Tag Archive: Constitution

Second Amendment and other constitutional rights are not absolute

Messaging Matters2

In the current gun violence debate, the National Rifle Association and its supporters often cite the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for their opposition to sensible gun safety laws. However, as guest poster Kenny Pick recently wrote here, such a view falsely turns the Second Amendment into a “super right.” In fact, most individual rights under the U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment and other amendments in the Bill of Rights, are not so absolute; rather, they are subject to reasonable limits. Here is a brief and partial list of examples:

How to Frame the Affordable Care Act Win

After suffering a historic political loss via the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are seeking to make lemonade by characterizing the ACA as a massive tax on everyone. Let’s not help them do this.

For example, I’ve heard Republicans such as Rush Limbaugh call the ACA (please don’t call it “Obamacare” — that’s pejorative right-wing framing designed to evoke Big Government and the Nanny State) “the biggest tax increase in the history of the world.” I guarantee that Republican politicians will be using phrases like “massive tax increase” over and over. But then I hear Democrats saying “no, it’s not the the largest tax increase in history, there have been bigger ones.” That’s a terrible response. It’s like a criminal lawyer telling the court, “my client didn’t kill 26 people as the prosecution alleges, he only killed 20.” You never want to argue within the frame established by your opponent. That’s playing on a field tilted against you.

Instead, here are some useful points to remember regarding the ACA and the Supreme Court ruling:

How About Saying “Elected Representatives” Instead of “Government”?

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
President Ronald Reagan, inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1981

For over 30 years, Republicans and conservatives have tried to turn “government” into a dirty word. But maybe the term “government” is a bit of a straw man created by Republicans in the first place.

In common usage, to be “governed” generally means to be controlled or ordered around. That’s often a negative connotation. A “governor” on a car or motorbike engine limits the top speed. And how about that staple of literature and Masterpiece Theater episodes, the strict, bossy English “governess”? It hardly seems a coincidence that Republicans, from Reagan on down, have so frequently referred to “government” (especially the federal government, especially when Democrats control the Executive Branch) in a negative way.

But perhaps progressives are mistaken if they embrace or get hung up on the word “government” rather than its concept.┬áThe word “government” only appears in the U.S. Constitution a few times, so there’s no natural requirement to use it when referring to the protection and security that Democrats and progressives want as a check on individual, group, and corporate excess. Instead, the Constitution largely talks about our elected representatives, i.e., our U.S. House members, Senators, and President (and the various state constitutions likewise cover elected representatives at the state level) as the agents through which we get things done.