Elie Mystal, a "justice correspondent" for the left-wing publication The Nation, made waves during a recent appearance on ABC's The View for stating his opinion that the Constitution is "kind of trash." In case you missed it, here were his remarks:
On the one hand, it's always fun to pick this stuff apart logically. Here's a wealthy, privileged pundit complaining about a system of government that allowed upward social mobility never duplicated by any other civilization in the history of mankind.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out how free Mystal would be to criticize the government of, say, North Korea or Sudan if he was living there. If the program itself wasn't pulled from the air immediately, he would be. But luckily for him, he prosperously dwells in a land where he can get paid lavishly to criticize the government without fear of reprisal. And why? Because the document he considers "trash," the document he pretends doesn't do anything for people who "look like him," protects his right to do so.
It's a fascinating, if not mind-numbing, suspension of coherence to behold.
But while others who appreciate the brilliance of the unique system of government bequeathed to us by those imperfect Framers in Philadelphia may get angry about Mystal's slur, I think it's outstanding.
To be clear, I don't agree with him at all. In fact, I think his is a demonstrably buffoonish and thoroughly self-defeating conclusion, as demonstrated above. But I wholeheartedly agree that we should all be honest about what we believe. I'd much prefer dealing with, and have much more respect for, someone who is forthright and candid about their hatred of the Constitution than someone who attempts to gaslight me into believing it says things it doesn't say.
In other words:
- Tell me you disagree with the Constitution's limitation on presidential power rather than pretending the Constitution validates authoritarianism.
- Tell me you disagree with the Constitution's established federalism and protection of state autonomy rather than pretending the Constitution affirms unitary domination by the national government.
- Tell me you disagree with the Constitution's delegation of all reserved powers to the states rather than pretending the Constitution permits congressional intrusion on any issue under the auspices of "commerce power."
- Tell me you disagree with the Constitution's granting of superior power to the legislative branch rather than pretending the Constitution creates co-equal branches or permits a tyranny of the judiciary.
We spend so much time talking past each other in our political and social dialogue because so many are obtuse about what they really believe.
Now, do I think Mystal's arguments fall flat? Absolutely. To dismiss the usefulness or value of the Constitution because its human authors were, well, human, is self-defeating. What system of government devised by man would be free of this fatal flaw? The real concern should not be whether the framers of our system of government had blind spots, but whether those framers had the humility to acknowledge that possibility and therefore create a mechanism by which future generations could identify and rectify those errors.
In layman's parlance, we should desire a system that doesn't declare itself to be in perfect form, but rather espouses both the motivation and the method for each successive generation to move closer towards a "more perfect union."
That's the real genius of the Constitution.
Elie attacks the document because of his antipathy towards its authors and its abuse by slaveholders and segregationists of the Democrat Party. But that's a surprising sophistry from a man who is usually thoughtful and logical in his commentaries.
Remember, that very document that was abused by proponents of slavery and segregation was also used effectively by the opponents of slavery and segregation. Unlike countless others, the U.S. Constitution provided a means of corrective action that is far from accessible in most other civilizations in both ancient or modern times.
And to the degree some of its provisions have proven unwise or inefficient, the flexibility provided by the Article V amending process guarantees a "living" system that is capable of adjustment to contemporary social needs. That's how the same system that once permitted men looking like Elie Mystal to be unjustly and immorally enslaved, now frees those same men to rise to positions of national prominence and wear $1,000 suits while sharing their opinions for great profit on broadcast television.
There are millions of poor souls the world over who would have done, or who would do anything, to live under such glorious "trash."