Many of my blog pieces are inspired by “Morning Joe.” Given enough time, someone on the panel, most often Joe Scarborough will say something so ridiculous I have to respond. In the past few days he’s talked about the number of increased Republican seats in the House of Representatives since President Obama first took office. He presents it as if it were because of Republican ideas and policies as if that were the reason. Not once did he mention Gerrymandering and redistricting, often in Unconstitutional ways according to the courts. Not discussed was the impact of Republican pushed bills suppressing votes wherever they have control. Many introduced the day after the Supreme Court gutted enforcement of the Voter Rights Act. That’s typical Scarborough propaganda and because it’s what he always does. It didn’t stir me to write.
What did get my attention was his assertion that the Constitution of the United States was powerful enough to withstand a Trump Presidency as it has withstood Nixon, Bush and others. It was that assertion that spawned this piece because the Constitution has not now or ever been mine.
There is a misconception that the Constitution considered Black people as three-fifths of a person. The Constitution neither said or did anything to supercede existing State laws which universally didn’t consider Blacks any portion of a person. They had no rights whatsoever and were governed by Slave Codes. What the Constitution did was allot additional Congressional seats to States, primarily in the South where slaves were counted for that strict purpose as being worth three-fifths of a white person. The Constitution also didn’t recognize at all “Indians not taxed” which was all Indians on reservations or roaming free. It’s not their constitution either. Republicans have made a hero out of the late Justice Antonin Scalia who favored a strict interpretation of the Constitution as “originally intended.” The Constitution originally intended to codify by its silence, the horrors of slavery and the total lack of power for Blacks and Native Americans.
When the Constitution does speak of race it does so indirectly. Apparently race was just as uncomfortable to talk about then as now. It refers to, “other persons” or let the individual states determine who counted with language like, “such persons as any of the states now existing think proper to admit.” Its mention of slavery was couched in terms like, “persons held to service or labor.” There are those who defend the Constitution by saying it did not specifically affirm slavery. They feel it was somehow better to wink and nod at slavery and let the states take responsibility for what the Federal government would not. At best the Constitution ignored the plight of Black people. That’s why I can say it’s not mine.
The Constitution set up three allegedly co-equal branches of Government. The Executive (President), Legislative (Congress), and the Supreme Court. When initially created. Every office in every branch was inhabited by a white male. While a great deal of diversity relatively speaking has taken place since then. Two branches have never ceded that control and the third only for eight years. During those eight years it must be said that the Republicans in the Congress settled on a policy of obstruction and are now about the business of wiping out the legacy of the sole Black President.
You might ask, what of the court? The official arbiter of what is Constitutional and what is not. The Supreme Court is now and forever has been a hotbed of partisan politics. The Court gave us the Dred Scott Decision where Chief Justice Roger B Taney said, “The Founders Constitution regarded Blacks as so far inferior that they had no rights the white man was bound to respect, and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”
When no legal basis could be found to continue segregation in schools in Brown V Board of Education. They decided to desegregate schools but immediately muted their own decision calling for it to be implemented “with all deliberate speed” which set back desegregation for decades.
When the 1965 Voter Rights Act passed. The Supreme Court gutted the enforcement clause and as a result in the most recent election. Hundreds of thousands of voters were unable to vote that could have if not for their action. These are not the sole instances of the Constitution either being ignored or its meaning twisted on behalf of white people. One could make the case that every major piece of Civil or Voter Rights legislation was later weakened by the court. What good is the Constitution when it mostly serves one group? Not my constitution.
In America, the Constitution is revered. Elected officials and our military swear to uphold it. It was originally a compromise that protected the rights of slave states and the Electoral College is a remnant of those days. It acts eerily as it was intended when originally conceived. To provide an unnatural balance of power that serves rural and sparsely populated states and diminishing the power of the heavily populated centers. This is how we get a result where the popular vote doesn’t matter and white votes matter more than minorities.
Back to Morning Joe. The reason he can say the Constitution is strong enough to withstand even our worst Presidents. Is because he doesn’t stand to lose what some other Americans do. He will not be stopped and frisked or have his House of Worship surveilled. He will not see his community flooded with law enforcement, newly empowered to care even less about my life which matters even less than before. He will not lose his healthcare with no plan for replacement. His ability to vote is not at risk. No family member will be deported and hyper mass incarceration was never intended for him. His Constitution is doing for him what it always had. His Constitution… not mine.