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Newsweek on Conservatives and the Constitution


The last time Newsweek covered this topic, it just made stuff up. (Its post, full of imaginary details about the Republicans’ “Pledge to America,” still has no correction appended.) So its latest offering has to be counted as an improvement.

The main line of criticism in Andrew Romano’s article is not new — conservatives “worship” the Constitution and yet seek to use its amendment process: huge paradox! — but he does add a lot of incoherence. It’s okay, for example, to speak of the Constitution in “religious” terms as long as you’re not being “divisive” (=conservative) when you do it; a healthy respect for the Constitution is compatible with seeking to amend it, again unless you’re a conservative trying to make both points.

Romano writes that “nothing in recent jurisprudence suggests that the past few decades of governing have been any less constitutional than the decades that preceded them.” If he means that “recent jurisprudence” blesses “the past few decades of governing,” then his statement is a truism with no implications at all about the truth or falsity of the conservative critique of those decades of jurisprudence and governing. If he means that recent jurisprudence is sound, then he just disagrees with the conservatives without explaining why they’re wrong and the statement adds nothing to his argument.

I’m certainly open to the possibility that conservatives too often read their policy views into the Constitution, which is a case Romano takes a stab at making. But this isn’t a persuasive critique.


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