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Free Liberal: Coordinating towards higher values

Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Making the Constitution Cool Again

by Chuck Muth

I remember fondly a bumper sticker from a few years ago which read, “The Constitution is the Contract with America .” And as we approach this year’s Bill of Rights Day, there are actually some hopeful signs that America ’s contract is making a comeback.

The patron saint of the modern-day constitutionalists is Barry Goldwater, who famously declared as a U.S. senator that he would not “attempt to discover whether legislation is 'needed' before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible.” Regrettably, few in Congress, then or since, have adopted that standard.

One who has, however, is running for president this year. Indeed, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for his consistency in voting against any piece of legislation which, in his opinion, isn’t authorized by the Constitution. And for such fealty to the Constitution, much of the mainstream media has labeled him a “gadfly.”

Yet more than 37,000 ordinary American citizens recently contributed an average of just over $100 each to Paul’s presidential campaign in the span of just 24 hours raising some $4.2 million - the most successful one-day online fundraising effort for a pre-nomination candidate in the history of the country. Not bad for a constitutional gadfly.

The mainstream media desperately wants you to think this groundswell of support is all due to Paul’s opposition to the Iraq war. Not. If you read the posts on almost any blog in which Paul is the topic of discussion, you’ll find one supporter after another citing his adherence to the Constitution as their reason for supporting him. The war, if mentioned at all, is usually but a footnote or an aside.

Ron Paul is making the Constitution “cool” again.

Alas, realists recognize that Paul’s insurgent campaign is unlikely to actually take him to the White House next November. What will his supporters do then? Will they throw in the towel and fade away? For the sake of the republic, let’s hope not.

Instead, they ought to take up the cause of a congressional measure introduced by Arizona Rep. John Shadegg, a co-founder of the Goldwater Institute. His “Enumerated Powers Act” stipulates that “Each act of Congress shall contain a concise and definite statement of the Constitutional authority relied upon for the enactment of each portion of that act.”

What a “radical” idea.

Rep. Shadegg has been championing this “vampire bill” – meaning it’s never seen the light of day - for years. Shamefully, the measure only has 30 co-sponsors. And Republican Minority Leader John Boehner isn’t one of them, despite declaring on his website that he “believes Republicans can earn back the majority in Congress by getting back to their core principles.” Neither is Republican Whip Roy Blunt. Or House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam. Or Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling.

Ron Paul, on the other hand, IS a co-sponsor. Go figure.

What principle is more core to being a Republican than the Goldwateresque notion that Congress should only pass legislation which is constitutionally permissible? After all, each and every member of Congress has sworn an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If honoring one’s oath isn’t a core Republican principle, what is?

Ron Paul’s supporters could dramatically help move this bill forward by championing it the way they’ve championed Paul’s presidential run. And that would truly be something to celebrate this Bill of Rights Day.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy advocacy organization in Washington , D.C. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citizen Outreach. He may be reached at

Copyright 2007 Chuck Muth. All rights reserved.

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