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Ten

The Constitution argument isn’t just academic

by Sam Rohrer

There’s a reason tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians are engaged in a renewed way in the political process this year, and it’s why countless others are getting involved for the very first time. It’s because of a deep concern that freedom—freedoms outlined in plain language in the Constitution—are being redefined, misinterpreted and, in some cases, erased by political decisions in Washington.

This past weekend, my opponent and I outlined starkly different views on the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. In appearances before the same audiences, one in Harrisburg, and later in Pittsburgh, he characterized his view that the Constitution was a, quote, “living document.” He would go at length to explain that the Constitution should be interpreted in light of case law, considering the way courts have ruled on the founder’s intent. And then he said something else: “I believe that the Constitution is only as good as the people we choose to carry out its intent.”

I respectfully but unequivocally disagree on all accounts.

First, the idea that the Constitution is a living document may sound at first intriguing. Lawyers who hold this view say the Constitution evolves over time, it adapts to modern movements and societal norms. And it’s how unelected activist judges have justified erasing years of history and legal precedent only to write their own laws.

Time and again, the living constitution argument has been used to overturn the will of the people at the ballot box. In New York and Washington, the people banned physician-assisted suicide, and the courts overruled. In Missouri citizens rejected a tax hike, a court overruled. In Arkansas, the people voted for term limits, and a court struck down the law.

My view is that governors, attorneys general and elected lawmakers should take a stand against this misguided and dangerous viewpoint and adopt an originalist view of the Constitution where the founder’s intent, not years of subsequent court rulings and case law, but intent guides our understanding of its application. The Constitution is a vibrant document, oh yes. Its relevance in helping America, helping Pennsylvania, find our way back is absolutely essential.

But when my opponent argues that the Constitution is only as good as those who interpret its intent, he is simply wrong. No, the Constitution, the founders argued isn’t about whether an average citizen or an elected or appointed official has commonsense or legal training or intellectual gifts. The founders created a standard that would not be subject to the whims or intelligence or the opinion of the majority.

The Constitution exists to protect the rights of individuals when government is comprised (as the founders predicted) of people who don’t care at all about the rule of law or the Constitution. It’s there as a vanguard when people in government fall short.

You remember it was James Madison who said, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary,” and he was right. That’s why we have a Constitution. That’s why citizens are fighting so hard to keep its meaning from being interpreted by opinion.

This argument between me and my opponent will be dismissed by some as purely academic, but let me assure you, it’s not. Our opinion and understanding of the Constitution will determine nearly every decision and matter of policy affecting your life and your liberty.

There is a difference. The choice is clear.

Stand with me for the Constitution. This is the challenge for our generation.

The writer, a state Representative in Berks County, is a Republican candidate for governor. This op-ed article was adapted from remarks the writer made in a Web video.

April 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

--Sam Rohrer

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  1. Scott Kern

    Apr 21st, 2010

    Very interesting. Note, however, that the phrase is “on all counts” (think: courtroom setting), not to be confused with “by all accounts” (think: unanimous eyewitnesses all giving the same account).

  2. David Diano

    Apr 21st, 2010

    “And it’s how unelected activist judges have justified erasing years of history and legal precedent only to write their own laws.”

    Yes, like the radically conservative Supreme Court that claims corporations have the same rights as people.

    Do you agree with the “Originalist” view that blacks should count as 3/5 a person and not vote?

    Yes, the “choice is clear”: you have no business holding public office.

  3. Joe Collins

    Apr 21st, 2010

    “Do you agree with the “Originalist” view that blacks should count as 3/5 a person and not vote?”

    This is an extremely ignorant argument. The Constitution has been AMENDED, which is the proper way to change the constitutional arrangement.

  4. Dan Rogan

    Apr 21st, 2010

    Diano:

    The three fifths rule was overturned by Amendment.

    Part of the “originalist” approach stresses that if the constitution is to be changed, it cannot be through strained interpretations by courts and judges, but rather, it must be done by a duly passed constitutional amendment.

    Sorry, but your sniping is off the mark.

  5. huw

    Apr 21st, 2010

    I guess only this guy knows what the constitution really says. Arrogant BS’er

  6. Lee Levan

    Apr 21st, 2010

    Bulletin to Sam: It’s now 2010. It’s no longer 1789. We now have motorized vehicles, space travel, I-pods, laser surgery, miracle medical drugs, etc., etc. Since none of them existed, or were even conceived of, at the time the federal constitution was written, how does a judge make decisions about those subjects by using only “original intent”?

    Your argument is as phony as your arithmeticly impossible “plan” to replace the property tax with a sales tax. Your absurdly simplistic ideas reveal either your own delusion or your cynical deception of the public.

  7. TB

    Apr 21st, 2010

    “The Constitution exists to protect the rights of individuals when government is comprised.”

    Wrong. The Bill of Rights exists to protect the rights of the people. The Consitution says nothing about the protection of individual rights.

    “The founders created a standard that would not be subject to the whims or intelligence or the opinion of the majority.”

    Wrong again. Have you ever read the Federalist Papers, Rohrer? Madison and Hamilton both cautioned against limiting the power of a simple majority to act in Congress which is precisely why they did not write procedural rules for either body. In Federalist 58 Madison wrote that requiring more than a majority to act on legislation would result in the, “fundamental principle of free government being reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transfered to the minority.” Hamilton believed that requiring Congress to have a super majority to act would only work to, “destroy the energy of government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an ingsignificant, turbulent or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.”

    I could go on all night picking your piece apart but I have hours of reading for class ahead of me and its getting late.

    If weak minded creatures like yourself still populate the Republican side of the aisle in the House when I get to Harrisburg I am going to make quick work of you fools.

  8. TB

    Apr 21st, 2010

    One more thing Rohrer. Your babbling nonsense almost makes the bull that flows so freely from the mouth of Bill Deweese seem coherent. Keep up the good work.

  9. [...] This seems to be the core of Mr. Geeting’s objection to Tenth Amendment Advocacy: He [Rohrer] doesn’t believe in case law, and is constantly flouting an extremist view that the 10th Amendment means states have veto power [...]

  10. guido

    Apr 27th, 2010

    Wow…check out all the comments by lawyers here on their lunch breaks! If it weren’t for lawyers trying to change the Constitution…they might be forced to beat their Blackberries back into ploughshares and get real jobs…LMFAO!!!

  11. [...] This seems to be the core of Mr. Geeting’s objection to Tenth Amendment Advocacy: He [Rohrer] doesn’t believe in case law, and is constantly flouting an extremist view that the 10th Amendment means states have veto power [...]

  12. David

    Apr 30th, 2010

    It sounds like TB is your typical smart ass, left wing, evolution taught, non practicing church going, thinks he knows more than everyone else lawyer wantabe? Let’s baffle them with my supreme brain. Who else is in bed with the Trial Lawyers?

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