On the phrase "constitution fetish"

I admit I’ve never heard, used, or pondered the phrase “Constitution fetish” in relation to conservatives before, but apparently it’s happening enough that Andrew McCarthy over at the National Review felt the need to bitch about it.

“Fetish,” like “tea-bagger,” slides easily off the tongues of the Big Thinkers who get their dithering law from Dalia Lithwick and their sophomoric style from Bill Maher. If there is no Obama to send a thrill up their legs, it takes an organic Constitution throbbing with active liberty to ring their chimes. The lifeless one read from the podium Thursday — which must have been, like, a hundred years old or something — leaves them limp.

The Constitution can be twisted to mean whatever progressives want it to mean. But once the twisting is done, progress grinds to a halt. At that point, the result is set in stone, forever — as if God had spoken (the only reference to God you’re apt to hear). If the rickety foundation of Roecollapses under its own illogic, the sweet mystery of life will save it until enough new justices pass a “litmus test” that makes it unreviewable.

Most of the article is a thinly-veiled rant about Roe v Wade because I sure as shit haven’t heard enough right-wingers crying about abortion lately, but even ignoring the downright comical implication that conservatives love the Constitution and Progressives hate it (as long as you don’t count the 1st and 4th amendments, among others), the fact remains that NRO-style jibber-jabberers are turning the Constitution into the political version of the Bible.

Specifically, I refer to the religious-like fervor with which they cling to it, as though it were in fact a holy document that is not only unchangeable but infallible. They treat the Constitution like the paragon of virtue and justice itself, a sacred parchment in which the true foundations of all that is good are cemented. Certainly it’s the heart of the nation’s laws, but it can be changed, and the men who wrote it were men who looked at how things were and said “we can top that”.

To treat it as though God himself had written the thing and it can never be changed or even disagreed with is, ironically, un-American. The whole point of this goddamn country was that dislike for the government and its governance is a patriotic thing. If someone says “hey that clause in there is no good, we should do something about it,” then there are channels to make that happen. Disagreeing with portions of the Constitution is not un-American, even if that means disagreeing with the 1st amendment. It’s quite American, in fact.

Do conservatives have a Constitution fetish? Yes, they do. In that they worship the image of the Constitution as a religious idol, not that they actually follow it any more strongly than progressives.

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One response to “On the phrase "constitution fetish"

  1. Honestly, if you’d heard just how many pundits and “journalists” all used the phrase “Constitution fetish” during that one news cycle, maybe you’d have been able to write an even better post — like about how so many “objective” media outlets seem to be getting their language hand-fed to them from a common source. Do thoughts like that never cross your mind, Zach?

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