Cody Bloomsburg, from the UM School of Journalism, has posted a fascinating look at the self-proclaimed Constitution Caucus at the Montana Legislature, a group of troglodytes headed up by the likes of Krayton Kerns, Greg Hinkle, and James Knox. What Bloomsburg’s story reveals is a group of arrogant idiots, so bound by their narrow ideology, that they would actually vote against helping children who witnessed domestic violence.
The Constitution Caucus led the fight in the House to block a bill intended to provide mental health services to these children, because, according to Kerns, “the constitutional vote on this is no because it will grow government.” Presumably, Kerns and his ilk drove to Helena on private roads, reject their government laptops and health insurance, and refuse to use the desks provided for them in the session. After all, none of those things are specifically, literally listed as government function in the Constitution, and must be rejected.
For these politicians, the term “constitutional” is much like the way in which they see “family values” or “patriotism”: there is only one definition of each term and it just happens to be theirs. No matter how narrow or unsupported, their vision of the Constitution is the only one that matters, even if the mental health and futures of children need to be sacrificed along the way.
And that’s the irony. These self-appointed defenders of the Constitution and the vision of the Founding Fathers were exactly the kind of people that Jefferson and Madison, Franklin and Adams would have not wanted in charge of government. They rejected unthinking ideologues and imagined a country governed by thoughtful leaders, willing to compromise and provide for the general welfare of the nation. If the health of children isn’t part of general welfare, it’s hard to know what is.
When I visited Washignton D.C. this Christmas, I was struck by the words on the southeast wall of the Jefferson Memorial:
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
The human mind has progressed since 1787, and Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers were wise enough to realize that we would become more enlightened as American history progressed. It’s unbelievable that people like Kerns and his crew of Beck-inspired patriots want to go the other direction.