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Republicans read the U.S. constitution aloud: A pack of tricks on the dead

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The Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives began its control of that august body by reading aloud the Constitution of the United States. Democrats jointed them in the exercise.

John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House, began the reading -- likely with tears in his eyes, he is a renowned weeper -- and applied his gravely voice to the preamble, that commences with the words "We the People."

The problem with the hallowed phrase "We the People" is that it did not apply to most of the people living in the United States when the Constitution was drafted in Philadelphia in 1787.

Consider the following passage on the apportioning of the number of members of the House of Representatives each state was to receive:

"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included in this Union according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."

The "other Persons," also known as slaves, were each to count as three-fifths of a Person in the determination of representation in the House. While slave owners were not prepared to concede any political or personal rights to those they owned, they were canny enough to insist on some level of representation for their states and districts depending on how many human chattels resided there.

In the Constitution of 1787, the word "Person" when referring to political office is followed by the word "he", thereby limiting the holding of political office to men. No rights for the female half of the population are mentioned in the document. In addition, the exclusively white male Founders who drafted the Constitution had little faith in the wisdom even of run of the mill white males when it came to choosing who should be the President and Vice President of the republic. To entrust this power to a reliable elite, they included in Article II of the Constitution the provision that each state should choose, in a manner to be decided on by the State Legislature, a number of Electors, equal to the total number of Senators and Representatives to which the state was entitled. At the time of the election of the President and Vice President, the electors were to meet in their respective states to cast ballots for these officers.

The Electoral College, as it is known, has largely become a dead letter in the choosing of the President and Vice President. It remains in the Constitution today, however. Technically the American electorate votes for Electors who meet to choose the President and the Vice President, but those on the lists of electors are pledged to vote for the candidates who are running. Almost always, but not always, the Electors vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged.

American political leaders of whatever stripe have always venerated the Constitution, regarding it with the reverence usually reserved by believers for Holy Scripture. Through the generations, school children have been taught to believe that it is an inspired document, drafted by the most gifted group of men ever to assemble to erect a system of government. (My own view is that the true miracle of American existence has been that the United States has functioned so well -- with only one Civil War to date -- despite the cumbersome machinery of government designed by the men in Philadelphia in 1787.)

Republicans like to think of themselves as "strict constructionists" who choose to be guided by the wishes of the Founders where the Constitution is concerned. Despite that conceit, the Constitution that was read aloud in the House of Representatives with John Boehner in the Speaker's chair was not the one drafted in 1787. The embarrassing bits about slaves being three-fifths of a person were not read aloud. Instead, the subsequent amendments that abolished slavery and granted women the vote were read.

Even those such as John Boehner who would like to claim that the work of the Founders was inspired by God -- the word "God" didn't make it into the Constitution -- were not prepared to let the American people hear the unexpurgated version of the document. The real purpose of the "strict constructionists" is to hold back the evolution of society, to keep the human, social and economic rights of the people as constrained as possible. According to Voltaire, "history is nothing but a pack of tricks that we play on the dead." The pomp and ceremony in Washington, as the Constitution was read aloud, was all in aid of the heirs to the white patriarchy established in the late 18th century.

A word about John Boehner

The fact that Boehner weeps sentimentally, mostly about his own career achievements, should not be taken to indicate that he has feelings of empathy for most human beings.

Here are some highlights from his voting record:

On Civil Rights:
Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Nov 2007)
Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)
Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)
Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)

On Corporations:
Voted NO on letting shareholders vote on executive compensation. (Jul 2009)
Voted YES on replacing illegal export tax breaks with $140B in new breaks. (Jun 2004)

On Crime:
Voted NO on enforcing against anti-gay hate crimes. (Apr 2009)
Voted NO on expanding services for offenders' re-entry into society. (Nov 2007)
Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons. (Jun 2000)
Voted YES on more prosecution and sentencing for juvenile crime. (Jun 1999)
Voted NO on maintaining right of habeas corpus in Death Penalty Appeals. (Mar 1996)
Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder. (Feb 1995)
Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment. (Apr 1994)

On Education:
Voted NO on $40B for green public schools. (May 2009)
Voted NO on additional $10.2B for federal education. (Nov 2007)
Voted NO on allowing Courts to decide on "God" in Pledge of Allegiance. (Jul 2006)
Voted NO on $84 million in grants for Black and Hispanic colleges. (Mar 2006)
Voted YES on allowing school prayer during the War on Terror. (Nov 2001)
Voted YES on allowing vouchers in DC schools. (Aug 1998)
Voted YES on vouchers for private & parochial schools. (Nov 1997)
Voted YES on giving federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer. (Mar 1994)

On Energy:
Voted NO on enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. (Jun 2009)
Voted NO on tax credits for renewable electricity. (Sep 2008)
Voted NO on tax incentives for energy production and conservation. (May 2008)
Voted NO on keeping moratorium on drilling for oil offshore. (Jun 2006)
Voted NO on prohibiting oil drilling & development in ANWR. (Aug 2001)
Voted NO on starting implementation of Kyoto Protocol. (Jun 2000)

On The Environment:
Voted NO on $2 billion more for Cash for Clunkers program. (Jul 2009)
Voted NO on protecting free-roaming horses and burros. (Jul 2009)
Voted NO on environmental education grants for outdoor experiences. (Sep 2008)
Voted NO on $9.7B for Amtrak improvements and operation thru 2013. (Jun 2008)
Voted NO on increasing AMTRAK funding by adding $214M to $900M. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on de-authorizing "critical habitat" for endangered species. (Sep 2005)
Voted YES on speeding up approval of forest thinning projects. (Nov 2003)

On Health Care:
Voted NO on regulating tobacco as a drug. (Apr 2009)
Voted NO on expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program. (Jan 2009)
Voted NO on giving mental health full equity with physical health. (Mar 2008)
Voted YES on denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare co-pay. (Feb 2006)
Voted NO on allowing re-importation of prescription drugs. (Jul 2003)
Voted YES on subsidizing private insurance for Medicare Rx drug coverage. (Jun 2000)

On Jobs:
Voted NO on restricting employer interference in union organizing. (Mar 2007)
Voted NO on increasing minimum wage to $7.25. (Jan 2007)

On War and Peace:
Voted YES on declaring Iraq part of War on Terror with no exit date. (Jun 2006)
Voted YES on authorizing military force in Iraq. (Oct 2002)

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