Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Deep is the Commitment of Black Conservatives? Would the African American Signers of the Mount Vernon Statement Sell Themselves Back Into Slavery?

There is always one black Conservative in the room when they have these events. I wonder if Ken Blackwell, black garbage pail kid, the black Conservative signing The Mount Vernon Statement in the above clip, is happy with his 10 seconds of fame at such an auspicious event?

One of the recurring narratives in the Tea Party, Republican, Right wing populist narrative is a need for America to renew its "Constitutional values" and "the original intent" of that most sacred of documents. This is not a new trope for the Right: the idea that Republicans are the true defenders of America's constitutional democracy has served as one of Conservativism's cornerstones for decades. Interestingly, the long running tension between "freedom from" and "freedom to" is a neat parallel with how the Reagan Right was able to transform "liberal" and "progressive"--what were once positive political identifiers--into dirty words.

As a result, the State has been crippled in its ability to deal with real problems--and the public robbed of any expectations for what they are rightly due as citizens. This phenomenon spawns a public that is hurting and angry. But this anger is scatter shot: it villifies bankers and Wall Street; it smears Obama as being a Socialist; it rails against "liberal elites"; it prays at the mantle of Right Wing Populism and the Tea Parties; it wallows in xenophobia; it sees an effort to expand health care as a threat to freedom; it crashes itself into federal buildings in acts of domestic terrorism.

This anger also wraps itself in the vestments and language of "renewal" and "traditional" values. These appeals to the Constitution as a source for "democratic renewal," and as a counterpoint to the Age of Obama, are also an inexorably tempting stage for political theatrics. From Glenn Beck's Thomas Paine impersonator, to the predilection of middle age white men to dress up like Revolutionary War era minutemen at Right wing rallies (people I like to call Patriotic Furries), as well as to the signing of The Mount Vernon Statement (what is an ostensible commitment to "American values" and "conservative" principles) these high theatrics are a signal to some imagined past of a perfect American founding.

The appeals to an (im)perfect past are also given voice by the dog whistle politics of the Right wing Republican, Tea Party Palin crowd. One should take careful note of how this faction uses the words "nullification" or "succession," what are in fact signals to a democracy that is separate and not equal. I would further suggest that those who utter these racially laden codewords may not in fact know the hateful origins of what they speak. But, they do know both the emotional content and implication of these words for a select audience that is moved by the politics of white racial resentment:

Not surprisingly, this appeal to the core values of America's founding is both myopic and narrow--especially in how it treats the "inconvenient" facts of history. For example: See how conservatives deal with such "minor" problems as slavery and how America was intentionally constructed as a limited, narrow, and circumscribed democracy:

Are black conservatives struck by the irony that they are signing a pledge to return to "traditional" American values, when the document they worship originally deemed black folks as 3/5ths of a person, the property of Whites, and where America was a constitutional slaveocracy? Funny, how deep is the commitment of these black conservatives to the framers' original intent? Are these black conservatives willing to sign themselves over as chattel to their white, fellow cosigners of The Mount Vernon Statement? Will these black conservatives put on a yoke, submit to an overseer, and/or wear a back of scars earned on the whipping post as they reenact the America of old?

The Constitution is an imperfect document. It is a product of its time--both good and bad. It embodies white supremacy, classism, sexism, and legitimates the wholesale exploitation and exclusion of whole groups of citizens because they are conceived of as being outside of the polity. And the Constitution and America's other founding documents have also inspired freedom loving peoples to transcend the limitations of the framers' intentions.

In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that the greatness of that singular document is its ability to embody a set of principles that are flexible. Thus, the Constitution endures.

So help me understand, why make the Constitution into a magical totem? How does the Right rationalize away the inconveniences and imperfections? Is it willful ignorance? Or perhaps most troublesomely, is this indifference a function of an exclusionary America that many conservatives continue to yearn for?


Cobb said...

This reminds me of how whiteboys used to sound in 1989 when they said rap isn't music. You mistake the symptom for the disease, the implication for the principle, the forest for the trees. You put it all together and it sounds coherent, but it's still five blind men describing the elephant.

Interestingly enough the answers are simple.

Why is the Constitution 'magical'. It is the root of American exceptionalism. America is the only nation that didn't grow organically from a tribe. America as a nation is a thought experiment. The Founders said let's not build on blood and soil principles, let's look at all of the philosophies of nationhood, starting with Plato's Republic and the lessons of ancient Rome and build a nation that exists for the free man. Their abstract definition of the free man came closest to what we might call somebody with 40 acres and a mule - somebody with the ability to handle their own business should b able to live freely as possible.

Secondly, the Constitution was designed to divide state power among such men so that no clique could take over and enforce its will over another and then exhibit monopoly power, reducing that newly conceived nation into the same sort of tyranny that destroyed freedom in the history of mankind. It's basically that simple.

Understanding the value of such a Constitution in the context of its original intent is critical in keeping the nation balanced with regard to power and undominated by a tradition of blood and peerage.

As to the matter of dealing with the inconcistencies, it is a philosophical question best answered at length by Bill Whittle. But I will summarize that in the next response.

Anonymous said...

Chauncey, Im going to go with option #2. It is not somehow a blissful ignorance that explains away the reverence for a most literal rendering of the Constitution that would have black folks in chains playing 60% present for the purpose of further propping up a circumspect citizenship and the economic gain that accompanies it all in the name of "states rights" on the surface and white supremacy at the root.

I know that most average Americans, to say nothing of the Tea Party set, have no detailed sense of much of the inner workings of our legal system or of the Constittuion. But the 3/5 Compromise is standard textbook American history that everybody got wind of as long as one was awake in your elementary and high school classes... even without knowledge of the 3/5 compromise, anyone who yearns for reviving the glory and the intent of the founding fathers knows full well that they are yearning for the time when our nation was controlled by slaveowners. Period. Hence the number of black folks who fought and fell on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War because they were offering freedom for military service against these colonial upstarts-- Crispus Attucks was not alone on the battlefield dammit. But I digress, because the British were just as happy to own slaves as were the budding Americans coming into being in 1776.

Really my point is that I am not fooled by the excitement over anti-intellectualism coursing through this new batshit conservatism. They know good and goddamned well that if we take it back to 1787 we are ensuring that citizenship for black folks and all other non-whites (Irish and Italians Im looking at you cause in 1787 yall wouldnt have made it into whiteness either, dont care how much you guys rest on its mantle nowadays) as well as women of all stripes, would have NO say in how they would be governed. And some white conservative women politicos (like Sarah Palin) are fine with that as it affords a certain kind of protection. And we know most white conservative male politicos are fine with it too (despite a real foggy sense of what parts of their heritage might have actually blackened them at the moment of constitutional creation which they so highly revere). But Im not buying it. And Ken Blackwell damn sure shouldnt either...

Cobb said...

There is something wrong with Pajamas Media this morning so I cannot provide links to Bill Whittle. Well, I can but they won't work, and I should review them before I submit. Anyway...

How does the Right deal with the inconsistencies of the declarations and principles in support of American liberty and the historical fact of its denial? The simple and short answer is that I interpret the Conservative principle is to *defend* freedom, not to *create* freedom. That's certainly the difference between geopolitical neocons such as myself and my paleocon cousins. I think it is reasonable to goose nations toward liberty, paleocons take a more jaundiced view. I do see the wisdom of the paleocon view, especially in light of my growing understanding of Indian politics.

When I asked an Indian colleague specifics, he said that the greatest mistake of Indian democracy was to give all of the people a vote immediately, no matter what their standing in society. America, he said, evolved its democracy smarter because we didn't allow people who were not vested in the status quo, the wealth of the nation, to vote their interests.
If you believe that man is fundamentally good and that his corruption comes from his association with institutions which are inevitably corrupting, then you are a Romantic like JJ Rousseau. At the end of the Romantic day, the pure, noble savage must destroy the vile corrupt institution. If on the other hand you believe, like Adam Smith that we're all inherently a little corrupt then we must build a system that tolerates our corruption but doesn't let it get too much power.

America separates state, free market, church, and by the constitution the state is divided into executive, judiciary, parliamentary. The free market is infinitely divided, but the state insures against monopoly - well the proper state does, and of course the free exercise of religion insures one god doesn't take over every soul.

That permanent state of division is what a Conservative wants. Nobody gets too powerful or too high. It is better to tolerate corruption X in some areas, than to establish an overwhelming monopoly that guarantees against corruption X. So long as people are free to choose, they can escape the domination of that corruption on their own.

Rousseau on the other hand seeks to perfect liberty, to rid all institutions at all times of all corruptions. The proper man, should by force of will, excise all demons from the state. This requires a revolution of justice and a purge of those tolerant of corruption.

And such is the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution.

Cobb said...

Natasha, you are being anti-intellectual. There is nobody anywhere in the mainstream of the Conservative movement who would interpret original intent as racist or sexist. This all goes on in the minds of the multiculturalist academia which is why DeVega's links point to obiter dicta at The View or some Lefty treatise.

so who said this?
“Consenting to slavery is a sacrilegious breach of trust, as offensive in the sight of God as it is derogatory from our own honor or interest of happiness”

chaunceydevega said...

Part 1

@Cobb I respect you, but I have to profoundly disagree. I will try to be brief.

1. What of my central premise about original intent--do you simply excise and ignore that the original intent of the constitution was a narrow, elitist clique of white property owning men where blacks were explicitly constructed outside of the polity and where the document itself actually extended slavery in order to make up for the "material losses" i.e. runaway black folks lost to the South during the Revolutionary war? For me and others those are not mere "inconsistencies". In fact they color the whole democratic dilemma in this country. The struggle in this country has been to expand democracy away from its white supremacist, sexist, and classist, roots. Is this a problematic that should/ought to complicate the original intent worshipped by many on the Right?

I love putting black conservatives of the original intent strain on blast on this issue because I love the visual of their black and brown hands signing a document in front of a white man in 18th century garb when their colored behinds would have been considered chattel and property by same person--the irony is so poignant.

2. On American exceptionalism. Again, perhaps we would simply disagree, but I have never bought into the argument. It has become in some circles a mantra that does important symbolic and mythological work--the idea of America as a shining city on the hill--but it is a premise that needs to be engaged much more critically. Beyond the no socialism here argument, and a nation where disparate europeans could reinvent themselves as White, and that we are a relatively young country, by what objective measure do we remain "exceptional" or "the best?"

chaunceydevega said...

Part 2

3. On freedom from and freedom to. How does your brand of Conservativism reconcile the idea of a lack of social leveling and the merits of inequality, with how inequality in the extreme is an impediment to justice, liberty, and freedom? For example, are we more free in a "democracy" run by multinational corporations where 1 percent of the population owns more than 50 percent of the wealth (that gini coefficient is from memory it may actually be higher)? At what point does freedom to equal a denial of freedom for the mass of the citizenry, especially in a democracy where economic power is readily translated into political power?

4. You alluded to India and the wisdom of a limited franchise. 1. What of your American exceptionalism argument? If we are in fact so exceptional how come all Americans were not "prepared" for citizenship at the time of the founding? Do you really want to suggest by that example that one of the wisdoms of the framers was to limit citizenship to their own racial and economic class? Problem: who knows freedom better? A slave denied it, or a hypocritical man who praises freedom and enshrines it in a document that limits this inalienable "human right" to people like himself?

5. Finally, I chose the View example because it is a great gotcha moment that proves the point splendidly. On the links to academic work: do you dismiss people because they are "lefties?" By implication then, should the work of "righties" be rejected a priori? What of a substantive engagement with some of the scholars I linked to (I could provide many others as well) whom are highly respected in their fields of history, philosophy,critical theory, afam studies, and political science who would agree with much of what I suggest? What of preeminent scholars such as Robert Dahl whose great book How Democratic is the Constitution tackles some of your central premises? Or the classic by Beards, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution--and the many works it spawned--which argued that one cannot understand the constitution apart from the self-interest of the people who created it. Hell, what about great elders such as John Hope Franklin or even DuBois who would find none of these critiques about America as a racialized democracy (and once dictatorship) at all surprising or controversial? Even Roger Smiths' Civil Ideals--a book you would like--provides much to think about on this issue.

Ultimately, what of the claim that self interest was central to the framing of the Constitution? And that in the logic of the day, a racially unequal society, where economic, gendered, and racialized citizenship was a given and not seen as counter to "democratic" principles.

Cobb, this is one of the central tensions in the study of liberalism--do you deal with an abstract perfect type of political thought or do you complicate it with how it was authored, its internal contradictions, and how these theories were products of particular arrangements of power?

One final example. Like you, I love the Federalist Papers. When I teach them to undergrads I tell them that it is one of my favorite academic geek moments. But, I also teach them about the context of what they are reading, and complicate the story (I do this for Locke and others as well) by introducing these inconvenient questions of racism, white supremacy, herrenvolk democracy, native american genocide, gendered citizenship, etc.

Am I doing these students a disservice? Or should I teach them a more innocent and unnuanced story?

chaunceydevega said...


Great points. I love the visual of some white conservative finding out that there is a spook in the woodpile (i love that dark imagery). Would it change their values or life view? Probably not.

You are also spot on with your id of the anti-intellectualism of the Right on these issues. But, is it also just part of our nat'l mythology--one that smart people believe as well--a fiction that folks of all colors should call BS on but cannot, because so much of their national identity as Americans is tied to it?

Cobb said...

I'll take it point for point. I should have time today to counter each of them.

1. The construction of original intent was not racial. If we can't agree on that premise, there's nowhere to go. I would say, that being the case that your fundamental definition of man is racially essentialist. However, if you can conceive that the Founders were not in intent nor in effect racial, that they had no aim nor purpose in defining liberty as 'white' liberty - then it is simple to understand the proper context of their creation, which was to defend liberty of free men against the tyranny of monarchy.

The great liberation of man authored by the founders is the same value we have today. Work your way towards greater freedom through economic means. The 'pursuit of happiness' was written with the same intent as the pursuit of business, or money or commerce. The basic idea of enabling an 'aristocracy of merit' in Jefferson's terms was directly to be contrasted against an aristocracy of blood, of peerage, of titles given from royalty.

The powerful minority was not 'white' property owners in the colonies, it was English peerage and friends of King George, which was a much much more elitist minority. The great exceptionalism was that for the first time, men of quality and learning said they were capable of self-government outside of the divine right of kings.

If you have decided to see everything as a racial construction, how could you not see that the most privileged race of all was that of royal blood and that the American founders were anti-racist in that revolutionary regard?

Cobb said...

2. I think you miss the point of American exceptionalism. It is that we are a country created by ideas, not rooted in traditions of ancestor worship and divine rights of blood. We are an aristocracy of merit, not of inheritance. There are public creeds - citizenship, equality before the law, individual freedom which are intellectual constructs. That is the nature of the exception.

Cobb said...

3. Matters of inequality and matters of justice are part of the same whole but different.

Firstly, take the construction of individual freedom and 40 acres & a mule. If you have your 40 acres & mule, what do you care that you are not equal to the man who runs the Bank of Boston? The government is not there to try to make you equal and does not expect to privilege you in any way simply because you are not. However, if the man from Boston tries to steal your mule, then you have every right to accuse him of that crime in court. Same now as it ever was.

Likewise you have no right to the banker's property nor do squatters have any right to yours. That is all the equality you get and to deliver more on behalf of any party, rich or poor, violates the principles of the Constitution.

I presume you are invested in some principle of 'economic justice' in which the state is to make some presumptions against the rich on behalf of the poor according to some metric of 'social equality' or 'economic equality'. That is an abuse of American law - it requires by definition a socialist or communist principle.

Anonymous said...

Being a white man in Texas who used to ascribe to the angry conservative white man (acwm) mantra but who has moved to one that isn't (angry, conservative, 'white')...

The view of the Constitution that Cobb expresses is the 'standard' for the average acwm. The average acwm looks at and tries to understand the Constitution as a literal document, without regard to its subsequent interpretation in the three branches of government. This viewpoint is usually combined with claims of exception given in regards to the various horrors which have happened throughout American history at the hands of their ancestors, which either excuse their actions through historical comparisons, linear ancestry claims, and individual choices. I.e., "Native American tribes were already at war with each other, so..."; "Africans were selling members of other tribes already, so..."; "my ancestors didn't own slaves, so..."; "I don't have a problem with [ ], so..."; "If Clarence Thomas [or any other black individual] thinks that way, then..."; and etc.

I need to say that there is no conscious thought process that goes into these claims. Repeat -- the average acwm does not think about these points, but basically reacts, believing that, so far as they understand, these are truisms which anyone can see. This happens because the average white man is not only not confronted by the realities of non-whites (and can choose to ignore non-whites and get away with it), but because the average white man is usually surrounded by all whites, whether at work, play, or home, and, more strikingly, by whites who conform to their points of view.

Looking past the self-perceived anger (I call it jealousy) over their perceived loss of status, power, and etc., I think that part of what we are seeing in the ongoing acwm media frenzy is that the average acwm, so accustomed to having everything given to him by his tribal group, is having to actually think through things for himself. Which is a hard, painful process, after several hundred years of not having to...

Cobb said...

4. Matters of franchise are not particularly interesting, so I'm willing to say really controversial stuff. I don't think anything is going to change one way or another. But I think it can be taken axiomatically that uneducated people will always outnumber educated people, as will people with property be a minority.

I can't make cause and effect statements with much credence but I perceive that 'get out the vote' is a populist measure and by definition anti-intellectual. I don't see any of the reform that this country needs coming in that form - so to the extent that expectations are raised by more rabble voting, I stand with the popular vote the same way I stand with popular culture. To hell with Britney Spears, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin and whatever equivalents the leftists come up with.

I grew up in California. I know how public initiatives make for lousy law and political cowardice.

Cobb said...

What, after all, does the average white man have that is worth having and calling white? Maybe after all, it is just the ignorance of having the identity crisis that befalls so many so call black men. If you can't stop talking about white supremacy, perhaps that is the definition of being its victim.

Cobb said...

5. I tend to take seriously the few lessons of my political upbringing that still make sense. Coming up black nationalist, I find much more coherence in the nationalist part than in the black part. Moreover the lesson of the black part is to let go of racial essentialism. To that end, I expect a proper Christianity to provide adequate moral context. All souls are equal in the eyes of God and God's justice is Justice - everything else falls short.

I find it difficult to understand outside of the context of Socialism, how it is that politics itself might generate an adequate moral accounting for the principles of government. Which is to say for me (not speaking as a social conservative, I am not one) only a Christian State might be the appropriate moral State for America. It is only hubris that makes anyone assume that their concept of justice is superior enough to warrant a wholesale questioning of the Constitution.

So the basis and the measure of social justice for me, since I defend absolutely the separation of Church and State, cannot be used as a moral judgment against the Founders or the basis upon which they created the American national framework. This is a lesson of Conservatism. So yes it does absolve the state from a class of moral duties - let us call that class 'social justice'.

Surely one cannot consider Nancy Pelosi... nah not going there.

I don't dismiss left academics. I challenge them to find a superior example of a free market democracy giving them the fullness of history from which to take their examples. And in the context of history I mean war. I am dismissive of those who would think we could legislate our way towards a more perfect union and that none of our freedoms are worth defending with lethal force. So yes I dismiss the dainties.

It is only within the context of death and destruction that can take seriously any claims. This is why I am regularly dismissive of black history as we now know it. Ain't enough people dead, and there ain't enough people willing to die to take the political ends of this historical revisionism so seriously. All this talk about white supremacy and sexism isn't targeting Klan Member One.

But anyway, I'd like to get back onto the terms of Rousseau via Bill Whittle. Because what I'm trying to defend are the principles of Western Civilization against the foolishness of its experiments in Socialism, Communism, post-modern relativism, religious fundamentalism.

I think it should go without saying that the post-modernists and multiculturalists aren't much of a threat precisely because they are academics incapable of motivating people towards greatness - and so it stands to reason that they would rail against corporations and religions and those institutions people tend to invest more time and effort into than six or eight years here and there. That is, by the way, how I take academia - the arrogance of people who tutor middle class youth for a few years and somehow gain tenure for that...

chaunceydevega said...


I think you are playing with Confederate money on this one. How can you praise original intent when the original intent of the framers was to create a racialized democracy? So yes, as a matter of history the framers wanted, designed, and created an exclusionary democracy. So I am not inserting race where race isn't relevant. Race is/was central to their original intent.

And again, what of the scholars who take this as a given, very well established and smart folks of various political stripes who agree that the U.S. was designed as a racial democracy/dictatorship?

Just because one wants to believe that they were included in the language of the Constitution does not make it so. Remember freedom was limited, it explicitly excluded people of color and women, and the rational the framers used to this end was that black folk were not fully human, incapable of citizenship, and thus excluded from rights.

How do you reconcile your beliefs with the historical record (and the documents themselves)?


chaunceydevega said...


How could I forget. do you really in your heart of hearts--not exclusive from your intellect--believe that the U.S. is "an aristocracy of merit, not of inheritance."


Cobb said...

I don't know why I keep having these conversations. I can't remember why I can't remember where my persuasive argument is where my interlocutors start babbling.

Do I believe in the aristocracy of merit? Shit man. I'm in the computer business. How could I not?

(more later)

Cobb said...


We can (please) go down that road. I recall reading about the House of Burgesses in VA setting the legal precedent for racializing standing in the courts. And i think we can identify some core principles of racial supremacy, but can we find those words in the text and intent? I tend to doubt it. Besides, nobody bothered to identify John Adams in that quote.

So let's call today's level of white supremacy a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being Apartheid South Africa (and why did Nelson Mandela ask Americans of all people to help write the new South African Constitution?). Where in your academic treasure trove of research is the stuff that makes the white supremacy 'inherent' in the Constitution anything more than a 2?

I think it is quite possible that we're talking about six pounds of racism. Some of us are Jack Johnson and we just beat up whoever is put in front of us with no regard to the Racism Homeland Security level. Others of us sit frozen in our garret immobilized by the very idea of being considered inferior and write pain's poetry. Is six pounds of racism enough to knock your block off and set you on a path to shit on the very principles of America? I think that's the entire premise of the critical theorists. Zero Tolerance! Well, put them in a bell jar.

Now here's my revisionism. My side won the Civil War. My side won the Civil Rights Movement. So my side claims the Constitution and are still inspired by it, completely consistent with its principles. Does the Constitution support a nation compatible with racism. Yes. In the same way every Church invites sinners. The point is that the answer is there. All men are created equal. Bill of Rights. Hello!

So let's get deconstructive of the Founding documents. But while we are on the more primary question of Conservatism, let me ask you your opinion of the Straussians? Why would Jews who suffered under Hitler become Conservative and not Socialist?

chaunceydevega said...

Cob. You are making inferences from one claim to a broader one. Do not infer my position on the black freedom struggle from a narrow claim about original intent and conservatives. Moreover how can you dismiss work that you have not read or engaged. You are better than that. Ultimately in keeping with your logic this matter is wholly subjective. For you slavery and jim crow both written into the constitution are a minimal inconvenience. Others would disagree. I guess we have to agree to disagree.

Cobb said...

See. There you go slipping. Jim Crow was a reaction to Reconstruction, 100 years after the founding of the Republic. For you it's all of the same piece, as if there were no difference between the likes of John Adams & Benjamin Franklin (the great white supremacists, hah!) and the griping losers of the Civil War.

I've characterized the sort of dismissal I do of academic positions - those that are incapable of establishing the sorts of principles that would generate real power in the real world. And what I'm saying is that there is no evidence of any sort of historically relevant movement in Left academics and critical theorists. None of them have the juice of Eugene Debs. As such I see it all of a sort of spoiled bourgie complaint. I can say 'so what' not merely out of political chauvinism but also because there are only slight consequences in disagreement.

Your claim is that the Founders' indent is a racialist republic. Hit me with your best proof. Hit me with anyone's best proof.

BTW. I am also saying that it is axiomatic of Progressive politics to hold the Founders in contempt in order to suggest that they stand on a higher moral plane; that identity politics, the willingness to judge Americans *with special regard* to race is superior to that which judges Americans *without regard* to race. In order to establish this moral superiority, Progressives, the Left and Critical Theorists *must* racialize history. I fear, deVega that you have fallen under their spell.

chaunceydevega said...


My final comment. I usually don't go back and forth like this but I generally held/hold you in some regard. I may not always agree with you, but you seemed reasonable. I have entered into this conversation with good faith, but you have introduced (however flippantly) observations that would link me to white rap fans that don't know the music, that I "blather," etc. I have treated you with respect even as I smiled and shook my head.

Cobb, there is nowhere to go with this conversation because you have constructed a straw man: there is no evidence, however well vetted, cited, respected, or held in high regard, that could convince you of the validity or even reasonableness of another position.

It is a strain of thinking similar to the know-nothingness that has afflicted the populist right wing in this country. Simply stated you have no use for those folks with "their fancy book learnin'" if they disagree with you. You talk about political juice as in "if they ain't got no power to change things I don't have to listen to them." Again, that doesn't address the accuracy or historical truth of a given claim or body of scholarship.

As for a spell, I suggest that it is you who has fallen under some spell or ambrosia that is one part conservative nostalgia and a bit of blind nationalism. While you have not slouched so low as the Constructive Feedbacks of the world (you know who I am talking about for sure) in this conversation you are coming close to hanging out under the bridge with such trolls.

As I said earlier, you are better than that. You win Cobb, I am spent and going on to other things.

Bill the Lizard said...

The United States and its founding documents were created by men who attempted to base it on what they felt were the principles of the Age of Enlightenment - reason and rationalism. That much is true.

However, it’s extremely important to understand that the enlightenment never represented one single movement or one single school of thought!

Thus, within the Constitution of the United States, there was always going to be contradiction and ethical pitfalls regarding fundamental and dividing concepts, such as what to do about slavery and the fact that “We the People” excluded African-Americans, Women and Native Americans.

The framers didn’t have all the answers. And while some attempted to bring about positive change, most thrived on being intentionally contrary and partisan - usually covering their own asses and trying to increase political and monetary gain at the expense of others.

Strangely, while the political tactics have changed, that sounds a lot like modern Washington DC.

However, within a generation, the idea of romantic nationalism starts to take hold in American Politics. And it’s from this concept of romantic nationalism (itself a subset of the Romantic Movement) that most of the mythology regarding the founders, framers and founding documents originates.

For example, what Cobb is calling “American exceptionalism” was invented during the 19th century as a political tool.

Romantic nationalism, after all, is the belief that the state derives its identity and legitimacy through the cultural unity of its populace. And since the United States didn’t have a unified history, the politically minded people of the 19th century created an artificial one to fill the void and add weight to their own (often flawed) political ideals.

Thus we see the founders and the framers stop being real people and start becoming semi-sacred secular saints – what our Elementary schools would call “Founding Fathers”. Their inconsistencies and problems are ignored, especially in regards to race.

Regarding the question of race and slavery, most founders and framers looked away and pretended not to notice the 800 pound gorilla in the room - the very same gorilla which would help fuel the socio-economic divide between the North and South and spark the Civil War.

Thus, how can slavery and racism not be at the very center of the founding of America?

Cobb said...

DeVega, I asked for evidence that the Constitution is a racialist document and I presumed that to be a reasonable request. But of course I'm playing games because I know it cannot be reasonably deduced that the Constitution is a racialist document by looking at the text. You defaulted, as I expected, but you cannot conclude from that that I accept no evidence and am incapable of being swayed. But to be fair, you asked me do you complicate it with how it was authored, its internal contradictions, and how these theories were products of particular arrangements of power?

I say the Constitution is and always has been non-racial.I obviously say it's not, you say it is racial but, it's complicated. I think it's silly to think so. After all, MLK's entire strategy was to 'get the country to live up to its promise'. If the Constitution were racialist then the promise would be racialist.

Again, you find that it is unreasonable for black conservatives to put much stock in the Constitution or the mindset of the Framers because you, evidently, cannot see how racism can exist under a charter which is not itself racist. I think that is a reasonably common error. I have suggested quite plainly, I think, that the proper sphere of moral correction should not lie with powers reserved to the State, so long as there is a Church and individual morality. This is the Conservative position. A minimal State designed to defend, but not create rights and freedom is appropriate to that task, and given the Bill of Rights there have been all the proper amendments necessary. To suggest than the celebration of the Constitution and original intent is to accept the deprivations of racism and slavery is illogical. I challenge you and anyone to find those who would roll back the 14th or the 19th Amendment.

I am willing to be instructed, but you've got to come correct. If you want to quit now, I understand. Some people tire me. I may tire you. It is not my intent to insult you or offend you but as one of those 'batshit conservatives' I don't intend on being purely defensive either. I can't think of a more important subject to discuss here, and so I will suck my teeth the next time Respectable Negroes goes on about fistfights on the bus.

Your cartoonish caricature of Conservatives doesn't bother me so much as the implication I take that you have no idea about what Conservatism is that makes it a compelling ideology to virtuous people. There is the problem. I should have the patience to address that over time.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

I haven't had the time to read all of the back and forth here, I just want to commend you (Chauncey) for a very succinct demolition of the mystification of the Constitution.

BTW- American is not exceptional. Our history of slavery, frontier expansion, and civil war is very similar to that of several other countries in the Americas.

chaunceydevega said...


I said I would leave this alone because it is either so willfully dishonest, or is it just myopic of you as a smart person to ignore the obvious. I am tired because this conversation is akin to talking to a flat earther.

Here you go from your most esteemed document. Please don't start pointing to Amendments to the Constitution that righted wrongs after a Civil War because 1) that is not "original intent" and 2) is there any greater sign of our national schism on the issue than fighting a Civil War?

The Constitution supported the maintenance and expansion of slavery, was used to support Jim Crow (despite your sophomoric claim that it did not), as well as the Fugitive Slave Law.

From the Constitution:

Article 3

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Cobb, who are the 3/5ths of a person? Interesting no, that the Southern states would be overrepresented in the Congress? Hmmm....implication? America remains a slaveocracy.

On maintaining the slave trade until at least 1808--the hope was that the South would be able expand the slave trade indefinitely:

Article 1, Section 9:

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

Who Cobb is being "imported?" What category of people were held exclusively as property in perpetuity?

On those runaway slaves. The Constitution provided a clause that mandated the return of slaves and/or compensation for their loss of service to their masters. Who Cobb were these slaves? Whose labour was the most valuable asset to this country? This article became codified by the House in the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793:

Article 4, Section 2 stipulated that the Federal government had to provide for the return of fugitive (runaway) slaves:

"2. ...No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due.

Cobb, is this sufficient? How do you reconcile this as I am very curious. Are you going to the well of "the Constitution's greatness is in how it deals its flaws?" or will you make an appeal to Realpolitik? Notice, neither engages the central claim about the original intent of the document and its writers.

Cobb said...

A racist white supremacist nation would allow no African to be free. I'm mobile now. Glad to see you are back.

chaunceydevega said...

Real. final. word. now--I hope.

All I can say is wow, both for the elegance of the evasion as well as the layering of misunderstanding of this country's history present in one sentence. Talk about racial Stockholm syndrome.

Please consider my offer.


Cobb said...

Careful there C. I was thumbing that into my iPhone, which is why I mentioned that I was mobile. I'm still not back to the desk and have not begun to compose any response. But I did want to leave you with a couple links for the old 'why i am a black conservative thing' etc. vis a vis your offer to publish. All of that is done - like several years ago. And it may surprise you to know that I have pretty much exited the political activist business for a number of reasons, some of which relate to the persistence of the dissonance which finds it impossible to conceive of black Americans as reasonable people.

You'll find, if you look at my blog going back several years that I've long been an admirer of Michael Steele and now that he is the head of the party you should be able to count the number of commenters whose expectations have been totally overwhelmed - who have suggested as I think you flippantly do that his ascent was a miracle and not logical, and indeed there is no logic to African American membership on the Right. Given my knowledge and experience I can tell you that it sounds flatly like racial prejudice, and I could leave it at that and call it a day. But I think it serves all of us better, that I go through another round of explication.

I suppose one could start here:

To shortcut expectations, yes once upon a time, maybe 6 years ago I thought about reppin' black Republicans but quickly learned some important lessons.

Here's a big fat conversation for your digestion as well.

Cobb said...

I guess I'm still playing games. Thank you for your deconstruction. As I was deciding to put up the copy of the Constitution over on my website, I kept toying with the idea of putting in some kind of commentary like this:

Niggers Read: or Point out the Black Parts.

But I thought it would be too tedious to go through the whole thing and deal exclusively with those parts relating to slavery. I would simply wait for the comments to show up and then see which way the conversation went, hoping against hope that it might flower into some other aspect of interpretation.

Now I see that the diligence has been done and the part dealing with slavery have been carefully and precisely extricated from the rest of the document. Thank you (grinning slyly) Mr. DeVega.

I will however more seriously and simply assert that there are other aspects of the Constitution of the United States that bear the attention of black Americans than those parts that have been highlighted so graciously. And in addition it should be self evident that there is no reference to race of any sort in the paragraphs so highlighted. Therefore the Constitution is not a racial document. QED.

Cobb said...

Now I'm going to repeat the first paragraphs I wrote when we started this discussion.

America is the only nation that didn't grow organically from a tribe. America as a nation is a thought experiment. The Founders said let's not build on blood and soil principles, let's look at all of the philosophies of nationhood, starting with Plato's Republic and the lessons of ancient Rome and build a nation that exists for the free man. Their abstract definition of the free man came closest to what we might call somebody with 40 acres and a mule - somebody with the ability to handle their own business should b able to live freely as possible.

Now I know there is something reasonable to say in response to the little man jumping up and down in your head saying 'Nigger, read the black part!' And I will attempt to write something that goes beyond some flippant excuse. In some ways it is a reiteration of what I have said multiple times that has not been addressed.

Conservatives are against monopoly power. We believe that the bigger they come, the harder they fall, the more collateral damage they do to those caught up. We want decentralization of power. Hayek was even against central banking.

The Constitution was a document that confederated 13 colonies against the most powerful nation on Earth, what the framers feared more than anything else was a replication of that monopoly power. Now I admit this can be seen as a Conservative reading of original intent - and when Conservatives speak to original intent they do so primarily for the purposes of combating entitlements, bureaucracy and fiscal momentum. So our reading of the Constitution is all about whether or not we see it as a framework for establishing a state milk cow, or as something else.

I personally have explored the idea, back in 93, of the connection between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Without any conservative leanings, I wrote that if the Founders had complained about racism in the Declaration, it would have been impossible to have institutional racism in America. What I believed at the time wast that the State and politics should be responsible for the moral conduct of people. Since I have lost my faith in the State and politics, I have become Conservative.

If you want to see how far I've come in 17 years read this - which passes for wisdom among people who know no conservative principles.

I would say that comment passes as pretty much the same thesis as C.DeVega's now.

Cobb said...

My point about the Declaration's impact on the Constitution is to emphasize that the most important impact of the creation of the American nation is that it was one to get free men out from under the thumb of a colonial power, to establish a state cut away from an empire. That is the main thrust.

To suggest that the purpose of nationhood was to create a white supremacist slavocracy misreads the truth. The colonists didn't need permission from England to be racist slaveholders. They already had that going on. Why write a Constitution if that was the whole point?

I can understand and can respect any political partisanship that has determined that the most important aspect of Constitutional interpretation is the matter of consequence to the enslaved. But that is not and cannot be the sole interest of black Americans. To suggest otherwise is to give in to racial essentialism - to invent a context in which the full attention of a class of people should be directed to a subset of law. I happen to believe that some of black politics does indeed follow such a narrow prescription now 140 years after the Civil War. I am a defector from those narrow politics.

I have learned studying outside that conventional wisdom of black and Progressive politics is that the essential nature of a state is to defend the liberty of its citizens. This is something the United States did not do, or could not do for many years after its founding, in effect. Strictly speaking, technically speaking, it did, for it's citizens were just a small fraction of its people. But in that regard the US was just a proto-nation, a collection of colonies with no national culture. It was a baby walking around in grownup constitutional pants. Its name was bigger than it was. It had big shoes to fill, and its feet were small and stinky. We shall not pretend that law crafted under the Constitution all fulfilled the greatness of it as a national charter. Nor will we pretend that the character of people in power is aligned with the thoughtfulness that went into the structure of the government invented. But as I said, we Conservatives take Smith's skeptical POV on human nature. We never expected a command and control center of government and morals. However, we take the Founders as exceptional examples of citizens bound by their sacred honor *to death* to uphold the principles of the Constitution. And it is this commitment we expect from all citizens.

In this you can see how Conservatives are very strict about matters of citizenship. Because the Founders risked all to go to war against England on the basis of a thesis they invented that allowed them to build a government and take life and death decisions into their own hands away from the colonial patrimony of Great Britain. You might imagine how such bravery and independence of spirit would be considered attractive to a young black nationalist. New Citizens among colonists, blacks among negroes.

Cobb said...

Swinging back finally to the question of monopoly power, how do conservatives justify or deal with the fact that the US was incapable of defending the liberty of its *people* when its principles were violated by the practice of slavery?

We simply assert the primacy of America as a nation of Christian individuals.

It is the Christian principle of the soul which best illustrates the basis upon which the concept of human rights is built. It is reflected in the Deist interpretations of Jefferson and the the conscience of Adams and others of the Founders. For myself, the example of John Brown and others on the Underground Railroad are foremost in my mind as the sort of Americans who would inevitably make trouble for the nation.

I can't say that I have spent much time in consideration of the economic ways and means and machinations behind the causus belli for the Civil War. My interest in anti-racism as I read Cloudsplitter was to determine in no uncertain terms whether or not contemporary standards of anti-racism are superior to those of the time. I have been convinced that they are not and that Christians like John Brown were fully convinced of the necessity of human rights, civil rights and social power for the African in America in all respects.

Consequently as a matter of moral judgment, there has never been a time where I would excuse any foot dragging on principle. At the same time nobody should pretend that principle and law are aligned or that powerful interests are not at opposition to such principles.

At this point, it is my judgment that the question of federalism fails. As both Vermont and Virginia proved, a state may be far ahead or far behind in its willingness to defend the liberty of its people. These are powers reserved to the states.

I don't have a concrete opinion of the precise point at which the US earns its nationalist title. Certainly after the Civil War. But there is no question in my mind that the Christian spirit energized the moral strength of the US in a bracing fashion. And with the understanding that different states and different political movements work forward and backward in defense of liberty it is only logical that one accept that one size cannot fit all and that the state and politics only slowly exert the moral will of the people. To invest all moral authority into a central government is foolish in the extreme. Both the market and the state must be balanced with the moral power of the Church and of individual conscience without which tyranny may be inevitable. This is the lesson of the American Revolution and of the attempt to expand slavery into the West and consolidate that authority.

In short, the business of the state is incapable of providing a framework of moral principles which is more comprehensive and immediate than that of religion. This is why the state must tolerate its free exercise - without it, political interests will corrupt the soul of the nation.

Human rights, civil rights and social power as manifestations of the morality of a nation stem in principle from transcendent values nurtured primarily by religious traditions of the society that work their way into politics. There are no transcendent ethics generated by party discipline that can correct society. You cannot legislate morality.

Cobb said...

In summary, as Cornel West aptly if gratuitously states, there is a prophetic tradition within the Christian Church, whose liturgy Africans have completely revised, that has been and continues to be a primary force in the recognition of the soul of black folks. This is in total synergy with the role of religion in society and to be expected.

The state's defense of the pursuit of commerce and of liberty and justice for all is its proper role - securing the affairs of free men against tyranny and serving to facilitate that business. The founding of this nation stands as testimony to the triumph against all odds of free men to determine their own destiny and to establish sovereign powers by rights of their individual souls out of the hands of despots into their own hands.

African Americans have prospered under the same conditions of designing their own fate. It is only when they have independently taken matters into their own hands, guided by religiously disciplined morality and managed self-rule as free men that they have advanced. These are universal conditions without exception. It is the nature of mankind ad the lessons are inevitable. They are the same as in ancient Athens and imperial Rome.

Conservatism says just that. People are the same throughout history and the lessons of history are superior to the speculations of the present, no matter how brilliant, progressive or utopian they may sound. To put one's business in the hands of some Leviathan state is a gross error. Individual judgment is paramount. Men will sin and be corrupted, it is best to disaggregate their power. Powers must be balanced. States will advance and retard - allow them this. Monopoly power is dangerous. Race is a corrupting fiction.


chaunceydevega said...


You prove my point with the following:

"And in addition it should be self evident that there is no reference to race of any sort in the paragraphs so highlighted. Therefore the Constitution is not a racial document. QED."

This is akin to a man coming home early and finding his wife in the middle of a gang bang. Instead of confronting what he sees, said man constructs an alternate reality to rationalize the horror in front of him. Talk about post haste reasoning.

But Cobb, are you serious? Really? This is why I think you are playing games. It would be one thing to grant the obvious and then proceed forth with complication/some context/a rebuttal. But your position is absurd.

Ironically, in this exchange you have demonstrated my central thesis about the confused state of black conservatives and their relationship with original fact this is an object lesson on the historical denial in which you and your brethren swim.

I so wish we had a time machine so we could transport you back to the Constitutional Convention and you could share your platitudes about how the Constitution isn't a racial document. Then we would see how far South these same great men would ship you.

Let's move on.

Cobb said...

I'm happy to move on. I would say finally I'd like to hear from you a presciptive statement like the
most important thing about the us constitution is X. And I would reserve some future space to discuss black freedom in the antebellum states and colonies, probably starting with the sailmaker in Philadelphia and the legal standing of blacks to own property and hold contracts in various places under (constitutional) state law.

I think it does you a disservice to categorize all black conservatives of a piece. as founder of th Conservative Brotherhood I find our views often divergent and our reasons for speaking up quite different. Check out the membership.

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Well, I could offer my own two cents on all of this, it's that it is that many conservatives now view the Constitution as some kind of unalterable Holy Scripture. It's not; it was written by men of a certain time, race, outlook, and social standing. Despite these commonalities, they had deep disagreements (just take Hamilton and Jefferson, for instance), so deep that the tag of "Founders" obscures more than it reveals.

Even though these men had diverging philosophical viewpoints (some were devout Christians, others were Deists), they essentially agreed on the premise that only property holding white men were fit to be citizens, and they enforced this idea whenever possible.

What this means is that the essential point of Chauncey's post remains true, especially considering the language of the Constitution.

We don't practice medicine the same way we did in the 18th century, blood-letting has been revealed to be quackery. (Although it was good enough for George Washington.) Even though Isaac Newton founded the modern study of physics, scientists do not spend their time parsing his "original intent" or rejecting Albert Einstein's discoveries because they contradict their discipline's founder.

Similarly, the movements for freedom and the experience of history since 1787 have fully delegitimized the narrow ideas of citizenship and government's role accepted by the Constitution's authors. As Chauncey says, this does not take away from what has worked so well about the Constitution, but it does not change its inherently prejudicial nature and intent.

Even if we accept Cobb's contention that human nature never changes (which would take time to address), that doesn't change the fact that our understandings of liberty and who gets to exercise it have changed dramatically in the last two hundred years. The Constitution's authors could not have forseen the limitations on human freedom imposed by corporations after industrialization or the development of assault rifles. To use their "original intent" to discuss these and many other modern issues is just folly.

Cobb said...

Let us move on to why conservatives drone on about original intent. I think I made it clear, but the point bears reiteration in light of the Bear's statement about holy writ. Holy Writ is holy writ and you cannot perfect a nation without it. Without active Christianity and the actions of the devout there would be no place for the Constitution to hide in its compromises. But as Ken over on my site notes, the founders were talking about natural law and the rights of man. All knew a reckoning was coming.

The reason Conservatives like myself go on about original intent is anti-socialist. We do not believe that the nature of mankind fundamentally changes. We do not believe in the Welfare State, and we do not believe that there is an ever expanding area of human activity that should be called 'rights' for which a government should provide. We don't believe in a 'new man' and we don't believe in relativism.

The entire point of harping on original intent in the Conservative Movement is not hagiography. And it certainly isn't some throwback nostalgia for colonial times. It is to counter the notion that the Constitution is extraordinarily flexible. It is a matter of degree of the mutability of the Constitution. It is a contemporary response to the contemporary politics of Progressives and the Left.

What is objectionable to Conservatives about the Progressive and Left agenda are two major points. 1. That we have a superior understanding of morality today. 2. That the power of the state must be used to enforce that new morality.

We feel that this usurps the power of individual conscience and of religious faith traditions and centralized more power in the state giving it the sort of power that threatens individual liberty. We follow Marx' interpretation of of history through materialism as the counter-example of what the State ought to be.

So every time you hear a conservative talk about 'activist judges' and 'legislation from the bench' we are arguing against a creeping usurpation of the authority of the individual. Every time you hear us whinge about 'trial lawyers' our complaint is against the ability for individuals to solve problems between themselves without state intervention. We think this infantilizes the population and raises expectations too high.

If you haven't heard me say it a million times before I'll repeat it again. Liberals want to use the power of the State to defend against the dysfunctions of the family. Conservatives want to use the power of the family and the individual to defend against the dysfunctions of the State. The more you disempower the state, the more you empower the family and the individual. This is why we show contempt for aphorisms like 'it takes a village to raise a child'. That's an invitation to set up a state bureau of child welfare and launch initiatives to make it easier for single mothers to raise kids, etc. Weakens the family. Weakens the individual. Nanny state.. you know the rhetoric.

Cobb said...

I have implied also that a gradual gift of franchise is appropriate to the republic. I only claim it weakly, and I don't have any apprehensions that the features of the republic like the Electoral College or the disproportional representation of the Senate is under threat. But I will say that the sort of populism we are seeing from Obama and Ron Paul are disturbing, Paul more than Obama. And of course I am against the automatic defense of the rights of citizens to non-citizens and enemy combattants which is the policy of the current administration.

I am satisfied that in the long run, so long as private enterprise constitutes the great majority of GDP, that the US is not in danger of the threat of socialist mob rule - no matter how many politicians say 'vote for me and i'll set you free'.

Anonymous said...

"So every time you hear a conservative talk about 'activist judges' and 'legislation from the bench' we are arguing against a creeping usurpation of the authority of the individual. Every time you hear us whinge about 'trial lawyers' our complaint is against the ability for individuals to solve problems between themselves without state intervention. We think this infantilizes the population and raises expectations too high."
Yeah, the Little Rock Nine should have solved their problems on their own instead of giving over their individual rights and freedoms to the evil monopoly of government. I am crying over the individual rights and freedoms we lost there by handing our lives over to the Big Government Nanny State. They were trying to legislate morality, and it was so wrong to do. I wish I had a time machine so I could send Cobb back there to defend the Constitution in its original infallible intent against the evil wiles of those misguided nine children. I'm sure they would understand.
I know I am being a bit inflammatory with that one. But in all seriousness, from a conservative point of view, how should that situation have been handled? When I juxtapose your rhetoric against this real life situation, it doesn't make good sense to me.

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote] a need for America to renew its "Constitutional values" and "the original intent" of that most sacred of documents.[/quote]

I am glad that Brother Cobb is holding it down against this overgeneralizing attack.

It is ironic that despite this document having the 3/5ths clause the majority of the Black Progressive Establishment carries it around in their breast pocket to articulate which RIGHTS have been oppressed as of late.

Chauncey - do you see that your power (and your flaw) is your ability to PROMOTE threats upon the 2010 version of Black America while IGNORE the threats that are CUTTING OUR THROATS TO-DAMNED-DAY?

I am less worried about what these WHITE FOLKS who plan to "Take Back America" have planned for the Black community than I am disappointed that the Progressive Negroes and White Snarling Foxes that run our communities have FAILED to enhance our COMMUNITY CULTURAL CONSCIOUSNESS AND COMPETENCE, thus allowing us to prosper without the need to share basic resources with this long time adversary.

How long will you continue to craft strawmen Chauncey

Bill the Lizard said...

Cobb said: "It is to counter the notion that the Constitution is extraordinarily flexible. It is a matter of degree of the mutability of the Constitution. It is a contemporary response to the contemporary politics of Progressives and the Left."

The Constitution IS extraordinarily flexible and was designed that way on purpose in order to strengthen the country and it's government. That is the original intent of the document.

Article V clearly states that their are two basic methods for how to propose Amendments. Yes, two - the first is the normal route through both houses and the legislature by two-thirds majority. The second requires a Constitutional Convention (yes, a Constitutional Convention) that is called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States.

Why would two methods be specifically written in to the document if we are to believe that the framers wanted us to stand by their 18th century concepts of (to quote you) "natural law and the rights of man"? 18th century concepts, which by the way, condoned Slavery (see Article I, Sections 2 and 9, and Article IV, Section 2). The reckoning they felt coming was the Civil War, not some Conservative vs. Liberal divide. Universal human rights is a modern concept, paid for in blood.

To quote Thomas Jefferson on this issue:

"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."

So while Jefferson warns us not to make constant changes to the document or treating it roughly with unnecessary changes, he says that the Constitution must be developed over time and that humanity will progress. And while Jefferson may be hypocritical in many aspects of his own personal and political life, he is at least aware of his own hypocrisy and advocates growth beyond the barbarity of his generation.

Cobb said...

The Constitution remains the most immutable of all laws as it should be. There are exactly three huge changes Conservatives have asked for but not unanimously. A balanced budget amendment which I oppose. A defense of marriage amendment which I support in principle bur hope never comes to the floor. I like that states are making their own decisions but I disagree that marriage is a right. thwerefor not a constitutional issue. and finally the repeal of Roe which I support weakly

Bill the Lizard said...

@Cobb: "The Constitution remains the most immutable of all laws as it should be."

If the Constitution has been immutable law since its ratification in 1788, then provide evidence to support that.

And don't just fall back on "originalism better respects the Constitution as a binding contract", as this is incomplete view of Constitutional theory. The Supreme Court has repeatedly, since the very beginning, strayed from originalism. All a rigid examining of the Constitution does is free people from having to consider the ramifications of their policies, while at the same time increase the chance for constitutional obsolescence.

From everything that I see, the Constitution has always been a document of change: from Article V, which allows for basic adjustment to existing language; to the push for a Bill of Rights within two years of the drafting of the Constitution; to the outcome of the Civil War, which seriously revised the 1788 Constitution in fundamental respects, specifically with regards to Slavery and the autonomy of states.

It's extremely important to understand that the Constitution was drafted in very general terms. This is what gives the original document flexibility. But it's also what causes alternative interpretations. Thus amendment and change and legislative discussion become imperative.

Cobb said...

Was Prohibition a good idea? The salient question as I mentioned before, is whether or not the Founders were sufficiently moral to enumerate the proper scope of Constutional rights. If you suggest that they were not - that at some point in the future there are additional human rights and civil rights that need to be guaranteed by the Constitution then we are in fundamental disagreement.

Btw I'm quite aware of the paradox of self amendment. I'm a Nomic player from way back.

Constructive Feedback said...

Cobb and Chauncey:

I printed out all of the comments as well as the article to read both of your arguments.

Cobb - I have a problem with you man. You offer "literary treatises" when a verbal punch in the mouth would have been far more appropriate.

Chauncey crafts a STRAW man against the only "Free Range Black" who can be attacked without coverage today - The Black Conservative.


* Ask the Buffalo Soldiers - WHERE they learned their "war chants" used against the Spanish in Cuba as they fought on behalf of Teddy Roosevelt. Indeed they learned it from FIGHTING NATIVE AMERICANS and understanding how these chants make it appear that they are more numerous.

* Ask Spike Lee WHY he did not inquire about the Black soldiers fighting in WWII and WWI "WHAT THE HELL THEY WERE DOING - risking their lives on behalf of a nation that SPITS upon them" instead of doing a movie.

* Ditto for the Black Union soldiers featured in "Glory"

The key image that Chauncey seeks to craft is the caricature that the CONSERVATIVE WHITE OF 2010 seeks to enslave the Black. Chauncey has little "intellectual curiosity" to ask IF the Black Community as serviced by LEFTISTS - Black and White are today MORE COMPETENT to provide the desired standard of living ORGANICALLY in our own communities as another community who's INSTITUTIONS are similarly populated with "favorable people".

Brother Cobb - some times there is a need to set the proper ground floor for the debate instead of going along with the false premises that someone who ultimately has CONTEMPT for you and the founding documents that make us this nation.

For Chauncey the INDICTMENT of the founding of this nation where indeed GREEDY WHITE MEN perverted God's creation of EQUAL HUMAN beings into that of the "beast of burden" is a stronger force of repudiation TO-DAMNED-DAY than his reluctance to acknowledge that DESPITE having all of his rights guaranteed and the framework of this nation codified the Progressive-Fundamentalist STILL can't manage to organize the HUMAN RESOURCES that reside under his control into productive action. Previously with one's labor activated by SLAVERY or unfair work conditions in the factory - people like Chauncey went to work for change.

TODAY with everyone having the right to chose WHEN and HOW MUCH to put their labor services on the market for - Chauncey and friends are not able to DE-ploy these human resources to a more productive capacity.

His entire debate is merely an OBFUSCATION.

His EQUALITY would mean an OPPRESSIVE CENTRAL FORCE that acts as a traffic cop, directing resources based on one's NEEDS.

Bill the Lizard said...


“The salient question as I mentioned before, is whether or not the Founders were sufficiently moral to enumerate the proper scope of Constitutional rights.”

I believe I’ve previously established my position on that - the founders and framers were neither more nor less moral than we are today. If anything, with regards to racism and slavery, they were more overt in their opinions.

Does that make them incapable of framing the Constitution or our government?

No, of course not.

But it certainly does call into question some of their decisions – specifically, the Articles of the Constitution that have been cited above as having supported slavery, as well as the framers’ decisions to uphold the Slave Codes and internal slave trade, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, and ultimately the continuation of the illegal slave trade through Texas and Florida.

Further, consider the ramifications of the “Philadelphia Newspaper War” of 1792 and you start to see the formation of true “dirty” politics – taking the disagreements that were already there and amplifying them to the point of disgust. Hamilton and Jefferson, for example, went from cautious to suspicious to mutual hatred in a very short span of time, lobbing terms like “monarchist”, “vile sycophant”, “poisoner”, “corrupter” and “deplorable” at each other.

So no, I’m not overly impressed with their morality. But they wrote a brilliant document in the Constitution.

Thankfully, they made if flexible, as shown by 221 years of Constitutional law.

chaunceydevega said...

Cobb, are you going to let Constructive claim you? That would be a damned indictment for your position and for black conservatives at large.

Constructive, I have miss you. You are a welcome presence always. How do I obfuscate? I don't speak in circles. Nor do I make claims that are not supported by citations, clear reasoning, and transparent argumentation. Brother Constructive, understanding your tangled half reasoned arguments is like trying to decode hieroglyphics or ancient Egyptian without a Rosetta Stone.

As I said earlier, if you have so much faith in the time of the founding, get in your hot tub time machine and hangout with your people and let's see what would happen.

Better yet, go to a white nationalist meeting--they are original intent, strict constructionist types too--or go to a meeting of the John Birch society and let's see how well your position is received.

Actually, I take that back those folks, like the Tea Baggers, love them some human notion mascot Michael Steele types as cover for their anti black, white resentment.

I knew you would love that one.


Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]Brother Constructive, understanding your tangled half reasoned arguments is like trying to decode hieroglyphics or ancient Egyptian without a Rosetta Stone.[/quote]

Brother Chauncey:

A text book of calculus in a high school in Central Falls Rhode Island that is NOT UNDERSTOOD by the masses of students DOES NOT MEAN that it is the information contained in TEXT BOOK that is faulty.

Do you see the FRAUD that you have put out which must be disassembled?
WHY do we need a Time Machine to place a Black "chamber maid" into Constitutional Hall so that he/she might be asked HIS OPINION of Freedom from the WHITE MEN who penned the document?

Here is the ironic point Chauncey - you argue that these source documents are CONTEMPTIBLE because of the clear and direct hypocritical acts that were done under its framework (slavery, genocide, gender oppression, etc). YET to-damned-day YOUR OWN NOTIONS of freedom and liberty are couched upon these "radioactive" elements.

Chauncey - SHOW ME ANOTHER NATION IN THE REAL WORLD (Pandora is not allowed) in which an array of:

* Races
* Genders
* Religions
* Economic Strata

have achieved the state of the MODERN DAY AMERICA via these most contemptible documents as their guiding framework?

YOU SAY THAT INCOME EQUALITY is your measure? I say B.S.!!!!!!!

You pretend that WEALTH IS A ZERO SUM GAME. I challenge you to document for me where this "natural resources of WEALTH" came from that has our national economy of 2010 at $15,000 billion whereas a century ago it was a mere fraction of this.

WHY is it that you don't see that the present DECOMMISSION of the productive capacity of our CITIES (and the people within) has meant that POTENTIAL wealth creation has been DESTROYED by policies that you favor?

Of the 16% Black unemployment rate (Juliane Malveaux placed it at 28% on NPR "Marketplace" today) HOW MANY OF THESE PEOPLE are "Wealth Producing Vehicles" that are LEFT IDLE?

Chauncey - don't you see? The VOID in your world is that you are not able to use the present day FREEDOM from forced labor and the control over certain areas by progressive forces to construct a WEALTH CREATION BEHEMOTH which could shift that imbalance that you speak of.

Thus you prefer to erect a ravenous GOVERNMENT vacuum that CONFISCATES private property and then shoots it out to those who NEED.

This is because of your inability to craft a system by which you create products and services by which people VOLUNTARILY open up their wallets and HAND THEIR CASH OVER TO YOU.

I give credit to the Asians. DOMESTICALLY - they get my money from my taste for Japanese and Chinese food. GLOBALLY - they get my money when I purchase electronics and other gadgets.


There is NO NEED to talk CONSTITUTIONAL THEORY with you Chauncey. This is merely a guise of your real intentions.

Instead you need a few verbal shots to the head by a pugilist who will wake you up from your TIME MACHINE and bring you into the RING of the present time.

You can dream about the past during the interval of time between you laying on the canvas and the smelling salt bringing you back to consciousness.

Cobb said...

The thing is CD, that I've been hanging out with Republicans and Conservatives of all stripes for years. I understand fundamentally where they are coming from, what's reasonable and what's practical and what's side-neck talking. CF doesn't upset me. I've known him for a few years.

I tend to be less concerned with the fate of black communities in particular than CF is. His strength is that he understands quite clearly the hypocrisy of the Talented Tenth's liberal mouthifications whereas their private values are aligned with mainstream conservatives - except that these folks are so insular that they refuse to give up the social position they have based upon that liberal rheotoric; they refuse society with white conservatives.

chaunceydevega said...

Constructive, constructive, constructive I do enjoy these exchanges.

Why do you presume to tell me what i use this strategy with lots of you can then immediately attack my non-existent response? That is sort of like arguing with yourself, no? It is very convenient because it assures that you will win every time.

Ultimately, what a wonderfully rigged (and self validating) game you play. Your "debates" are intellectual onanism (I could have said masturbation but I have wanted to use onanism in a sentence all week).


Student of the World said...

Mmmm I don't think black conservatives would sell themselves into back into slavery to get in good with other whites...

HOWEVER- I DO, most definitely, think they would OTHER black people, outside of their immediate friends and family if the opportunity arose.

If I recall correctly from history slavery was very much a two way street,at least in the beginning. It was dominated by European's buyer lust for African labor, but it took MANY helping African hands to "provide" the supply that they demanded.

Even today Africa has a very sordid/complex relationship with slavery. One that I'm still trying to understand and reconcile as an African American woman.