How False History Props Up the Right

From Consortium News:  http://consortiumnews.com/2013/08/17/how-false-history-props-up-the-right/

By Robert Parry
August 17, 2013

There is a logical way to think about governance – one that was shared by the key Framers of the U.S. Constitution – that the federal government should have sufficient authority to do what is necessary to fulfill the goals that the document laid out about promoting the general welfare and protecting the nation.

Put differently, the actual “originalist” thinking behind the Constitution was what might be called “pragmatic nationalism,” not what today’s Right tries to pretend it was, an ideological commitment to a tightly constrained federal government hemmed in by a strong system of “states’ rights.”

Indeed, the “original” thinking behind the Constitution was almost the opposite of the right-wing canard. The key Framers – George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris (who authored the famous Preamble) – all believed that a vibrant federal government was needed to control the squabbling states which had pushed the new country to the brink of disaster under the Articles of Confederation.

In other words, the Right’s modern interpretation of the Founding Principles was not shared by the key Framers of the Constitution. Instead, the Right’s position on the Constitution apes the opposition to the Constitution by the Anti-Federalists, who warned that the new federal structure would subordinate the states to the central government and endanger slavery.

Despite that real history, today’s Right has largely succeeded in distorting the Founding Narrative to convince vast numbers of lightly educated Americans that – by joining with the Tea Party – they are defending the Constitution as the Framers devised it when, in reality, they are channeling the views of those who fiercely opposed the Constitution.

This historical issue is important because as the empirical case for “small government” ideology collapses – amid failures of “supply-side economics,” austerity in the face of recession, “free-market” extremism that let the banks run wild, anti-scientific stances denying global warming, etc. – all the right-wingers have left is this claim they are upholding the Framers’ original vision, an emotional tug on many Americans who dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and unfurl yellow flags with a coiled snake saying: “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Yet, the reality is that key drafters of the Constitution were staunch advocates of a strong central government invested with all the necessary powers to build a young nation and to protect its hard-won independence. Article One, Section Eight authorized a series of powers, including to “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States” and “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.”

In Federalist Paper 44, Madison expounded on what has become known as the “elastic clause,” writing: “No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that wherever the power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it, is included.”

At the time of the Constitutional Convention, Madison favored even a greater concentration of power in the central government, wanting to give Congress the authority to veto state laws, a proposal that was watered-down into declaring federal statutes the supreme law of the land and giving federal courts the power to judge state laws unconstitutional.

Continue reading at:  http://consortiumnews.com/2013/08/17/how-false-history-props-up-the-right/

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