The Littlest Meap

A bad week for inalienable rights

Posted by: meaplet on: March 9, 2009

Last week was not so good for inalienable rights, was it?

The week started out with Rush Limbaugh at CPAC claiming that “We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, Liberty, Freedom. And the pursuit of happiness.” Which is all well and good, except for the bitter reminder that these rights (with the exception of freedom) are outlined in the Declaration and not the Constitution. (On the other hand, I’m a pretty big fan of the formation of a more perfect union, the establishment of justice, the insurance of domestic tranquility, provision for the common defense, promotion of general welfare and the security of the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. Schoolhouse Rocks, anyone?)

Limbaugh went on to explain that “We conservatives think all three are under assault.” And you know what, I generally disagree with Rush Limbaugh, but this is one case where I definitely agree with him. After all, later last week in arguing on the pro-Prop 8 side in Strauss v. Horton, Ken Starr claimed that inalienable rights are those that cannot be taken away without appropriate process and accordingly that in the State of California, a vote by a simple majority of the electorate constituted appropriate process. This argument had me quaking in my rights-loving boots, and I can only imagine Limbaugh was equally concerned, right?

And you know what else happened last week and the week before? The Justice Department released the Yoo memos, which the Bush administration relied upon, and which claims that rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the US Constitution can be overturned at the will of the President for anyone assumed to be a terrorist. (Terrorists still, fortunately, can rely upon their Second-Amendment rights and are welcome to form a militia if they chose.) At least those were overturned 5 days before Bush left office, so that’s a front where I don’t currently have to worry about that particular subset of things I like to think of as my rights as a US Citizen.

So clearly I am concerned about rights, and I’m concerned about rights slipping away. I too value Life, Liberty, Freedom [to Marry Whom I Choose, for instance?], and the Pursuit of Happiness. So maybe I too am a conservative? Clearly Bush, Yoo and Starr are not, by Limbaugh’s definition.

2 Responses to "A bad week for inalienable rights"

“Inalienable” means “inalienable except by majority vote”? Um, right.

I’m not convinced conservatism is particularly concerned with any of these things. Then again, the only self-described conservative whose commentary I read on anything like a regular basis is Andrew Sullivan, whose philosophy is a little antique. He describes his conservatism as a skepticism about what government is able to accomplish. Ornery question-asker that I am, I always have a place in my heart for skepticism, at least when I’m not getting starry-eyed about our president. But that’s most definitely not where American conservatism is right now, and personally I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s doing better in other places.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m strongly in favor of, say, Peter Vierek’s New Conservatism from the 1950s. (Or John Adam’s conservatism from the end of the 18th Century, but that’s because it’s in line with modern liberalism…)

Unfortunately, American conservatism seems to be in an unfortunate and primarily reactionary position. For example, did you hear that Chuck Norris wants to secede with Texas?

(While I’m adding to the linkpile, there was a lovely op ed in the SF Chronicle this week on the topic of Strauss v. Horton and liberties

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