What’s the Matter with Akhil Amar: Update

I’ve just copied this update from the previous post:

[UPDATE: A better theory [about why Amar would even want to make his monolithically successful, even hegemonic theory about democracy in the Constitution seem an insurgent, embattled one]. As Amar goes about defending the health insurance law, including the individual mandate, as utterly constitutional — anything, that is, but a violation, actually an expression of the democracy and equality he sees as hardwired into the Constitution (sometimes despite the framers themselves!) from day one — he must reject, explicitly, the claim of rightists that the law is socialism and ergo to them un-American.

To make liberal policy not merely not un- but actually hyper-American — which is what liberal historians are always trying to do (and how’s that workin’ out for ya?) — requires staying vigilantly on the record, on behalf of liberal founding history, not against the right but against socialism, and especially against leftist critiques of founding history once associated so influentially with Beard, back in the dim, forgotten past. So Amar knows full well that the liberal, consensus theory of history (with its intriguing period connections to Forrest McDonald and cold-warrior Goldwater rightism) triumphed before he was ten, that nobody even remembers Beard today, thanks in part to, yes, Gordon Wood (though Morgan was really the leader in that effort, I think).

But loudly re-fighting the ancient Beard fight gives Amar and all liberals seeking hyperconstitutional support for the health insurance law a way to violently reject socialism. It’s an exercise that in its microcosmic way repeats, for today’s politics, the broad sweep of what liberal, consensus history has been trying to do for more than a half century. To no positive effect, either intellectually or politically, that I can see.]


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