Perry and the Constitution

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Anyone with any doubts that Rick Perry is a theocrat can mosey on over to a Yahoo! News writeup of seven changes the governor of Texas would like to make to the Constitution, as he explains in his book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington. They look like quite the grab-bag at first glance, but they are uniformly bad or unnecessary:

  1. Abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution.
  2. Congress should have the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a two-thirds vote.
  3. Scrap the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.
  4. End the direct election of senators by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment.
  5. Require the federal government to balance its budget every year.
  6. The federal Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman in all 50 states.
  7. Abortion should be made illegal throughout the country.
Notice that Perry's first two proposed changes are both direct attacks on the independence of the judiciary. The third sounds good, but would be unnecessary if the electorate really were in favor of lower taxes, and (if not), it would be easily circumvented with another tax. The fourth is unnecessary. The fifth is absurd: In a time of national emergency (like a real war), the government should be able to borrow and, absent a free banking system, the amendment could be overridden by the confiscatory mechanism like inflation, anyway. Finally, the last two reveal as a misconception that Perry considers "states' rights" a check against tyranny, or (and, much more important) that he believes the Constitution serves as a check on government power. That last is particularly disturbing, given Perry's track record as someone who is good at quietly amassing lots of power.

If we elect Perry, we may well find ourselves wishing we had an incompetent President.

-- CAV


Mark Lindholm said...

I still have doubts that Perry is a theocrat. Not to defend the guy, but theocracy is a word with a pretty clear definition, and these things are not it.

The last two items are the only religion-oriented ones. If we define theocrat as a person who wants to be elected president on a platform of making gay marriage and abortion illegal (hypothetically, for this is not Perry's stated platform, but something he wrote in a book a while back), then what do we call rule by unelected priests with no accountability except the voices in their heads? Would they be super-duper-theocrats?

Kyle Haight said...

I somewhat disagree with you about Perry's item (4). Switching to direct election of Senators removed a significant check from the federal government and created a major shift in the balance of power. By making the power bases of the House and Senate more alike it made it easier for factions to capture control of both.

That said, this is a structural issue and shouldn't be where we focus attention.

Vigilis said...

Gus, consider two of the major campaign positions set in stone by the incumbent president, who started with friendly control of both houses.

Has Obama been motivated to or able to withdraw prisoners from Guantanamo, or to end any unpopular wars?

Likewise, Perry's assurances, while no doubt comforting to hardliners (evangelicals), carry no more gravity than Obama's have to the electorate at large.

Perry is now he only non-lawyer, economic conservative with a real chance of winning the nomination.

The Governor is also a far better campaigner than John McCain. While nowhere among my top 6 choices, the Governor can overturn not only the current administration, but stop its errant economic policies when his houses are friendly.

More importantly, however, his selection of SUPCO appointees will certainly be conservatives.

Gus Van Horn said...


I am using the word in the sense that Perry clearly thinks that his religious beliefs should be enacted into law. Also, I didn't think anyone would take ALL of my objections as what I regard as evidence that Perry wants to mix religion and government.

To answer your question with a question: Suppose we elected Pat Robertson and a religious conservative Congress, and they passed a law making attendance at church on Sunday mandatory. Would they be any less theocrats than unlected priests? If your answer is, "no," then you understand the sense of the word as I used it.


I have to give you that one, both in terms of appointment of senators being a check and in terms of it not being worthy of the kind of effort needed to change the Constitution.


He probably would run into resistance for his religious agenda, but what he did accomplish as governor or Texas makes me wonder whether the likely (?) repeal of ObamaCare (that may or may not result in momentum in the opposite direction) would be worth it. His likely Supreme Court appointees being conservative is cold comfort. What KIND of conservative?

And sure, he's a better campaigner than McCain. Obama, judging by his results, was also a better campaigner than McCain. Who cares who wins if the winner isn't going to do us much good?


Anonymous said...

During a war or another type of national emergency, why shouldn't funding of necessary services be absolutely voluntary?


Gus Van Horn said...


That's a good question, and I find that I haven't a good answer to it off-hand. Certainly, the government shouldn't be able to confiscate wealth later to pay for such loans (assuming that they're proper), and the circumstances under which loans could be made would have to be carefully defined.

That said, in today's political and cultural climate, a budget balancing requirement would be circumvented.

This does bring up something about Perry that bothers me: Look at what all he wants to do through changing the Constitution! It's as if he has no confidence in the ability of people in the culture to change, and begin making rational decisions, but that we have to be goaded into having a free society.


Anonymous said...

That last point on Perry is good. I'm highly suspect of anyone who wants to primarily use politics to change things, as if rational laws are possible without rational culture.