Extended Terms: Libs stretch the letter of the law
By: Daniel Clark
One of the reasons why liberals think they’re so much smarter than the rest of us is their use of big words. Not big words like “sesquipedalian,” but more ordinary words that liberals have inflated in such a way as to make them include meanings that were never intended.
A favorite Democrat talking point about the pending Supreme Court decision on Obamacare is that, because health care represents one sixth of our nation’s economy, the Commerce Clause must apply. This conclusion rests on their equating “commerce” with “economy,” when in reality, the definition of the former is far narrower than that. “Commerce” is the large-scale trading of commodities, or material goods. It is not just anything that directly or indirectly affects the way a dollar changes hands.
The amendment process is very long and difficult by design. Besides, it relies on the actions of elected representatives, whose constituents may not share the liberals’ utopian ideals. Why not circumvent those obstacles, and simply change the Constitution by expanding the definitions of its terms?
For example, no legislative body would have voted for the outcome of the Kelo v. New London eminent domain case, in which the local government was allowed to take a woman’s home and transfer the property to a pharmaceutical company, in order to expand its tax base. The Supreme Court took it upon itself to produce that result, by morphing the constitutional term “public use” into the far broader designation of “public purpose.” No longer must property taken through eminent domain be for a public use, like the construction of a highway exit ramp. The public purpose of increasing tax revenues is now sufficient.
Likewise, liberal judges have rephrased “freedom of speech” as “freedom of expression,” a much wider category that includes a previously unheard of right to set things on fire. In fact, any voluntary action would fit the description of “expression,” which conveniently empowers the judiciary to decide which particular expressions to allow on a case-by-case basis. The Court has held that burning an American flag is constitutionally protected expression, but what about burning a Mexican flag? Until there’s a precedent specific to that example, we don’t really know.
The First Amendment guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Liberal judges have stretched this provision into an absolute “separation of church and state,” which amounts to a federal requirement that free exercise of religion be prohibited in many cases.
While the Fourth Amendment does protect certain specific privacy rights, it does not recognize anything as expansive as a general “right to privacy.” Yet liberals have not only mischaracterized it as such, but have then deformed the word “privacy” to encompass things that, by definition, cannot be private, like the killing of another human being by way of abortion.
Many conservatives are optimistic about the upcoming ruling because they think Justice Anthony Kennedy hinted at how he might decide. Kennedy infamously changed his mind in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, however, and collaborated with justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter in opinion that upheld legal abortion, by essentially declaring that each person has a right to his or her own reality.
In its constitutional context, “liberty” means freedom from slavery or confinement. To accept its broader definition as a direct synonym for “freedom” would turn the rest of the Bill of Rights into a non sequitur. Nevertheless, the three justices chose to interpret it in exactly that way, in a ludicrous opinion that said, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” That’s not a legitimate judicial interpretation, it’s a “get out of the Constitution free” card. If Kennedy does reject Obamacare, it will be simply because he disagrees with it as policy, and not out of respect for the definitional boundaries of the written law.
When “speech” is flammable, “free exercise” is a gag rule, and “privacy” is baby-killing, it would be a comparatively minor stretch to define health care as “commerce” on the flimsy basis that it involves monetary transactions. Whether or not such a distortion will stand is now being decided under the judicial Big Top, and we have no reason to suddenly doubt our Supreme Court jesters’ ability to blow up narrowly-defined terms, and twist them into new shapes like balloon animals. After all, they’ve already proven that they’ve got the hot air to do it.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.