If you listened to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's address on Thursday, you might have thought she was announcing an armed revolution. She opened with "Let us begin where our founders began in 1776. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another."
The good news is that there will be no revolution for now. The speaker was just awkwardly trying to equate President Trump with Great Britain's "oppressive monarch" George III and Democrats' impeachment efforts with the founding of our republic.
Pelosi wrapped herself so tightly in our nation's founding documents that in her first 90 words alone, she explicitly mentioned the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and "our founders," while quoting both the Declaration and Article II of the Constitution. She then went on to cite the Constitution's separation of powers and its check and balances, as well as the names and wise words of no less than four founding fathers, all as justification for Democrats' impeachment proceedings.
Pelosi even cited "our founders’ … firm reliance on divine providence," a profound irony for the leader of a party that considers a display of the Ten Commandments on public property to be a threat to freedom.
Pelosi's partner in impeachment, Rep. Adam Schiff, and the three anti-Trump law professors who led off the Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings on Wednesday were equally eager to blanket their passion for driving the president from office with the words of the founding. Rarely have the leaders of the Democratic party and their allies expressed such reverence for the founding documents and their authors. If only it were genuine.
What this crowd usually says about the Constitution is that it's a deeply flawed document, written by an oppressor class of dead white males, that ratified both the institution of slavery and the oppression of women.
Instead of lauding the Constitution as they did last week, they typically portray it as a document so obsolete that its text should not be taken literally. They embrace an alternative "living Constitution" which means not what the founders intended it to mean but what the more enlightened activist judges of today think it ought to mean.
They complain bitterly that the founding fathers stuck us with the "undemocratic" Electoral College and a Senate that gives small, deplorable red states the same number of senators as large, enlightened states like California and New York. They bemoan the Constitution's lack of "positive rights" such as rights to health care and welfare; find rights to abortion, same-sex marriage and the like in the document's "penumbras"; and disparage the unfashionable parts of the Bill of Rights.
Pelosi and company's attempt to tie their impeachment efforts to the founding is part of a larger Trump-era phenomena in which haters of the president wrap themselves in Constitution-evoking clichés while paradoxically displaying an increasing disregard for the actual Constitution.
You'll never hear the speaker and her allies cite the Second Amendment's right "to keep and bear arms" unless it's to argue that those words don't mean what they say. Similarly, they increasingly distance themselves from the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of expression and religion, which they see a dangerous enabler of politically incorrect speech and discrimination. And that's just the first two amendments in the Bill of Rights.
Pelosi and company's attempt to tie their impeachment efforts to the founding is part of a larger Trump-era phenomena in which haters of the president wrap themselves in Constitution-evoking clichés — "democratic norms," "abuse of power," and "above the law," are some of their favorites — while paradoxically displaying an increasing disregard for the actual Constitution.
Two examples of this uneasy relationship with the Constitution are Democrats' unyielding refusal to accept the legitimacy of the last presidential election — unseen since President Lincoln's election triggered the Civil War — and their refusal to recognize the supremacy of federal immigration law in sanctuary cities and states. By thumbing their nose at the Constitution's Supremacy Clause, they evoke memories of the cries for "states' rights" in the Jim Crow era.
Another troubling example is use by the president's opponents of politically motivated legal standards — what I call "Trump Law." This affront to the rule of law is well illustrated by novel, creatively broad definitions of criminal offenses (concerning bribery, perjury, obstruction of justice and the like) that are intended to apply only to this president and his associates and that threaten the constitutional guarantee of due process.
Equally illustrative is the creation by liberal federal judges of unprecedented, non-deferential standards for enjoining presidential actions, thus undermining the Constitution's separation of powers.
Several pages could be filled with additional examples of Democrats' increasing disregard for the Constitution. But it should already be clear that the reverence for the Constitution and its authors displayed by Pelosi and her allies this week is, at best, highly selective.
So let's take that reverence for what it's worth — a reminder that the words of the founding fathers are still persuasive — and hope it gives the left just a little bit of pause the next time they’re tempted to disparage the Constitution.