In the last week in the popular press and academic journals there have been several pre-election essays and op-eds about the cumbersome nature of the U.S. Constitution (as we were reminded by the president) and its unsuitability for emulation by other countries (per Justice Ginsburg), given contemporary supposedly superior models. In addition, we are told that food stamps are a great win-win situation for everyone, and that breaking immigration laws are infractions not really violations.
What we have here is an assault on traditional American notions of self-reliance, respect for the law, and a sense of American exceptionalism as embodied by the Constitution. It is weird, to say the least, to even hint of superior constitutional systems elsewhere, given the current chaos in South Africa, and the coming implosion of the European Union — not to mention the mess in the Middle East and Russia.
What’s behind the sudden defiant push-back against traditional advocacy of the old self-reliant, arms-bearing citizen as championed by the Constitution? Give credit to Barack Obama and his supporters. They are seizing the moment in a fashion undreamed of by Bill Clinton in 1996 and framing his reelection as a referendum on the entire American system itself. We see this with Obamacare’s attack on the Catholic Church, with the Obama administration joining with Mexico to sue a state, and with these remarks from our highest officials about the problems with our Constitution.