It's all bunk, of course. Liberals don't necessarily support change; conservatives don't necessarily favor the status quo; if liberals embraced all change, they'd backed Bush's substitution of "preemption" for the prior U.S. foreign policy of "containment," as well as his proposed Social Security reforms. Still, as Evan Coyne Maloney observed, this bias infects even apolitical reference materials:
- Definition of Liberal (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed 2000):
Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded. c. Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism. d. Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
- Definition of Conservative (Id.):
Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
- Synonyms for Liberal (Roget’s New Millennium™ Thesaurus (1st ed. 2005):
advanced, avant-garde, big, broad, broad-minded, catholic, detached, disinterested, dispassionate, enlightened, flexible, free, general, high-minded, humanistic, humanitarian, impartial, indulgent, inexact, interested, latitudinarian, left, lenient, libertarian, loose, magnanimous, not close, not literal, not strict, permissive, pink, radical, rational, reasonable, receiving, receptive, reformist, tolerant, unbiased, unbigoted, unconventional, understanding, unorthodox, unprejudiced. . . altruistic, beneficent, benevolent, big, bighearted, bounteous, bountiful, casual, charitable, eleemosynary, exuberant, free, generous, good Joe, handsome, kind, lavish, loose, munificent, open-handed, open-hearted, philanthropic, prince, prodigal, profuse, Santa Claus, soft touch, softie, unselfish, unsparing
- Synonyms for Conservative (Id.):
bourgeois, cautious, constant, controlled, conventional, die-hard, fearful, firm, fogyish, fuddy-duddy, guarded, hard hat, hidebound, holding to, illiberal, inflexible, middle-of-the-road, not extreme, obstinate, old guard, old-line, orthodox, quiet, red-neck, right, right-wing, sober, stable, steady, timid, traditional, traditionalistic, unchangeable, unchanging, uncreative, undaring, unimaginative, unprogressive, white bread. . . bitter-ender, classicist, conserver, conventionalist, die-hard, fossil, hard hat, middle-of-the-roader, moderate, moderatist, obstructionist, old fogy, old guard, old liner, preserver, reactionary, red-neck, right, right-winger, rightist, silk-stocking, standpat, stick-in-the-mud, Tory, traditionalist, unprogressive.
Dictionary or not, this logic is the "root cause" of the gulf between liberal and conservative approaches to law. I'm not talking about forward looking policy making, about which reasonable people can disagree. The issue is hermeneutics: how we interpret and apply law.
MaxedOutMama's recent posts on the Nebraska gay-marriage decision sparked further study of the schism. The court essentially adopted the rationale of decisions in Massachusetts, California and New York that:
- Long-standing constitutional and statutory provisions can be re-interpreted to be more relevant to modern sensibilities;
- Re-interpretation is not limited by the provision's language or intended scope; and
- Judicial re-interpretation may ignore the people as expressed either directly or by the peoples' elected representatives.
This outlook is inconsistent with our Constitution and with democracy in general. and vitiates the role of the legislature. It's profoundly il-liberal:
- Inflexibility is strength: America was founded, as John Adams said, as "a government of laws not men." Meaning that meanings -- and justice -- depend on words, not the perceptions or prejudices of the decision maker. This is particularly true where the relevant legal principle derives from the Constitution. The Framers made our Constitution relatively hard to change -- amendments and alterations only through various super-majorities. Relatively immutable Constitutions promote continuity and protect the rights of the minority. In other words, the scheme fosters freedom.
The left's approach tramples these principles. Indeed, today's liberals seem to believe the Constitution teaches that the Founders were wise, implying that superior wisdom (theirs, of course) should prevail today. The Founders were indeed wise--but that's the wrong lesson. Instead, they recognized that:
- unanimity is impossible, and . . . [t]he Founding Fathers didn't have all the answers.
- Instead, they created a process to address disagreement--a relatively immutable Constitution, a Congress with limited Federal powers, separation of powers, a list of untouchable rights, and an expectation that state legislatures would reflect the will of their own citizens, without regard to those in other states.
- [Such limited] Federal power devolve[d] decision making to the lowest possible unit of government, such as states or municipalities. This tends to ensure that citizens have the maximum possible ability to monitor and participate in policy determinations, making law and regulation the responsibility of legislative and executive bodies most closely connected to those directly affected.
So the liberals' embrace of a "living Constitution" is a radical and wholly inconsistent departure from the principles on which America was founded. Moreover the left's hypocritical: if words and principles are elastic, how can any position -- abortion, gay marriage, etc. -- be a non-negotiable litmus test?
- Vagueness imperils freedom: Our Constitution was carefully drafted to be both durable and patently clear; legislative drafting aspires to the same goals. But if the meaning of words has wings, how can lawful be distinguished from forbidden? If Constitutional powers are murky, separation of powers is destroyed. With everything up for grabs, liberals trade the certain and consistent for the quixotic and volatile. This transforms Constitutional government into a Lewis Carroll character (Though the Looking Glass (Chap. 6):
`When _I_ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'M_O_M correctly demolished such reasoning, and its underlying implications, which I've addressed elsewhere, as demoting the will of the people and elevating judges to a legal priesthood. M_O_M says it's "the vary definition of tyranny;" it's also anything but the "Republican Form of Government" guaranteed by Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution.*
`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'
`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'
A profound change, says M_O_M:
There has been a definite change in jurisprudence. Many call it "judicial activism". When creating a new class of rights you do generate odd case law that is expansive and wobbly.Conservatives reject this approach -- even were we word "master" -- for reasons once crucial to, and celebrated by, liberals. See Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451, 453 (1939) ("[It] is a well- recognized requirement, consonant alike with ordinary notions of fair play and the settled rules of law; and a statute which either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application violates the first essential of due process of law.").
If all laws are unconstitutional, then we have created a judicial tyranny in which those with the most money, determination and friendly judges win. Is that your idea of what our government should be?
- The death of democracy: The overall effect of the liberal theory of words is "the end of majority rule." The Constitution e established a legislature representing the people. Legislatures make laws, a process requiring study, debate and a vote. The principle check on legislators is the second Tuesday in November: the people vote to select their agent, and can revoke the agency at the election.
Modern liberals turn the Constitution on its head. Though the legislative process was codified in the very first Article, liberals attach little legitimacy to the vote. Though Congress (and state legislatures) were tailored to resolve disputed and controversial issues, liberal elitists are condescendingly contemptuous of popular opinion, certain they may and must substitute their judgment for the views of the (less "capable") majority. After all, opponents of progress are "hidebound, . . . inflexible, . . . obstinate, . . . red-neck, right, right-wing, . . . timid, . . . unchangeable, unchanging, uncreative, undaring, [and] unimaginative." Roget said so.
The result is to exalt courts over congress Blind to this redaction of the Constitution, today's liberals rarely seek voter or legislative majorities. Instead, the party of "one-man, one-vote":
push ever-expanding list of issues too important for debate, relying on judicial decrees imposed without regard to the will of the people. Ironically, therefore, the Democratic Party's notion of democracy is anything but democratic.And of course anything but liberal.
American representative democracy was founded by "the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty." Limited Federal government recognizes that one size won't fit all. It encourages diverse experimentation. And its no straight-jacket: The Constitution isn't permanent--it can be amended. Unlike diamonds, statutes aren't forever--they can be repealed. And administrative rules aren't everlasting--they can be (and usually are) modified at the next open meeting.
Today's liberals are certain their solutions are superior to the process established by the Founders. So certain that they discount, ignore and overrule general election and legislative votes with which they disagree. But American's are guaranteed the vote. If constistent with the Bill of Rights, the right to vote encompasses delay, confusion and flat-out error. That's because the Constitution enshrines the liberty of being wrong. As evidenced by Roe, Lawrence, Roper and the gay marriage cases, today's left is dedicated to eradicating that civil right.
The left may be "avant-garde, . . . unconventional, . . . unorthodox, [and] progressive." Just don't call them liberal.
MaxedOutMama unearths sanity at Democratic Underground. I'll concede the left still has a few good men (Hentoff for example). But as M_O_M acknowledges, the reasoned are a minority in the present progressive, Deaniac, anyone-who-disagrees=Hitler universe. As an example, DU recently polled its inmates about Al Qaeda. The results (small sample size): 19 percent thought it a "real terrorist organization;" 22 percent said it was a "once real terrorist organization that the administration is now using to get what they want;" and 59 percent insisted Al Qaeda was a "completely fictional organization." More evidence that lefty opinion on 9/11 and global terror stems from late-night cable re-runs of "Capricorn 1."
And, M_O_M, us neo-cons are gentle sorts; I'd never shoot you.
More from M_O_M: "can I claim that the liberal left is in control of the Democratic Party nationally? At this point, no. Carl has me crawling on my belly to avoid the overwhelming fusillade of link-fire whistling over my head. I think it's a temporary aberration, but only time will tell."
* The Supreme Court read this clause to be unenforcable, Luther v. Borden, 48 U.S. 1, 42 (1849), contributing to the elasticity of meaning.