A lot of people try to impose their ideology on the Constitution. As a result, they pick and choose out of the Constitution to justify their various policy positions, and ignore it the rest of the time.
Earlier this month, California announced a policy designed to nullify President Trump’s efforts to open up offshore areas to oil drilling. According to a Reuters report, California officials say they plan to deny pipeline permits for transporting oil from new leases off the Pacific coast. This is yet another example of progressives turning to state power to undermine federal power.
I applaud California’s efforts. Not because I favor blocking offshore oil drilling. But because constitutionally, California has every right to control what happens in its own territory. Federalism depends on a consistent application of its principles.
Most people won’t look at it that way though. People will line up for or against this policy based on their political orientation. Progressives will cheerlead it because it lines up with their policy preference. Conservatives will oppose it because it doesn’t line up with their policy preferences.
The thing is, I guarantee you that the next time a state uses its authority to undermine a progressive policy imposed from on high by the feds, the same people cheering California today will yell, “You can’t do that! The federal government is supreme.” And if California was threatening to block a federal gun law, the right would call it “standing up for the Constitution.”
The problem here is that there is no constitutional consistency. Instead of saying, “I disagree with the policy in California, but they have every right to do it,” most conservatives will say, “They can’t do that!” and look for some federal authority to stop it – just like they have with “sanctuary cities.” And even though they’re doing it today, progressives will deny a state’s right to block a federal act when it diverges from their political goals.
The problem here is that most people try to impose their ideology on the Constitution. They turn America’s founding document into a tool to achieve their political aims instead of looking at the powers of the federal government objectively. As a result, we have a progressive Constitution, a conservative Constitution, or even a libertarian Constitution, depending on the ideological lens a person happens to peer through.
But the truth is the Constitution is a legal document. It has a set meaning. We find that meaning in the arguments supporters of the document presented during the ratification debates. (Read more on constitutional interpretation HERE.) Your ideology doesn’t matter. The Constitution is what it is.
Americans need to learn to look beyond their own ideological viewpoint and see the Constitution for what it is – not what they wish it to be.
I talk more about ideology and the Constitution in my podcast.
Michael Maharrey [send him email] is the Communications Director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He proudly resides in the original home of the Principles of ’98 – Kentucky. See his blog archive here and his article archive here. He is the author of the book, Our Last Hope: Rediscovering the Lost Path to Liberty. You can visit his personal website at MichaelMaharrey.com and like him on Facebook HERE