Another round at “Line of Fire,” the blog for Broadside Books, where Tea Party leader Michael Patrtick Leahy and I are engaging in a civil yet incisive discussion of my contention that the Tea Party has distorted founding history to fit current political aims.
Circling now around the Constitution. In the earlier round, Leahy called it a secular covenant; he also called its adoption and ratification “authentically democratic.” So I say:
I suspect there’s something about your use of “covenant” that needs to be unpacked. Is “covenant” a reference to the incontrovertible fact that the document was written via delegation and ratified via representation?
Nobody can disagree that the Constitution was “formed in an intense, elaborate national discussion that took place over four long years from 1787 to 1791.” But I do infer that we have a clear and stark disagreement over the role of democracy in both the convention and ratification, and in this regard I have a disagreement with many liberal historians too. I think the convention’s purpose, as Randolph announced in calling the meeting to order, was to redress what he called “insufficient checks” against what he was not alone in calling “the democracy.”. . .
I use the term “secular covenant” to describe the binding nature of the Constitution. It represents an agreement between the citizens, the state governments, and the federal government as to how we consent to be governed. The terms of this secular covenant are contained in the words of the Constitution and its subsequent amendments, and their meaning is the plain meaning of those words. The method of changing the terms of the secular covenant is found in the amendment process of the document itself. No other means of changing the terms–either expansive judicial interpretrations or executive usurpations–are authentic. . . .
(Stay tuned again . . . )