Friday, February 8, 2019

What's Beto's Problem with the Constitution? - Dave Rybarczyk

by Dave Rybarczyk

To get an idea of O'Rourke's principles, we might look to his recent failed Senate run.

When "Beto" O'Rourke recently questioned whether the basic principles of the Constitution still apply in today's world, what exactly did he mean? Which principles would he reject, and what new principles would he substitute for our governance?

At a time when our Constitution is increasingly attacked as unfair, immoral and obsolete, or simply irrelevant, the pronouncements of political figures such as O'Rourke matter. O'Rourke is a rising star of the left and a presumed 2020 presidential candidate who, as it happens, comes from Texas, a state with a large number of electoral votes.

To get an idea of O'Rourke's principles, we might look to his recent failed Senate run. His campaign platform lists 17 major issue categories. Within O'Rourke's 17 categories are over 75 specific initiatives.

As might be expected, a review of his platform's top initiatives reveals a strong alignment with the progressive left on nearly every point: health care a "basic human right," ensuring "guaranteed due process" as well as citizenship for illegal immigrants, correcting "bias" in the criminal justice system, increasing public funding for "underserved communities," "protecting" teachers' pensions, and much more.

Within this potpourri of regulation, handouts, and carveouts, we can discern a common thread: a larger role for government -- specifically the federal government -- tacitly justified by a deluge of empathy.

O'Rourke's platform aligns neatly with Franklin D. Roosevelt's "second bill of rights" of the 1940s, which viewed the Constitution as inadequate and proposed a vast expansion of federal power and reach as a correction. In more recent times, FDR's view was embraced by Barack Obama, who described the Constitution dismissively as a "charter of negative liberties." O'Rourke is only the latest in a long line of progressives who plainly have trouble with the Constitution.

Yet if O'Rourke's platform contains any actual new "principles of governance" that are somehow superior to the Constitution's and presumably should supersede them, they are obscured by the gratuitous empathy that motivates his initiatives. O'Rourke simply identifies numerous "victims" and makes himself their gallant champion.

In the realm of civics, it is vital to be skeptical of empathy. Viewed cynically, empathy is politically useful inasmuch as it makes it easy to seduce the persuadable to your side, and it opens the door wide to politically useful virtue-signaling.

But viewed realistically, empathy in civic discourse is insidious and corrosive. It is wholly incompatible with rational judgment and sober decision-making -- hallmarks of good governance. Instead, empathy empowers a few individuals to hijack civic priorities, irrespective of facts and in circumvention of just process. Empathy demands compassionate action regardless of any obstacles -- never mind that resources are always and everywhere limited. Empathy privileges certain preferred choices over others, without regard to their relative worthiness -- necessarily trampling the legitimate rights of the truly worthy. Empathy silences opposing points of view, as its claim to the moral high ground makes it virtually immune to criticism.

Does O'Rourke actually understand the real principles at the foundation of the Constitution? Does he appreciate their wisdom and importance?

The Founders were learned men, keen students of human history and human nature, who had endured tyranny firsthand. They understood human weakness and fallibility. They observed the corrupting influence of power on leadership. They appreciated the essential limits and inadequacies of every sort of governance and authority. They respected that individuals, men and women -- and only they -- are the proper guardians of their destiny.

These are durable, unchanging, inherent principles of humankind, and the Constitution embodies this found wisdom. In devising a new form of government, the Founders incorporated these understandings through a variety of structural limitations, controls and "checks and balances" upon government, and upon those who hold office. The Bill of Rights further embodies key concepts of liberty, most importantly the principle of inalienable rights, that additionally restrict the powers of the federal government. This formula of restrained government as an enabler of unprecedented social and economic freedom, combined with individual enterprise, produced the wealthiest and most beneficent nation on Earth, and we are its fortunate inheritors.

Beto O'Rourke is simply wrong to declare these principles obsolete. Human nature has not changed. The passage of "230-plus years" since the Constitution's adoption makes no difference whatsoever.

Is O'Rourke merely ignorant of this basic truth? O'Rourke calls for a "discussion" on these principles, but it is hard to see this as anything other than their implicit rejection. More likely, holding his own views as incontrovertible, O'Rourke arrogantly seeks to control the affairs of American citizens and will use the power of government to achieve his ends. For such purposes the Constitution is decidedly an obstacle and not an enabler.

But who is Beto, or any of his philosophical predecessors and cohorts, to make intimate decisions and judgments for others' lives, families and destinies? Election to office is not such a license, as the Founders understood. It takes stupendous hubris, conceit, and a wholly unjustified sense of personal righteousness, to usurp this privilege.

Only a sound and respected republican Constitution will prevent people like O'Rourke from putting the government in charge of literally everything. 

Dave Rybarczyk


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