Sunday, November 13, 2016

"...then perhaps that eighteenth century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth century paper shredder"

Several times in the past two years, watching the Trump campaign and the media which created and nurtured it,  I've remembered some words by one of my great heroes that sounded wonderful and stirring at the time but now sound not only hollow but dangerous.  I am referring to the great Barbara Jordan's opening speech at the start of the Nixon impeachment hearings.   I am, of course talking about the small snippet that is almost always made meaningless by being taken out of the context of the entire thing just as those few lines from The Reverend Martin Luther King's Dream speech is about the sum total of what he said which people know about.

My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total.  I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.

Those words, given in the great voice of the great Barbara Jordan are stirring as few others said in the last fifty years.   In the context of what followed,  that faith was proven, over and over again, to have been misplaced and, unless given in context, dangerously romantic.  Given her experience, having grown up in the American apartheid system and having, through massive struggle by other Black People and her own struggle, her view of the Constitution on July 25, 1974 must have seemed quite different from what we have since learned it is.  In her defense, she could not have anticipated that Richard Nixon would entirely escape punishment for his massive crimes through the pardon granted by his hand-chosen replacement Vice President, Gerald Ford.  She could not have foreseen the campaign by the corporate media and the ever less honorable oligarchs and Republicans to promote Nixonian Republican politics which would, six short years later, produce the Reagan administration which would become, objectively, by actual record, the all time most criminal administration up to that time.   The movie and TV star, Ronald Reagan and his handlers managed the media to guarantee that he and many of the biggest criminals in his administration would not only be entirely unpunished for their crimes and that that would only be a temporary point or repose in the use of every weakness and lapse of the Constitution, especially as interpreted in the Supreme Court in the previous decade to further corrupt American democracy and to commit ever more massive crimes.

Before going on, I think it would be good for you to listen to her speech in its entirety, keeping in mind the subsequent history of the next forty-two years.

The speech is a masterpiece of logical argument in which that money quote so often snipped can't be honestly characterized unless you get to the end of the argument.   I especially want to call your attention to the conclusion Barbara Jordan reached about what should be done if the Constitution wasn't up to the task of reigning in and stopping criminal behavior by presidents, which we have seen and are about to get the worst lesson in our history, it doesn't.  

"If the impeachment provision in the Constitution of the United States will not reach the offenses charged here, then perhaps that eighteenth century Constitution should be abandoned to a twentieth century paper shredder." 

With the subsequent events after Barbara Jordan expressed her full belief and confidence in the Constitution, we now know the impeachment provision of the Constitution of the United States along with the First Amendment as interpreted by modern Courts have not only not protected us against the highest crimes and misdemeanors it has enabled them.   In the context of free lying in the massively amplified power of the electronic media - effectively under the total control of massive corporations and billionaires, combined with the legal erudition hired to find every weakness in that 18th century document that can be exploited, with the cooperation of judges and justices who play with words to permit their criminality,  the Constitution, which must have seemed almost miraculous to someone with Barbara Jordan's experience up to that night, has proven to be a danger to egalitarian democracy, honest government and a decent life for Americans.   That very Constitution, due to its 18th century poetic non-specificity  contains within it the potential to being twisted to become a tool used by powerful people without honor, without honesty, without a sense of moral obligation strong enough to inhibit their desire to steal and oppress far more than it was the document that Barbara Jordan placed her faith in on the night when she, by virtue, not of the 18th century founders but by the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, sat considering articles of impeachment against a twice-elected president for his massive crimes.

The Constitution is no guarantee that the Supreme Court justices which give it its definition at any given time will be honorable or honest or even have any regard for equality under the law.  It is no guarantee that corrupt presidents won't get elected by a duped and corrupted people, corrupted by the ubiquitously powerful corporate mass, electronic media that didn't exist in the 18th century.  No legal document can guarantee that it won't be corruptly used.  The Constitution is no guarantee that Senators, such as those of the Democratic party in the past fifty-years, cowed by the power of that media to attack them and get them removed from office will do their duty, sacrificing their careers and reject nominees who have a record of attacking equal justice, of attacking the very things that, for a short time, made Barbara Jordan, finally able to be elected to Congress from a recently Jim Crow state. Barbara Jordan's 1974 Constitution was made quite a different thing by those laws in the short bubble of time between their adoption and today when the Rehnquist and Roberts courts have gutted them.

With the election of the massively racist, fascist Donald Trump - elected, not by the popular vote but by the Electoral College, another feature of that 18th century document - anyone expressing complete and total faith in it is a fool or a tool of the oligarchs who, through their hired Ivy League class lawyers, gamed it and bent it to their favor.   That Constitution whose reverence is taught in rote fashion without any real understanding, certainly not with the deep and nuanced understanding that the full argument Barbara Jordan presented that night, will always carry the same potential risks that have been exploited by men with no honor and complete and total greed for power and plunder.

We are about to reap the whirlwind that was sown by court rulings permitting the media to lie and to become the tool to corrupt The People, their votes and every government institution, including the very FBI which is supposed to enforce the law.  The corruption is complete and the elite, Ivy League class lawyers, even those who we elected as Democrats to protect us from them have bought into those same legal theories that produced what we are living through.  The corruption is complete and it is done through the many and fatal weaknesses contained in that Constitution, the proof of that unfolds with the Trump presidency.  Reality is real and it is the ultimate test of any theory.  Only a total fool or a corrupt one will deny that.

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