The Egyptian Military Suspends their Constitution while some here can only Dream

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 13th, 2011

A Military Coup by any other Name

The Army’s in charge in Egypt (see Military rulers suspend Egyptian constitution by Marwa Awad and Dina Zayed posted 2/13/2011 on Reuters).

Egypt’s new military rulers said on Sunday they had dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and would govern only for six months or until elections took place, following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

As bad as this sounds, the military is the stable force in Egypt.  They’ve pledged to honor Egypt’s treaties during their rule.  Israel welcomed this news.  As did many governments in the region.  Perhaps the military will be able to win the peace.  Much like our Founding Fathers did after their revolution.  Time will tell.  We hope for the best for the Egyptian people.  The region.  And the world.

The Intent of the Constitution was to Oppress the People?

Suspend the constitution?  You know there are some here in the United States that would like to suspend the Constitution.  To hear some talk about the Constitution, the Founding Fathers were nothing but a bunch of racist, sexist, slave-owning bigots.  And these people mock the Tea Party people for all of their constitutional talk (see What “original intent” would look like by David Schultz posted 2/13/2011 on Salon).

Tea Partiers would be surprised how little freedom they’d have if we read the Constitution literally.

I dare say more people in the Tea Party have read the Constitution than those who argue against them.  Those on the left always say we need to take things in context.  When discussing barbaric customs of some indigenous people.  Or even the right to choose.  We can’t remove the context of environment and/or custom from these things.  But we can when it comes to our founding.

It wasn’t a perfect world in 1787.  We had just defeated the British Empire in a war that lasted 8 years.  And the people were in no mood to replace one central power with another.  Getting a national constitution wasn’t easy.  There were many conflicting interests.  And the states just wanted to go back to the way things were before the Revolution.

But when the Confederation Congress couldn’t pass a ‘national’ tariff over the objection of a single state that benefited well under the status quo, they had to do something.  If the new nation was to survive.  Few nations thought we would.  Some were just waiting in the wings for the collapse.  It was primarily those who served in the military that pushed the idea of nationhood along.  They fought alongside men from different states in a unified army.  These were the first ones to think as Americans.  And it was one man in particular, a retired George Washington, who brought the men together in Philadelphia in that hot and muggy summer in 1787.

It wasn’t easy.  States didn’t want to give up power.  They feared consolidation.  The states didn’t want some faraway seat of power telling them how to conduct their business.  In the context of the times, there was no nation. There were states.  Sovereign states.  Working together in a confederation.  Yes, they understood there were things a national government could do better (coin money, treat with foreign nations, build and maintain a military force, etc.).  But they were leery giving this new central government any power for fear that once they did, there would be no end to this transfer of power.  So the Founding Fathers developed federalism.  Shared sovereignty.  Most of the power would remain with the states.  And only those things strictly enumerated would go to the federal government. 

To begin with, the original document was silent on the right to vote. Voting rights were largely a matter of state law, and in 1787 most states limited the franchise to white, male, Protestant property owners, age 21 or older. The original Constitution did not allow for direct popular voting for president or the United States Senate, and there was no clear language even allowing for voting for members of the House of Representatives.

In the context of the times, white protestant males were the only people voting in the British world.  And Americans came from British stock.  No surprise here.  And a popular vote was not included for a very good reason.  The Founding Fathers feared a pure democracy.  Because once people learn they can vote themselves the treasury, they do.  Also, the states wanted to make sure their interests were represented in the central government.  That’s why state legislators were to elect their senators.  To keep a short leash on the new central government. 

The original Constitution didn’t include a Bill of Rights. Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers and authors of the Federalist Papers, argued against it. The Bill of Rights protects many rights the Tea Party considers hallowed, such as the freedom of speech and assembly and a right to bear arms. Lacking a Bill of Rights, these freedoms wouldn’t be protected against limitation by the national government.

The reason why they argued against a Bill of Rights was that they said they didn’t need it.  The Constitution enumerated the powers of the new central government.  Anything not enumerated was a power retained by the states.  The fear was that if they included a Bill of Rights and forgot to include a right then that right wouldn’t be protected.  But a Bill of Rights became conditional for ratification by some states.  James Madison opposed it (for the reasons just mentioned) but worked tirelessly to include it.  Because he and Hamilton knew it was the price of ratification.

Most importantly, as written, the Bill of Rights limited only national power — not state power

Again, the Constitution was all about limiting the power of the federal government.  It had nothing to do with limiting states’ powers.  No state would have ratified if it did.  This is the concept of federalism.  To keep Big Government small.  The states had their own constitutions.  And if a state became too oppressive, people could move to a state that wasn’t. 

And then there’s the matter of slavery. Article I, Section 1 of the original Constitution permitted slavery and the slave trade… Slavery did not end until the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

I believe that was Section 2 of Article 1.  And the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave.  But I’m nitpicking.  Again, historical context.  Slavery and Social Security have a little in common.  One is a failed institution.  The other is about to fail.  And the cost to fix or undo them is/was absolutely prohibitive.  And socially undoable. 

Article I, Section 9 did address the slave trade by agreeing to table it for 20 years.  It was the only way to get the southern states to join the union.  Because emancipation would wipe out close to have of the equity on many southern balance sheets.   Though immoral, the institution of slavery was legal.  Ending it would simply destroy the southern economy.  Much like what happened after the American Civil War when northern carpetbaggers came down and bought properties at fire-sale prices.  So there is a reason why the Founding Fathers didn’t address slavery more in the Constitution.  Because it wasn’t as easy to fix as Social Security.

And let’s not forget Alexander Hamilton, who argued against the need for a bill of rights and in favor of judicial review. The famous “Report on Manufactures” and “Report on Public Credit” he prepared as George Washington’s treasury secretary argued for an expansive federal government role in assisting the economy — hardly something the Tea Party constitutionalist would endorse.

Hamilton worked in business at a very young age.  And he was in awe of the British Empire.  Of their wealth and power.  He wanted an American Empire.  He wanted to jumpstart American industry.  And wanted to use a tool familiar to him.  Mercantilism.  It was the way the great empires became great.  In the British Empire, America was a supplier of raw goods.  We had no manufacturing base to speak of.  Hamilton wanted to use government to build one fast.  Today government wants to control the economy.  Hamilton wanted to create an economy where there was none.  There’s a bit of a difference.

It should be clear that many of the liberties and rights today’s Tea Partiers demand and benefit from just didn’t exist in the original form of the Constitution. It took many amendments and clarification from the courts to secure them. On top of that, if the ideal the Tea Party espouses ever was realized, it would just mean the states would have more authority to suppress rights.

The amendment process was part of the original Constitution.  The authors provided the means to change the Constitution.  They just didn’t make it very easy.  Unlike a court ruling, many people would have to agree to a change.  Not just a partisan few.  Or a partisan judge.

The Tea Party gets it.  It’s those who rail against them that don’t.

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Does Obama Know Who Kept the Slaves Enslaved?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 2nd, 2010

Your People Did Not Free the Slaves, Mr. President

From Mark Knoller, White House Correspondent, Radio, CBS News:

Obama says people are impatient but “now’s not the time to quit…it took time to free the slaves…ultimately we’ll make progress.”

We would have freed the slaves a whole lot sooner if it weren’t for people like him.  Democrats.

The Southern States and Slavery – A Packaged Deal

Democrats descend from the southern planter elite.  These slaveholders formed a small minority of the population.  But they held the majority of political power.  There was a north-south divide at the founding over slavery.  Franklin, Adams, Hamilton and Washington were against slavery.  Jefferson and Madison were for it.  Rather, they were for the southern states.  And that meant the planter elite (which they were part of).  Which was for slavery.

Slavery was a taboo subject.  You won’t find it in our founding documents.  The North wanted to abolish slavery.  But any discussion of the taboo subject and the South would walk.  So they tabled the subject.  To get the South to join the Union.  And they didn’t speak about it to keep the South in the Union.  (When I say the ‘South’, think the planter elite, the ruling minority power in the South.  This elite few had the majority of slaves.  Most southerners couldn’t afford slaves and worked their own small farms.  The yeoman farmers Jefferson would wax philosophical about.)

The majority of slaves were in the south.  They also were the majority of the southern population.  This was a sticking point at the Constitutional Convention.  The South wanted to count slaves in determining congressional representation.  But you count citizens to determine your number of representatives.  Not property.  The northerners did not get to count their cattle in determining their number of representatives.  So the South shouldn’t count their slaves.  The South, of course, disagreed.  For if they were to be a part of the Union, not simply a region ruled by the North, it was necessary to count their slaves.  And if they couldn’t?  No union.  So they compromised.  With the Three-Fifths Compromise.  They would count a slave as 3/5 a citizen.  It gave the South a greater representation in Congress than their citizenry allowed.  But it ‘balanced’ the political power between the North and the South.  And brought the southern states into the Union.

When the Democrats Did Not Like Immigration

After winning our independence, we got the Northwest Territories (the land north of the Ohio River) from the British.  The northerners got their way with this northern land.  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery in this territory.

Then came the Louisiana Purchase.  The North wanted to exclude slavery from all of this land.  The South didn’t.  That would tip the balance of power in favor of the North.  So they compromised.  With the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  There would be some slavery in the new territory.  But not above the bottom border of Missouri (the 36th parallel).  Except in Missouri (a slave-state).  Which they added at the same time with Maine (a free-state).  To maintained the balance of power.

But the population continued to grow in the North.  Those in the South could see the writing on the wall.  The immigration into the northern states would tip the balance of power in the House to the North.  So they focused on controlling the judiciary.  The president (who nominated).  And the Senate (which confirmed).  What they couldn’t win by popular vote they’d simply legislate from the bench.  And dirty, filthy party politics was born.  The party machine.  And the Democratic Party.

It Takes a Republican

Martin Van Buren created it.  And, at the time, he had but one goal.  To keep the issue of slavery from ever being an issue again.  Which the Democrats did until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.  The North wanted to abolish slavery from the founding.  But the planter elite, then the Democrats, fought them every step of the way.  So they could maintain their power. 

But it was more than just power.  It was that elite status.  That they were superior.  It had gone beyond King Cotton.  The south had manufacturing.  Some of which was even more profitable than cotton.  But manufacturing couldn’t give you what cotton could.  An aristocratic planter elite that was so elite that it could own human life.  This was Old World aristocracy alive and well in the New World.

Anyway, all the legislation and court cases that led up to the Civil War had one thing in common.  All people trying to maintain the institution of slavery were Democrats.  The big ones, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraskan Act of 1854 and the Dred Scott ruling of 1854 were all pushed/won by Democrats.  The new Republican Party finally denied the Democrats.  A Republican president (Abraham Lincoln) made slavery a moral issue in the Civil War with his Emancipation Proclamation (which didn’t free a single slave but it made it politically impossible for France or Great Britain to recognize the Confederacy or enter the war on her behalf).  Four years of war and some 600,000 dead later, the North prevailed and the Union sounded the death knell for slavery in America.  Then the Republican Congress passed and the states ratified the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.  The Republicans had, finally, abolished slavery.

Ignorance or Arrogance?

The Democrats can talk about Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Well, a little.  More Democrats voted against it than did Republicans.  And a Democrat, segregationist and KKK Exalted Cyclops, Robert Byrd, filibustered for 14 hours during an 83-day Democrat filibuster.  But a lot of Democrats did vote for the Civil Rights Act.  So, yeah, they can talk about that.  But they had absolutely nothing to do with the freeing of the slaves.  They call slavery America’s original sin.  But that’s not fair.  It was only the planter elite and then the Democrat Party that practiced that sin.  And they fought hard to keep their sinful ways.

A Democrat should not invoke the struggle to end slavery to help his cause.  Especially a black Democrat.  For to do so marks the height of ignorance.  Or arrogance.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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