USA: Who Owns the Constitution? Democrats or Republicans?

By James E. Jennings* – InDepthNews

ATLANTA, Georgia | 5 July 2024 (IDN) — July 4, US Independence Day— the day MAGA guru Steve Bannon finally went to prison, the US Supreme Court voted along party lines 6-3 that a president could not be held liable for any act considered within the scope of his official duties, apparently including even calling for an insurrection or suborning perjury, as in overturning the vote totals in Georgia.

Bannon claimed loudly that if Biden is re-elected, “Americans will lose the Constitution.”  That same night in an address to the nation about the Supreme Court decision, President Biden claimed the high ground by defending the Constitution.

The court’s decision, he said, “undermines the rule of law” and strengthens Trump’s “assault on our democracy.”   He repudiated the decision for adding new powers to the presidency as a continuation of the Court’s “…attack in recent years on a wide range of long-established legal principles in our nation.”

So, who actually owns the Constitution? Democrats or Republicans? Whose vision for “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is correct?  Who gets to “establish justice?”

Because it’s true that one man’s justice is another man’s revenge.  Who determines what belongs in the category of “the general welfare”?  That may affect who gets to receive welfare checks.  And what exactly are the blessings of liberty?  Will it mean more fat for the fat cats, or a progressive, fair tax system for everybody?

Since a constitution represents an agreed arrangement among citizens of a state as to what is their highest value, and how civic power is distributed in its major offices, getting it right is a big deal. Aristotle taught, and many historical examples show, that if the people of a state cannot agree on these basics, then civil strife is inevitable.

Freedom is the highest value

In a democracy, freedom is the highest value, as the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution both declare.  As a sober reminder of that precious right, the “United” States did not actually become united overnight, but only after nearly three-quarters of a million citizens died in the Civil War’s costly campaign for freedom.

Both sides in that terrible conflict claimed that they fought for the Constitution—the North thought that the “Seccesh” (or Successionists, as Johnny Reb was called), had illegitimately withdrawn from the Union, while the Confederates asserted it was their right according to that same Constitution.

Consequently, the claim of both political parties today that the other is destroying the Constitution is frighteningly serious.  If most of our citizens continue on that path, a period of dreadful bloodshed lies ahead.

The high court’s July 1 ruling specifically affects Donald Trump, since he is now the one under federal indictment and is accused of aiding and abetting the crimes of January 6, 2021, and—not incidentally—he also happens to be the Republican candidate who could return to the White House in January.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator John Fetterman put the solution simply: the Constitution will be safe, he said, if we just “Don’t elect crooks.”  The problem with that is that we must all agree on who is the biggest crook—and on that our citizens simply do not agree.

According to her dissent on of the court’s majority opinion, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor raised the fear that the court has “…created a law-free zone around the President,” and that now the acts within presidential power may specifically include such things as assassinating political opponents, staging a coup, or taking a bribe.

If that’s true, Trump is immune from prosecution for provoking the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, soliciting ballot stealing in Georgia following the 2020 election, and instructing Vice President Mike Pence to return the Electoral College ballots to the states where fake electors could overturn them.

It was different when the United States was first established. In 1772, when an officer suggested that George Washington become king, he wrote back that “[I rebuke the Idea] with abhorrence, and reprehend (it) with severity.”

Not so Donald Trump. His minions seem determined to give him practically unlimited power. Today George Washington’s quaint modesty would be laughed out of town by the MAGA Republicans and the servile US Supreme Court.

Alarming

Even more alarming than the reality that six Republican justices have read new powers into the Constitution is the fact that they have repudiated the very historical basis of that document.  After all, it was created to prevent the very acts that the court now seems to blandly approve.

No previous court in the last 235 years since the ratification of the Constitution has envisioned putting such powers in the hands of the chief executive. If that is now the law, the nation owes Richard Nixon an apology. All he did was sponsor a burglary to keep him in office.

In 2020, Trump actually tried to steal votes. But the Supreme Court seems to believe that a president’s oath to uphold and support the laws and see that they are faithfully executed also gives him the power to break those very laws.

We may also need to apologize to Lewis Carrol for having doubted that Alice in Wonderland is not a fantasy but a true story.  We can’t say as the Cheshire Cat did, “I never get involved in politics.”  The reality is that each of us is deeply involved simply by virtue of being citizens.

It’s shocking to realize that some of King George’s offenses against the American colonies—the very ones that provoked the Revolutionary War—were exactly the same ones Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court voted to excuse.  Maybe the so-called conservative Justices should at least have read the Declaration of Independence before being appointed to the highest court in the land, as most eighth graders are required to do.  The final item in that document’s 27 accusations against England’s King George was this:

“He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us….”

That’s precisely what the Federal Indictment by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith accused Trump of doing up to and on January 6, 2020: “To conspire…to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election.” Now the court seems to want to overlook it.  That act alone would have been enough in the 18th Century to kick Old King George to the curb. But the Declaration of Independence listed 26 other grave offenses before that damning 27th one.

Some of the additional accusations against the king sound like they were written today.  That’s because many of the identical important issues are involved: executive interference in trials by jury (Nos. 8 and 9), unfair appointment of judges (No. 9), as well as imposing arbitrary laws (Nos. 1-3 and No. 20) and even exercising control over the borders (No. 7).

These are all so plain that they stare junior high school students in the face the minute they open their textbooks on American History.  You would think that eminent justices on the US Supreme Court, several of whom were political hacks for much of their careers, should at least be required to know as much as an eighth grader.

…………….

*James E. Jennings, PhD, is President of Conscience International and Executive Director of US Academics for Peace. In [IDN-InDepthNews], the flagship agency of the non-profit International Press Syndicate Group.