Our Dangerous Moment & The Future of Constitutionalism

We live in exceedingly strange times. But we cannot let that numb us to the fact that we are witnessing a sitting President attempt to overthrow American democracy. And he is being aided by Republicans who know better. There’s a great piece on The Bulwark about Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin. This gist is, he knows the charges of election fraud are a lie. He knows Biden won. But he doesn’t care because he’s got to stand with Trump’s Republicans in Wisconsin. Tim Alberta also has an excellent investigative piece that documents similar happenings in Michigan. This is not normal.

But I wanted to focus on a particular comment by Senator Johnson. He said how much Trump’s supporters, the people at his rallies, “absolutely love America.” Let’s put aside what Trump’s lying to them says about what he thinks about America. When asked if those at Progressive rallies also love America, Johnson insisted: “Absolutely not. Bernie Sanders and AOC want to fundamentally change our country. And you can’t love something you want to fundamentally change.” Let’s put aside that President Abraham Lincoln wanted to fundamentally change America by abolishing slavery and establishing a new birth of freedom. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments changed the country, making the country Lincoln helped save worthy of the saving.

But my thought was on the sort of disagreement that is an essential feature of American constitutionalism. And the necessity of recognizing that those whom we disagree with can still love the country. Constitutionalism was born of disagreement—especially about religion. We are going to continue to disagree about constitutional issues. Yet we need to get better about acknowledging that our disagreements can occur even while we share foundational constitutional commitments. We need to get better about understanding the terms of our disagreement within our shared constitutional space—to better understand what we share in common in our tribal present. The future of American constitutionalism depends on it, and I hope The Constitutionalist can contribute to this effort. I also hope it can affirm the things we must fundamentally agree on—things like free and fair elections, which are the foundation of our constitutional system.

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