Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This Is What the Right Wing Wants to Erase

No, the picture above is not a preview of the next teabagger rally in Washington D.C. But it's not as far fetched as you might think.

Now many horrible things have been done in the name of the U.S. Constitution. Its history is bound up with slavery, with genocide against native Americans, with the deprivation of the rights of women, with imperialism and neocolonialism, and not least of all, the class rule of the moneyed aristocracy and its corporations and its elite political parties. That said, as an evolving statement of rights, better the Constitution than arbitrary dictatorial rule. There are some progressive things in the Constitution, especially in its elaboration of the rights of citizens, and one of the most progressive is the amendment passed after the civil war to make sure former slaves were not disenfranchised. Which, it must be said, it failed to actually do.

That amendment, the 14th, is the one that the Republican Party is now suggesting be jettisoned. Here's some of what it says:

"Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Read that, it's powerful stuff. This is what the Republicans and teabaggers now want to eliminate in their racist campaign against immigrant workers.

Section 2 of the amendment spells out how only men--and not including Indian men--are to be counted for determining proportional representation. But then we get to something else interesting:

"Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void."

Interesting, and one has to believe not at all coincidental, that the amendment the right wing is targeting also has this clause in it, since they profess to be outraged about budget deficits (except those caused by wars or giving tax breaks to rich people).

It needs to be emphasized that that first section is not just about the birthright of citizenship. It's also about that last "equal protection clause" that has been used repeatedly to fight discrimination and advance civil rights. It's been used for racial minorities, for women, and for gay people. It's actually pretty fundamental to a progressive view of the Constitution and its outline of democratic rights. That the right wing is explicitly renouncing this amendment, even if they're only talking loudly about that first sentence, I think is a radical and qualitative marker in the evolution of right-wing American politics.

I think it's outrageous even symbolically that they want to repeal an amendment that is so bound up with the civil war and the end of racist slavery. And it's telling that they feel no shame in doing so. Are they also heating up their irons and getting ready to make sure those white sheets are nice and wrinkle-free?

(Art of 1925 KKK rally in Washington DC snagged from TimLennox.com.)


  1. The teabaggers agenda is pretty much the same as the Klan's when they were a mass organization. It's unlikely that the Klan will make a comeback but it's not surprising that a movement with their platform has come back. It took a sex scandal to bring down the old Klan and militant action by midwestern unions to mop up the remnants and drive them underground. Nowadays we're numb to scandal and there is no significant movement with the economic and just plain physical power of the CIO and Midwest Teamsters. I don't know what we're going to do. I met with a group of elderly lefty professors who wanted to start a project to let immigrants tell their stories. They seemed to feel that this might lead to bigger things. Maybe they're right but that seems to be the extent of "leftism" in this country. There's what we used to call "Cellular activity" but no bodies in motion.

  2. I actually agree with you that the actual Klan itself isn't likely to come back; but I think it's so important to call out the politics of the right wingers for what they are.

    I worry a lot about the state of the left in response to this.