Last week, the Republican Party released a party platform which treats the Constitution as if it were a manifesto composed by Paul Ryan himself. The GOP platform would declare Medicaid unconstitutional. It inflates the Second Amendment into a license to obtain weapons of mass murder. It lavishes love on Citizens United, hates on Roe v. Wade, and tells gay Americans they can forget about that whole “equal protection of the laws” thing. Oh, and just in case there are any judges out there who can tell the difference between the Constitution and a Tea Party pamphlet, the GOP platform floats impeachment as the solution. Altogether, the GOP platform devotes six pages to its abomination of the Constitution.
The Democratic platform, by contrast, mentions the Constitution by name just five times — once to endorse a constitutional amendment permitting campaign finance reform, twice to tout the party’s support of faith-based initiatives, once to promise judicial appointees who show “faithfulness to our law and our Constitution,” and once to state that our homeland security policy “must always be in line with our Constitution.” There’s also an endorsement of the Equal Rights Amendment — an important symbolic goal, but, thanks to the good work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one that would provide women with few rights they do not already enjoy under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. There’s an endorsement of Roe. And there’s a statement that Democrats “will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms.” Where the GOP platform lays out a comprehensive rewrite of America’s most important document, casting aside the founders’ vision for a meaner society in which powerful interest groups can flourish, the Democratic platform barely mentions the document at all — and when it does it normally only does so in passing.
A little more than two years ago, Republican lawmakers filed a series of lawsuits challenging President Obama’s signature health care law. The lawsuits were widely mocked, even by leading conservative legal scholars, and for good reason. In the words of one leading conservative judge, the legal assault on health reform had no basis “in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent.”
Then Republicans bombarded the cable news shows with talking heads denouncing the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality. Op-ed pages swelled with peons to the GOP’s fake constitution. Candidates praised the lawsuits on the campaign trail. And Democratic officials were virtually silent on the law’s constitutionality in response. Within just a couple of years, the GOP’s PR blitz turned a joke of a legal argument into one four Supreme Court justices were willing to sign their name to — and a fifth agreed to almost in its entirety.
The Democratic platform’s near silence on the Constitution shows that Democrats still have not learned their lesson. If one party touts nonsense, and the other is silent, then nonsense will begin to sound reasonable to American voters who have no other alternative.