This morning will be the new House of Representative’s much-ballyhooed ceremonial reading of the Constitution. While some are trying to attack this new ritual as a waste of $1.1 million, I tend to agree with the idea that the money angle is not particularly relevant or intellectually honest. Rather, I think that the problem here is that the ceremony is inevitably fated to be devoid of substance, it will change nothing, and by making the Constitution an object of empty ritual, it will drain the actual meaning out of the document itself.
As proof, let Exhibit A be the efforts of Congressman Steve King of Iowa and Exhibit B the efforts of Daryl Metcalfe of Pennsylvania. Both would have Congress adopt into law statutes which would require that at least one parent of a child born in the geographic borders of the United States also be a citizen of the US in order for that child to also be a citizen. Remember, they’re using statutes. Statutes changing the way citizenship is derived. Statutes aimed at “anchor babies” and the granting of citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. Statutes introduced in to the House of Representatives on the very day that this phrase will be read out loud to the House as a reminder of a political commitment to respect the fundamental law of the United States:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
That would be the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Rep. King’s and Metcalf’s bills would, if enacted into law, contradict the Constitution. This is as close to a no-brainer as it gets.
King and Metcalf, if they really want to change the way citizenship is handed out, need to sponsor a resolution to amend the Constitution. They could do that, of course, but are choosing to do it by statute instead. Perhaps because they don’t think they would succeed in amending the Constitution (or they secretly fear they would succeed), but more likely because they value putting on a show of taking a stand against an imagined threat with questionable basis in reality more than focusing their efforts on trying to solve real problems — problems which Congress’ new leaders find politically convenient to backpedal upon (read: “break”) their promises to address.
So on the same day that this ceremonial reading of the Constitution is going to take place, it will be demonstrated to be an idle, empty ritual because no matter who controls Congress, no matter what rituals they hold, they will simply disregard the Constitution when it is politically convenient for them to do so. Which is why clear-eyed Americans should view this morning’s proceedings as merely an empty ritual.
Update: And it turns out, they’re not even going to read the whole thing — they’re going to bowdlerize it to leave out the historically embarrassing parts. (Thanks to Ken for reminding me of that great word.) I’d say, “If you’re going to do it at all, do it right,” but the whole thing is already a charade.