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what in my mind is a load of BS.

I was talking with my very conservative family member and I off handedly referred to him as a member of the Republican Party when I was quickly corrected.

I'm not a Republican, I'm a Jeffersonian Constitutionalist.

Ok. ....I'm using my mind's local search engine, What's a Jeffersonian Constitutionalist?

His interpretation was that the government can't do what isn't specified in the U.S. Constitution and must regard the fifty State Constitutions as the law of the people first and the federal law as second (Article VI, Clause 2 not withstanding). Sigh. It was going to be one of those kinds of "discussions". I basically was told that the government was "too big", collected too much in taxes and intruded too much into our lives, wanted to take our guns and you can probably fill in the rest of this thread. Predictably, transvaginal probes were ok, as was voter ID (that isn't voter suppression, it's just good sense) and so on. As you might suspect he was very bitter at the outcome of the 2012 November election.

No surprise, we had a major difference of opinion on all of this. He could only bluster when I said transvaginal probes are far bigger government than most women want to contemplate. He balked at my assertion that gun laws are just a method of regulating our home grown militias. He laughed at the idea that taxes buy us civilization. Finally, he was brought up short by these concepts

1.  Our deficits rose at a faster rate under George Bush
2.  Obama is officially a job creator
3.  War, tax cuts and Medicare Part D are a bigger driver of our deficits than Social Security.
4.  Romney lost by nearly 5 million votes
5.  The only reason the GOP won the House was by stacking the Congressional Districts' deck.

He recovered quickly after he heard #5, "Well, if that's what it takes to keep the right people in charge, then that's ok with me".

No reasoning. No critical thinking. Lots of anti-intellectualizing and denial of inconvenient truths. Our visit was short, but not short enough for any of us.

From what I understand my experience in dealing with the right wing is typical. The only solution is usually to walk away, but that's not really a solution. I really need to engage in a thoughtful exchange of ideas, but this is impossible with people convinced they are infallible. The GOP's lack of respect for people who don't agree with them is cost in the GOP new members.

I found out a more precise definition of a Jeffersonian Constitutionalist when I got to a better search engine. Be sure your virus/malware is in good order before clicking this "link" It gives a good description of how my family member, a "Jeffersonian Constitutionalist" views the U.S. Constitution.

First, the status quo:

There are two basic approaches one can take to thinking about the United States Constitution.  One is to treat it is a given, whether that refers only to the specific document proposed and ratified in 1787-88 with subsequent textual amendments or to the body of case law developed over the past two centuries.  In any event, the lawyerly task with regard to a constitution that is treated as already existing is to engage in debates about its interpretation.


There is, however, a second approach, which is very different in its ramifications for how discussions of the Constitution should proceed.  Instead of being fixated on what the Constitution means, one instead asks whether the Constitution, given a stipulated meaning that may in fact not be at all difficult to discern, is in fact wise. One might call this a “Jeffersonian” approach to the Constitution inasmuch as it invites relentlessly asking whether the Constitution is serving us well.  This is, incidentally, an especially important question if we agree on constitutional meaning.  Disagreement, after all, suggests the possibility of legitimately interpreting the Constitution to achieve what we might describe as “happy endings.”  The situation is decidedly different, however, if we agree on constitutional meaning, but believe that it sets us up less for happy endings than for driving over a cliff.
That's some insight as to how the GOP in several states believe it is their right to rig the Electoral College. A Jeffersonian sees this "interpretation" thing as a limiting factor. He believes that if the U.S. Constitution isn't giving us the "happy endings" we want, we should change it.


If you don't like the outcome of the game, change the rules.

We do this in sports, we would like to see less CTE in retired NFL players so head first hits are banned and fined (not that this approach is working particularly well). We didn't find the home run records believable in the MLB, so steroids were banned....or so goes that story line.

We change the rules in our relationships and work careers as we mature and educate ourselves. What we thought of as cool when we were 15 is not the same as it will be at 50. Twenty years ago cell phones were rare. Today it's almost unthinkable to leave our homes without our phones. At 15 a cell phone is cool at 50 a cell phone is just an efficient business tool and good sense convenience.

We use this concept as the basis for law. "We" didn't like the Great Depression, so the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933 was enacted. "We" didn't like the limitations of the Glass-Steagall Act, so we repealed it with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 and it took less than 10 years to bring us to the Great Recession. "We" didn't like the Great Recession, so "we" enacted the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and on goes the process.

To the current GOP and their allies, the Tea Party and the "Jeffersonian Constitutionalists" and Libertarians alike, changing the law and the U.S. Constitution to suit their purposes is the right and proper thing to do. The cognitive dissonance comes with the realization that the white way and the right way may take different paths. The idea that the right thing to do may not be a conservative idea is not only unthinkable; it's untenable. Right is right is the conservative's motto for all things except, when it isn't, then mental gymnastics ensue.

Changing the rules is good when the GOP does it, bad when the Democratic Party attempts it. You get the idea. Enacting Medicare Part D is "good", paying for it is "bad". Exempting gun makers from liability is "good", restricting ammunition clips is "bad". Changing entitlements is "good", raising the cap on payroll taxes "bad". Changing how Electoral College votes are apportioned is "good" for PA, WI, OH and FL and "bad" for TX and GA. Any manipulation will do as long as the GOP is in control and it goes their way.

What the GOP is facing is a world not of their choosing. They have self selected themselves into an ever shrinking group and they are desperate to retain control. Their economic policies brought us a world where the masses cannot spend our way out of an economic slump. A nation that taxes the poor through crippling fines, fees and expenses. A nation where living poverty creates a pipeline to incarceration. It's a black and brown world, less white. It's a world where minorities and women are less content with their lot in the world. It's a nation where more and more people live in poverty without health care. A nation that I hope wakes up and realize that it isn't opportunity and wealth that's trickling down on them.

Eric Cantor thinks a "softer tone" is all that's needed to appeal to a greater numbers of voters. I'm torn. Half of me wants to call BS while the other half says, "That's all right, keep talking; don't change a thing. See ya at the end of the next election". The only thing holding me back is I'm not sure if everyone is seeing this "softer tone" for what it is - a whole lot of bunk.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips here (19+ / 0-)

    I still haven't spoken with that family member since the holidays. There are two ends to a phone, so I assume they are pretty sick of me too.

    Oh, well...

    If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never has and never will be. Thomas Jefferson

    by JDWolverton on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 03:59:55 PM PST

    •  Have had a falling out with a long time friend (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Similar political/philosphical dynamics at play.  I take the same tack with the phone issue - there are 2 ends to that connection, and it seemed for a long time prior that one only one side was making any effort.

      If the people who are still raging over November's elections continue to hold on to thier anger, I can't imagine it making many friends.  Of course, the effects of the 2014 mid-terms hang in the balance, and all we on the left can do is continue pointing out the right's idocy.

  •  Tell him (4+ / 0-)

    There's no such thing as a constitutionalist.

    •  I tried, but to no avail. I'm finding it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Linda1961, luckylizard

      harder and harder to talk to him at all these days. I'm the only family member who will talk to him and I'm getting so I can't take it anymore either.

      If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never has and never will be. Thomas Jefferson

      by JDWolverton on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:06:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Actually... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Minnesota Deb

      ...a self proclaimed constitutionalist is one who interprets the Constitution HIS way only...and when he wants.

      Oh, and he so loves the Constitution that he wants to amends most of it according to his interpretation.

  •  They Won't Let Go of the Articles of Confederation (14+ / 0-)

    where states were "sovereign" and had "rights." These pretzel logic assertions about the Constitution recall the Articles, many of whose authors went to the Constitutional Convention and quickly decided to throw it out for its unworkability.

    The Constitution authorizes congress to levy taxes in order to pay for promoting the general welfare. That covers a lot of territory and lets it do a lot of things the states don't do or also do.

    One such program is literal welfare. The original author of the original draft was Madison -- Jefferson was not at the convention though he did communicate with Madison.

    Later as President, Madison vetoed a faith-based initiative to pay churches to feed and school poor children. Partly because he said it was "an improper establishment of religion" but also because feeding and educating the poor he stated was a "civic duty" in other words the business of government.

    That's the original author of the original draft speaking of government's duty to provide welfare.

    States aren't supreme under the Constitution and they're not sovereign and they don't have rights. They have powers. It was written that way by some of the men who founded us and created the Articles of Confederation and the Continental Congress because their original intent doesn't work.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:19:26 PM PST

    •  In their minds, James C Calhoun reigns supreme (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but they completely forget about Andy Jackson

    •  Gooserock - States do retain some elements (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDWolverton, IreGyre

      of sovereignty, one of which is that they CAN'T go bankrupt. That's a good thing because if they could, most of them would enter bankruptcy some time in the next twenty years. Many of our states have current, deferred, and future liabilities beyond their ability to pay them. Cities and counties can go bankrupt and you will see many more of them go through a chapter process in the next decade.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 06:28:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  your link author appears to be a liberal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDWolverton, VClib

    legal scholar, whose approach sounds like what we may referred to as the living constitution.  your family member, OTOH, is probably thinking of something more like strong federalism.  

    •  could be, but what he said was more like the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnny wurster, luckylizard

      link; which is part of the problem. If I point out the flaws in his thought processes, he gets PO'd. I had another "discussion" with an old HS classmate. She's libertarian, but is upset about how unsafe our food supply is and wants better regulations on Genetically Modified food. She's clueless about how being a Libertarian for more regulation makes little sense.

      If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never has and never will be. Thomas Jefferson

      by JDWolverton on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:32:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  When you are arguing with a guy who thinks that (4+ / 0-)

    the Constitution is the supreme law of the land but does not include any amendments or SCOTUS decisions, then you are arguing with a guy who not only builds castles in the sky but also expects to live in them.

    The Constitution has evolved through court decisions and amendments so the original document can only be taken as a whole with no parsing.  As far as his thoughts on state constitutions, he can refer to the CSA constitution and Articles of Confederation because what he is claiming is poppycock.

    OTOH are we related?  He sounds exactly like one of my cousins

  •  I'm a Jeffersonian Constitutionalist (4+ / 0-)

    He is defaming the sainted memory of our leading Founding Father, and, as Gooserock pointed out above, confusing the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation.  The latter was a failure, so the powers that were in 1787 gathered in Philadelphia to create a strong federal government.  You can recommend to this person:

    John Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (2012).  It was recently, and may still be, on the best seller list.  I just finished it and strongly recommend it.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 04:47:08 PM PST

  •  Jefferson was too liberal for most conservatives (4+ / 0-)

    They just like the anti-government stuff he said.  Of course context could matter, right?

  •  The RW can have evil rapist slave owning (0+ / 0-)

    Lying Jefferson.

    He wrote great words but didn't live by them.

    •  Rapist? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Are you talking about Sally Hemings?  If so, please offer proof.

      •  His late wife's half sister by the way... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and Jefferson's companion and lover for many years. Not something out in the open at the time for many reasons. We can judge him as falling short of our standards but by those of his time his he was not an immoral man or someone for us to reject. He was an is a visionary and important to the foundation of our nation.

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

        by IreGyre on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:23:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Humpty Dumpty constitutionalism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JDWolverton, luckylizard, semiot

    "When I use a word, it means precisely what I want it to mean."  The text is all-important, complete and perfect, standing alone as the final word beyond all question - like the Bible - but the only valid interpretation is the one I agree with.

    An attempt to disguise egocentric morality by pointing to something else to justify your position.

    Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

    by Visceral on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 05:49:09 PM PST

  •  Jefferson was in France when constitution was (0+ / 0-)

    written, and that includes the bill of rights. His opinion means nothing.

  •  When trying to discuss... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    When trying to discuss politics with a family member, or anyone for that matter, I first try to determine how much of the Fox koolaid they've drunk.  In my experience there is a point of no return from which no amount of sweet reason will ever bring their pendulum swinging back from its far right position.  In other words, independents can be reasoned with, hard right wing nuts are too far gone to even talk to.  It is a total waste of time and energy to try to reason with them.

    On the other hand, if I am questioned I tell the truth with verifiable facts.  IMO the basic problem these days was made very apparent during the last presidential election with the total lack of veracity from the presidential and vp candidates of the "conservative" viewpoint.  They're big fibbers, to phrase it mildly, and would seem to lie if the truth would serve them better.  Totally amazing.

    The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God...should be sworn by candidates before making public statements and then enforced under penalty of perjury.

    I am a 67 year old teacher...teaching computer applications in a Texas high school. I've already retired once but it didn't take.

    by 43yearsateacher on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 06:58:43 PM PST

  •  4,600 Words Mostly Just The Calendar And Rules (3+ / 0-)

    The owners manual for your car is probably longer. And does the owners manual tell you how to drive or where to go? Nope.  Same with the Constitution.  

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 08:37:56 PM PST

  •  "what it takes to keep the right people..." (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    semiot, Minnesota Deb charge".

    This pretty much sums up the conservative motto: whatever it takes to fit our agenda.

    Cheating? check
    Lying? check
    Stealing? check
    Discriminating? check
    Making shit up? check
    Smearing? check
    Moving the goal post? check
    Obstructing? check

    These are all part of what conservatives shamelessly deem "fair and balanced", "justice" and "freedom".

    Then they pose themselves as the victims.

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