One of the right’s defining traits is its belief that whatever policy it dislikes is not allowed by the Constitution. This is why GOP candidates make the absurd claims that everything from Medicare to Social Security to unemployment insurance to belonging to the United Nations is unconstitutional. The logic appears to be that, since they do not approve of comfortable retirements for seniors or international treaty organizations, the Constitution must forbid them. During last night’s debate with opponent Chris Coons, Delaware GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell added the First Amendment to the list of constitutional provisions that only means what the right wants it to mean:
However, where the question has come between what is protected free speech and what is not protected free speech, the Supreme Court has always ruled that the communities, the local community, has the right to decide. The issue with the 9/11 mosque — that’s exactly where the battle is being fought, by the community members who are impacted by that, and I support that.
Yet, in another exchange in the same debate, O’Donnell exposed her Palin-like ignorance of the Court’s actual decisions:
QUESTION: A United States Senator has the opportunity to determine, in a way, the make up of [the Supreme Court.] So what opinions, of late, that have come from our high Court do you most object to?
O’DONNELL: Oh, gosh. Give me a specific one, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Actually, I can’t, because I need you to tell me which ones you object to.
O’DONNELL: I’m very sorry. Right off the top of my head I know that there are a lot but I’ll put it up on my website, I promise you.
O’Donnell’s claim that the First Amendment doesn’t protect people who dissent from their local community’s views would come as a huge shock to residents of Skokie, Illinois (who lost an effort to stop a neo-Nazi march) or just about anyone familiar with the Civil Rights Movement. But, it is also part of a much larger pattern among GOP candidates who profess to be experts on the Constitution even though they lack the most basic familiarity with the document.
When Joe Miller (R-AK) claims that Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits are unconstitutional, he clearly hasn’t read the parts of the Constitution, which enable Congress “to lay and collect taxes” and to “provide for the…general welfare of the United States.” When Sharron Angle (R-NV) claims that it is unconstitutional to belong to the UN, she must be unaware that the Constitution empowers the president “to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” When Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) lips drip with the words of interposition and nullification, they ignore the Constitution’s proclamation that federal law “shall be the supreme law of the land.”
Christine O’Donnell is obviously an unusually ignorant candidate — it’s not every day that a major party selects an anti-masturbation activist who wants to “stop the whole country from having sex” — but the sad reality is that she is hardly an outlier in today’s GOP. In state after state, the Republicans have selected candidates who don’t know the first thing about the Constitution they would swear an oath to defend.