Monday, May 29, 2017

Original Hypocracy

One contentious point between conservatives and progressives is original intent. Conservatives believe that laws should be enforced according to the understanding and motivations of the legislators when it was passed. If a law needs updating then it should be done by the legislature or by amending the Constitution. Progressives and liberals before them preferred the concept of a "living Constitution" and of reinterpreting laws. One example is Title IX which was passed to prevent discrimination in colleges receiving federal funding on the basis of sex. Over the Obama administration, Title IX's scope was expanded to include the proper response to allegations of sexual assault and to gender identification. Neither of these was intended when the law was passed in 1972.

It's easy to understand why the left likes using new interpretations. It's much easier to find a sympathetic (progressive) judge or administrator than to convince a (likely conservative) legislature that a law needs modifying. The left insists that it's impossible to know exactly what the original intentions were so it's up to the current courts to assign whatever meanings they want.

This principal has been turned on it's head with President Trump's executive order on immigration, often (inaccurately) described as a Muslim travel ban. Court after court has ruled that the order is perfectly legal then struck it down based on the President's intentions based on broad statements made during the 2016 campaign. Ruling that an order would have been legal from any other president sets a dangerous precedent, one that will probably come back to bite the left. Giving judges the power to strike down legal executive orders because of the suspected intentions of the President will inevitably be used against the next Democratic president.

This is not the first, or second, time that Democrats have pushed for systemic changes based on short-term gains without looking at the long-term consequences. The Democratic Senate eliminated the filibuster for judicial candidates short of the Supreme Court which made it easy for the Republican-controlled Senate to approve Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. President Obama expanded the use and bredth of the executive order giving Trump similar powers.

In a democratically-elected representative government, both sides must adhere to the existing rules and both sides must agree to changes. Unilateral changes will inevitably be used against the instigators.

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