitution is a document whose primary purpose is to limit government. It tells government “you can do this, this and this, and you cannot do anything else.” This is anathema to statists, who see solutions to all problems through a “government first” filter. The Constitution is a steady mantra of “No, You Can’t”, and the Best-and-Brightest who believe that they are both most capable and most obligated to run everyone else’s lives can’t stand the idea of being told No.

The Constitution is a marvel of brevity and plain language. The Constitution itself is 4543 words, the 27 amendments total another 3048 words. A total of 7591 words, that in paperback form would be a book of 30 or fewer pages, that creates a government, defines its structure and function, assigns its duties, and limits what it is permitted to do. It is not hyperbole to call it one of the greatest achievements in the history of humankind.

Plain language readings of the Constitution have been given fancier names, including “originalist” and “strict constructionist.” Those who practice and support such are never found on the Left, and it is Court justices considered “of the Right” that are associated with these terms. This is why it’s especially ironic to see someone speaking to the Left holding up a printed version of the Constitution. The Constitution’s actual written on a page are about as “originalist” as one can reasonably get. The only way Khan could have gone more “originalist” was if he held up a copy printed on a single sheet of parchment. The delicious irony of holding up an embodiment of Constitutional originalism at a gathering of statists put a smile on my face.

It’s a bit funny to think about people going on-line to buy printed copies of the Constitution. Although I have two such copies sitting on my desk (one in brown and one in blue, one distributed by the Cato Institute and one distributed by Young America’s Foundation), I usually just type “US constitution transcript” into Google when I want to reference or cite a quote. Presumably, anyone wired enough to access Amazon is wired enough to find the Constitution on-line. So, I wonder if those who are buying them intend to use them as props, rather than as references.

That would be sad but not unexpected. Too many people treat the Constitution as a menu, choosing the parts that suit their tastes at the time and ignoring the rest. That’s how politicians, statists, partisans and others who don’t operate from any position of principle typically operate. It’s why the structure of our government and our nation has been degrading for the past century. It is the reason that many have observed that democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. While America is a republic, not a democracy, history and events suggest that the same lament holds true.

Benjamin Franklin recognized the potential impermanence of the government the Founding Fathers created. Thomas Jefferson recognized that liberty needs to be defended, as did Thomas Paine. Khizr Khan stood up in front of a room filled with people who have little respect for liberty and showed them the bulwark of liberty in America, printed in a little book. They applauded him. If only they understood why.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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