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FDR's Constitution Day speech, 1937, some excerpts:

In these days when the undemocratic concentration of economic power has brought with it a corresponding concentration of legal ability against the democratic purposes of the Constitution, only the utmost vigilance and the utmost willingness to fight for our Constitutional heritage will guarantee its continuance.

Furthermore, a democracy cannot help counting, and seeking ways and means to avoid for the future, the terrible cost at which its ultimate triumphs have had to be achieved. We did not need to have a Civil War to recognize the constitutional power of Congress to levy taxes upon those most able to pay. We did not need twenty years of exploitation of women's labor to recognize the constitutional power of the states to pass minimum wage laws for the protection of women. Those were unwarrantable costs in restoring to the governments of both the nation and the states powers for action which the Constitution itself had not denied them. Nothing that possibly could have been gained by delay can justify such a price. We know that it takes time to adjust government to the needs of society and that deliberation upon the remedy is indispensable to wise reform. We also know that government must keep pace with changes in circumstances substantially as the changes occur. If wise reform is delayed too long, resentments, grievances and injustices accumulate to such a degree that orderly, wise reforms are rendered impossible and unreasonable and forcible measures in one form or another come to prevail. Time is vital in statesmanship, and orderly reforms, too long delayed or denied, have too often in modern history jeopardized peace, undermined democracy, and swept away civil and religious liberties.

These unwarranted delays in the accommodation of the government of today to the needs of today have not been due, I cannot too often repeat, to any language that the Fathers used in the Constitution to bind their successors. I ask you laymen for whom George Washington and Benjamin Franklin spoke at Philadelphia 150 years ago—look into the simply worded Constitution which I hope is in your hands tonight. Read it in the light of our history and in the light of its expressed purpose—to form a more perfect union and provide for the general welfare.

Then see if you can find anything in it which says that the government of the nation cannot help the one-third of its population engaged in national agriculture to stabilize their national market

See if you can find there anything which says that the government of the nation cannot require a system of pensions for the vast army of railway employees on whose vigilance and well-being rests the safety of everything and everyone moving on the great railway systems.

See if you find anything that says the government of the nation cannot help to reorganize the sick coal industry which operates in so many states of the Union and provides the motive power for national industry and transportation.

See if you can find there anything which forbids the government of the nation to regulate the unholy practices of the great network of public utility holding companies which, admittedly, have proved too powerful for State regulation.

See if you can find there anything which forbids the government of the Nation to apply every resource of science to the development of a great river basin, to improve its water transportation, to end its floods, to conserve its natural resources, to demonstrate the potentialities of electricity, that greatest servant of democracy.

I know and every lawyer knows that you will find nothing in our Constitution which forbids the national government to do any of these things.

They have been forbidden or jeopardized, not because of anything the Constitution says but because men with axes to grind have chosen to put their lawyers' own notions of policy upon the silence or the vagueness of the Constitution. When the framers wanted to be specific, they could be specific. They forbade titles of nobility and attainder of blood, for instance, in no uncertain terms. But when they came to the great areas of governmental action, they used vagueness and silence as conscious instruments for the flexible statesmanship of the future, as they had used explicit denial as a guarantee of the observance of what to them were eternal verities unaffected by time and circumstance.

To a profession trained in the exact use of words, the categories of denial in the Constitution have always been congenial and the broad and purposely vague grants of power to government have always been uncongenial. That is not a criticism of the legal profession, either as men or as citizens. It merely takes note of the fact that professional habits bend their minds in a certain direction. It was a great conservative statesman who noted the dangers that flow from the fact that "the law sharpens the mind by narrowing it."

It is the limited business of most lawyers to protect the interests of the individuals by whom they are retained, not the interests of the larger society of which those individuals are a part. In more recent years, the business of lawyers has become more concerned with corporate interests than with individual interests. Therefore, the preoccupation of the legal mind of today is with these private and. corporate interests against all the rest of society.

Furthermore, it is a well-known saying that men are subdued by the medium in which they work. And men whose daily work is the nice use of language in conveyances and contracts and legal instruments of every variety, where the rules of the game provide that nothing is included in the scope of the document unless expressly mentioned, instinctively forget what the statesmen of 150 years ago at Philadelphia and the statesmen of their own profession did not forget—that a Constitution is a great instrument of government—not a conveyance, not a contract, not even a statute. That is why when a great lawyer does triumph over his absorption with words and with the limited outlook of individual interests—when he adds vision to his technical skill, then he is a statesman indeed.

The most important sentence ever written by Chief Justice Marshall is a part of the opinion in which over one hundred years ago that great Chief Justice established the constitutionality of the legislation which saved the banking system of this country in 1933 and insured the safety of your deposits for the future. In that opinion Marshall, who had fought through the Revolutionary War and had experienced all the difficulties of his generation in the founding of a nation, admonished those who would narrowly limit the great document to remember "that it is a Constitution we are expounding."

And the modern Marshall—Mr. Justice Holmes—who like Marshall had seen the price paid on the battlefield to establish a nation, elaborated the thought of Marshall in these memorable words: "the provisions of the Constitution are not mathematical formulas having their essence in their form; they are organic living institutions transplanted from English soil. Their significance is vital not formal; it is to be gathered not simply by taking the words and a dictionary, but by considering their origin and the line of their growth." Gompers v. United States, 233 U.S. 604, 610 (1914).... "When we are dealing with words that also are a constituent act, like the Constitution of the United States, we must realize that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and has cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation. The case before us must be considered in the light of our whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago." Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416, 433 (1920).

Whether the Constitution is treated primarily as a text for interpretation or as an instrument of government makes all the difference in the world.

In the last 25 years government, State and Federal, has struggled particularly hard to utilize the powers given them under the Constitution to create economic conditions under which the great mass of people would feel convinced of justice and security. Those efforts have included attempts at establishment of minimum wages and maximum hours, prohibition of child labor, encouragement of the unionization of labor, reasonable stabilization of farm and industrial markets, conservation and development of natural resources, regulation of utilities and of other public businesses in private hands. Consistently the lawyers representing those interests wishing to block such efforts have invoked the Bill of Rights to protect their clients. Until last spring, for instance, they had argued successfully that it interferes with the freedom of a charwoman to work if an employer is not permitted to underpay her. And until last spring they had argued successfully that it interferes with the property of an employer to refuse him the right to discriminate against an employee who joins a union, while at the same time large corporations were indulging in espionage to root out union workers, as outrageous in essence as any search and seize prohibited to government.

I have often wondered whether those interested in the realistic protection of the individual and of minorities against intolerance and arbitrary power appreciate the danger to minorities of such perverted applications of great constitutional provisions. For unless government can succeed in creating conditions under which the great mass of people do feel convinced of justice, economic security and ample scope for human dignity, that tolerance of differences and that general concern for fair play which are the real protection of the individual and minorities will disappear. As a practical matter that tolerance and that concern rest only in small part upon legal formulas. Far more importantly they are the natural reflection of magnanimity of spirit in the masses which in turn depends upon generally distributed well-being.

No one cherishes more deeply than I the civil liberties achieved by much blood and anguish through many centuries of Anglo-American history. No one is more zealous that the safeguards they write into the Constitution be scrupulously and undeviatingly observed in spirit as well as in letter not only by government but by all those who wield a private power comparable to that of government.

But we should be deaf to the teachings of history and the admonitions of other lands if we do not recognize that civil liberties and non-discrimination against minorities can long be maintained only in a contented society.

[...] More and more the guarantees of civil liberties to which minorities have looked in this country for protection available in no other land depend for real effectiveness upon the full usefulness of the affirmative powers given to government to safeguard the life of the nation.

The men who signed the Constitution 150 years ago were fundamentally much more realistic about these things than we are today.... To them the protection of civil rights was not a platform for politicians nor a breastwork for corporation lawyers. For those rights these men or their fathers had come to the new country when it was not a comfortable country to come to. And to vindicate those rights these men themselves had written the Declaration of Independence and had fought a war. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and a fair trial for the humblest accused—sacred from attack not simply from tyrannies and oppressions which they had known and experienced but from whatever forms of tyranny and oppression the evil ingenuity of intolerant men might devise—were at the very top of their thoughts.

And yet when in the midst of such economic chaos as we faced in 1933, they came to write the Constitution, their first concern was not with written guarantees of these civil rights but with the formation of a government strong enough to bring economic order and economic security to the land. There was no Bill of Rights at all in the Constitution as it was first signed 150 years ago tonight. The Bill of Rights was added a year later by the first Congress as the first ten amendments.

We profited by the spelling out of those rights which for them were so fundamental as to require no literal spelling out. But it is significant that in their judgment the first thing they felt they needed, to preserve the liberties for which they had fought, was a central government, strong enough to avert economic chaos. They knew that guarantees of tolerance written on parchment were nowhere near as important as guarantees written in the hearts and the character of the American people so long as those hearts and that character were not embittered by economic distress.

Tolerance and concern for fair play are virtues which do not flourish in the stony soil of economic want and social distress. They are flowers that grow only when nurtured by a fertile soil and a warm sun. And none of us to whom the protection of minorities is a daily concern can have any illusions that in a world of aggression and of sudden and imperfectly understood economic disruptions no minority has any assurance of tolerance and fair play unless by the affirmative use of governmental power we succeed in this generation in collaborating with the private processes of economic enterprise so as to enable every class of our society to live at least on a level of civilized decency. Those of us whose circumstances have been cast in fortunate lots are too prone to bear with fortitude the hardships of a goodly portion of our fellow countrymen and women.

There is a group which—either in secret despair that inevitable calamity can be averted or in reckless ignorance of the day-to-day problems of those who are not lost to fear—would deny the government powers it needs to protect us and ask it to make bricks without straw. To such people, misinterpreters of the Constitution seem fortunate allies indeed.

Happily the great mass of the American people have lost neither their courage nor their common sense. And the framers of the Constitution, who had the greatest courage and common sense in history, have left us instruments with which we can use both. Their handiwork did not shackle us. They left us free if we will use all of the Constitution they bequeathed to us Their legacy was the wisdom which they embodied in the Constitution and that included the opportunity and the right to draw upon such wisdom as each generation can summon to the problems each generation has.

The Bill of Rights is precious to all of us. The reserved powers of the States to deal with matters of purely local concern are also precious. But the great affirmative grants of power to a strong national government democratically responsible to all of the people, is no less precious—for without such a national government, civil liberty and states' rights would have scant chance of survival in the modern world. Let us give our allegiance not to a part but to the whole Constitution. The exercise of the whole Constitution is the real way to guarantee the effectiveness of every part of it.

The perennial conflict of American history and the conflict of today centers around the way you look at the Constitution, whether you look at it through the narrow eyes of the partisan lawyer, whether you invoke the whole of the Constitution or only that part of it which seems to serve the purposes of certain limited interests in the nation which from time to time seek to appropriate the Constitution as their special shelter. This is the controversy that has cut athwart every effort of American society to adjust itself to new circumstances. For this is the question which concerns not the expedience of legislation, not the application of the method of trial and error in solving new difficulties; this is the problem that challenges the power of statesmen to find solutions. It touches the very existence of government. The misinterpretation of the Constitution is a fortress which democracy on the march simply cannot afford to leave untaken on its flank or in its rear.

We shall hold to this true course; we shall be most loyal to our history and most reverent to the framers of the Constitution if we view it as the great interpreters have always viewed it, as Marshall viewed it, as Holmes viewed it

Thus only will we be true to the avowed purposes of the Constitution itself—"to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...."

Originally posted to Armando on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Discussing The Law: TalkLeft's View On Law and Politics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ah (0+ / 0-)

    We know how much FDR LOVED the Supreme Court, don't we?

    •  more than jackson did (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrAnon, joedemocrat, Nowhere Man

      that's for sure.

      Die with your boots on. If you're gonna try, well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

      by Cedwyn on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:19:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Speaking of which (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Could Obama pull a Jackson if the ACA gets struck down?

        •  One of Jackson's ugliest moments (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cedwyn, VClib, bythesea, chmood

          I don't think anyone ought to look at it as historical guidance.

          Ok, so I read the polls.

          by andgarden on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:37:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  that'd be lovely...hahaha (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          joedemocrat, Denise Oliver Velez

          but i don't think he'll need to.  i think if it gets struck down, things are going to explode; people have had a taste of the improvements and will not go back.  

          "if you liked those provisions of the ACA, then vote for democrats this falll."


          Die with your boots on. If you're gonna try, well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

          by Cedwyn on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:38:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I hope you're right (nt) (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SoCalSal, joedemocrat

            More Democrats? Better Democrats? Fewer Tea Partiers? Get all three with Trevor Thomas (MI-03)!

            by ScottyUrb on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 08:13:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  i dunno, there's alot of wingnuts blaming ACA (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SoCalSal, IreGyre

            for higher taxes on things like house sales.  my landlady is adamant Obamacare has cost her 13.5% extra on one of the houses she sold even when i showed her a Fortune article refuting that opinion.

            i am most certainly NOT defending those ideas just pointing out there's a huge amount of adamantly espoused misinformation to contend with.  And, really, do the majority of the non-wealthy 'conservative' voters have a history of voting in their own best interest?

            "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face" & "Polka will never die." - H. Dresden.

            by bnasley on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 09:45:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Cedwyn I so much hope you're right.. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cedwyn, IreGyre, Denise Oliver Velez, JanL

            The ACA was a huge accomplishment - it gave us something to build on.

            I will be very upset if the Supreme Court strikes any of it down.

            But the ACA isn't popular - the polls show 41% want the full bill struck down and another 20% want part of it...

            We really need to sell all the benefits from adult children on the parents policy til 26 to closing the Medicare donut hole to guaranteed issue to no co-pays for preventative care. And make the public understand why the mandate was necessary -  

            James Carville said the SCOTUS striking it down would help Democrats, because the Republicans would then politically own the health care system. Democrats can say "we tried" and if people need health care "talk to Scalia."

            I've never understood how anyone could be against the ACA - not in 2009, not now.

            As a member of Courtesy Kos, I am dedicated to civility and respect for all kossacks, regardless of their opinions, affiliations, or cliques.

            by joedemocrat on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 11:50:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Let me tell you a story... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              DarkestHour, bunsk

              It starts with the "mandate" and ends with any one of us being told to buy a private product/service from whomever they decide next. It's truly that simple, for the moment.

              As for my story, we need universal health care...not mandatory health insurance that denies people like me the ability to actually go to the hospital emergency room or "urgent care" without first paying $1352 a year PLUS co-pays and deductibles because I cannot afford them after paying for the "opportunity" to be screwed.

              This past week was hell for me, I thought I had strep throat...I've been paying for the health coverage my company offers, it's through Aetna...there are only different levels of coverage offered through said "health insurance".  I contacted Aetna to find out how much my policy covered for services, and was told my co-pay was $250 plus a $300 deductible.  Their list of PCP's they gave me in my area...22 out of 26, the phone numbers were wrong, disconnected or if I got a hold of someone, the PCP's were specialists or not taking new patients.  

              They offered to "allow" me to go to an urgent care facility if their resident nurse (at Aetna headquarters) pre-approved it...that could take 2-3 business days. The co-pay would have been only $35...funny part, I only had $6 after I paid my bills the week before.

              I spent over 3 hours on the phone with Aetna and local area "walk-in" clinics and urgent care facilities only to find out that there were only 3 in Western NY that accepted Aetna.  

              I had few choices.
               Forgo medical care. wait 2-3 business days for a possible approval (approval was not guaranteed I was told). Go directly to the urgent care facility with my co-pay of $250, plus my $300 deductible using my insurance or pay cash when I got there (the woman at the Urgent Care Facility said it would actually be cheaper for me to pay cash)...AGAIN, I HAD NO FREAKING MONEY.  

              What if I needed an antibiotic, that's the only treatment for Strep...then I'd have to pay full price for the medication (sadly, I still don't know what my co-pay is for medications, that's through yet another company that is exclusively "mail-order", set up by my employer).

              As you can see, the only choice I had was to use my useless "health insurance" because, wait for it...I get billed for the co-pay and I hopefully can make "payment arrangements afterwards.


              Please convince me that the mandate is going to help me any more!  Insurance rates have gone up 30% or more since the passage of the ACA.

              FYI, I make $9.75 an hour, that works out to be just a little over $20,000 a year.  What's the limits for subsidies? If the Health Insurance your company offers costs more than 8% then you get some help, correct?

              Well, my wages versus Health Insurance costs is 6.76% of my yearly income. (please note this is just for the "opportunity" to see a doctor, not actually getting any medical care that may be needed)

              Financially, I'd be better off taking the hit for the "fines" for not getting Health Insurance and paying out of pocket than continue this charade.

              We need universal health care, not health insurance, nor do we need a "for profit" medical industry.

              -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

              by gerrilea on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 01:51:30 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Insurance went up BEFORE all of ACA kicks in (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                no way to stop the Med insurance industry from grabbing the extra money while they can with the added bonus of this profiteering making people blame it on the ACA... most of which is not kicked in yet....

                and for those who think mandates are wrong and govt. cannot impose them... I have two words... "Car insurance".

                I sense GOP scare tactics are working all too well.

                Also... of course single payer/Medicare for all is better... and ACA is a step towards that since there are too many roadblocks in the way for implementing it directly with no in between stages...

                Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

                by IreGyre on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 06:07:06 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You're two word answer... (0+ / 0-)

                  is incorrect, no one needs to drive, it's a "privilege". And the State imposes such, not the federal government, the constitution binds the actions of said.

                  As for this:

                  I sense GOP scare tactics are working all too well
                  Insulting, I just went through this on Thursday.  There is no "scare tactic" when I'm experiencing this reality!!!!!!!!

                  This "first step", I no longer believe that...we were told don't fight for universal or single payer, "we'll fix the bill later"...well nothing has happened and it's clear it isn't going to happen...the CEO's of these for profit insurance companies will continue to make millions and continue to pad the pockets of our politicians.

                  -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

                  by gerrilea on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 07:06:20 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Nobody HAS to have medical care (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    it is something we choose to or not. Some people prefer to not go to doctors. It is more "natural" to walk and not have a car... just as it is more "Natural" to just get sick and die.

                    We CHOOSE to not just lay down and die when we get sick since there are options...

                    And most people who do not live in a large city cannot do without a car in our society so the idea that it is a "privilege" is a dangerous idea. Privileges can be taken away and there are attempts to bar illegals and others... next step... anyone who gets welfare maybe? Jobless? This privilege which could mean being able to find and keep a job or to go to a medical care provider should not be a "privilege".

                    And as for the defective but better than nothing ACA... if the fine is less than paying in and the net result is still no medical care...? I would like to know more about the numbers ... the actual costs for those who are on or near the dividing line for paying in or not. I will have to assume that you have researched this in greater depth than I but I do also will retain my right to wonder if perhaps you are mistaken in some areas... and re the bottom line for you.

                    The horrific thing about any national sweeping policy is that it will never be perfect for  100% of the people it affects. But if it improves the lot of many millions while a much smaller number do worse... being one of the ones who get the short end of the stick... and you would seem to be one of them... I have no answer.

                    You have to defend your own interests, well being and even survival. But if you could directly address the millions of people who are and will be benefitting from the ACA what would you say? All of 18-25 year olds who will covered by their parents insurance... the even larger number of people with existing conditions who will not be trapped in a job they hate because they would lose their coverage... and all the people who do not have insurance now who would be covered... and add to that the improvement in public health with people seeing a doctor regularly and having conditions caught early instead of going to emergency rooms when it gets too late to really help but it costs the public far more money.

                    I would not call you selfish to want to survive and not be harmed as you say you will be. And if I were in your shoes I would not be thinking any different probably... but if you could have the power to veto ACA... but not the power to get single payer / Medicare for all now... would you deny all those people the significant improvement to their medical coverage (or any coverage) in return for the status quo for you and your family for now? The greatest good for the greatest number will not automatically beneficial to a particular person... in fact it may be worse. Few people are saintly to the degree that they applaud a worsening of their lives if a very large number of people do better.

                    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

                    by IreGyre on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 02:08:47 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Thanks, good reply. (0+ / 0-)

                      The title of your posting says it all, for me.

                      "Nobody has to have medical care".

                      What is the duty of our created government? Where does the line get drawn between freedom and servitude? And by servitude I refer to paying a for-profit private company that may mandate I take the latest "drug therapy" because my DNA profile says I'm predisposed to x, y or z.  This is not freedom, it has already devolved into a medical tyranny for many "developmentally disabled" children.

                      What you describe here, I agree with generally.  What I don't agree with is how we got this point.  Senator Baucus and our President both refused to allow single-payer to be even put on the table.  

                      WE got what they wanted, nothing less.  

                      I have not researched the numbers on how many of us are in my shoes.  Since there are over 50 million Americans on Food Stamps and 31 million more that are unwillingly unemployed and since the aggregated wealth of the Average American has decreased by $40,000 in less than 3 yrs...I have to assume millions.

                      I do know that my step-father, whom is 75 yrs old is still working because he has to keep the health coverage he has with the company he's worked at since he was 22 yrs old to protect him and my mother because the costs of their medications, AFTER insurance runs out costs them thousands each year.

                      I do know that my "senior" co-workers that have worked at Avis for 40+ yrs can't quit because of their coverage "benefits". Surprisingly, there are 4 ladies that are in this same boat.

                      I do know that another co-worker, whom is 24 yrs old is still covered by his parents insurance and is still living at home even though he has 2 degrees and can't get a good job. He being in the age group that rarely needs medical care so he has coverage that he will most likely not use.

                      I only know reality, not esoteric numbers games.  The "sum total" game is meaningless.  


                      Medicare for all would have worked for everyone, not just those that could afford it.  I have no problems paying higher taxes that would be used exclusively for healthcare for all.  That would be lawful AND constitutional.  Medicare is the most efficient benefits program in our history.


                      As for the "benefits" of the ACA, I don't see any, the system in place now will demand higher and higher premiums because there were no safeguards or limits put in, the Pharmaceutical Companies & CEO's MUST get their pound of flesh, in perpetuity.

                      I would have vetoed the bill, period.

                      -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

                      by gerrilea on Tue Jun 19, 2012 at 10:18:38 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  I post this because (9+ / 0-)

    there seems to be some misunderstanding on the Constitutional aspects of The New Deal transformation.

  •  Great line (6+ / 0-)

    "A Constitution is a great instrument of government—not a conveyance, not a contract, not even a statute."

    I might steal it for something in the future.

    Ok, so I read the polls.

    by andgarden on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:24:19 PM PDT

  •  I believe one can be an originalist and still be a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    liberal. For example Akhil Amar is a liberal-originalist.

    He says:

    How about Balkin's argument that originalism generally leads to outrageously conservative results? Another leading liberal light, Cass Sunstein, has said much the same thing of late. I disagree. The framers themselves were, after all, revolutionaries who risked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to replace an Old World monarchy with a New World Order unprecedented in its commitment to popular self-government. Later generations of reformers repeatedly amended the Constitution so as to extend its liberal foundations, dramatically expanding liberty and equality. The history of these liberal reform movements—19th-century abolitionists, Progressive-era crusaders for women's suffrage, 1960s activists who democratized the document still further—is a history that liberals should celebrate, not sidestep.

    He goes on to say:

    Yes, it's true that on today's court the two leading originalists are both conservative, but perhaps the court's most influential originalist in history was the great Hugo Black—a liberal lion and indeed the driving force behind the Warren Court. (For more on Black's role in leading the Warren Court to apply the Bill of Rights against states, protect the rights of criminal defendants—especially the indigent—champion the rights of political dissenters, and enforce racial and voting equality principles, click here.) It's also worth remembering that the most towering originalist scholar of the 1970s was also a professed liberal, John Hart Ely.
    So I actually find the Constitution to be very populist as does Amar:
    Amar paints an approving picture of the Constitution as radically populist, emphasizing the ways in which the ratification process was opened to lower-born, less propertied men (among other democratic innovations). This contrasts sharply with, say, the more cynical portrait in Charles Beard's influential 1913 book "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution," which contended that the framers' primary purpose had been to create a charter that protected their wealth. At the same time, Amar's Constitution is, until the addition of the 13th Amendment after the Civil War, more thoroughly defined (and corrupted) by its concessions to slave states than many contemporary historians would probably acknowledge. Amar argues that even at the time the Constitution was written, the decision in Article I to count slaves (in part) when apportioning representatives to the House was retrograde: it had not been a feature of any state constitution before 1787, any colony before 1776, the Articles of Confederation or any custom in England.
  •  those were the days (8+ / 0-)

    when listening to the radio could make you smarter.

    the populace was far less extensively educated in those days, but political speech aimed to be more enlightening rather than less.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Sun Jun 17, 2012 at 07:32:04 PM PDT

  •  Who was FDR's speechwriter? (0+ / 0-)


  •  Democrats no longer use language like this (0+ / 0-)

    It's an example of framing. FDR spoke a language that resonated (whoever wrote the actual words that FDR spoke) on the moral level. Now Democrats accept wide swathes of conservative framing and then just insist that their implementation will be more fair.

    Another great example of FDR's morally-grounded rhetoric can be found in his speech accepting renomination in 1936.

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