Grover Norquist offers support for a rather peculiar, anti-liberty amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
A bipartisan revulsion at this recrudescence of an aristocracy – Democrats think there have been too many Bushes, Republicans think there have been too many Clintons – has led concerned citizens (OK, me) to launch a campaign to enact a constitutional amendment to ban this practice. The draft now circulating was written by the legal scholar Bruce Fein and reads:
Section 1. No spouse, sibling or child of an elected or appointed federal, state or local official outside the civil service may immediately succeed that official in the same elected or appointed office.
This amendment is in keeping with other restrictions on who can run for office in the US. Presidents must be at least 35 years old; senators, 30; congressmen, 25. Presidents must be born in the US. Fifteen states have enacted term limits on state legislators of six, eight or 12 years.
Indeed there have been too many Bushes and we’re certainly poised to have too many Clintons. Voters already have the power to avoid that outcome, although it’s still unclear whether enough will exercise such wisdom, so that isn’t the point. The problem is wrapped up in Norquist’s precedent.
This proposed amendment is not in keeping with other restrictions. The restrictions he cites are tailored specifically to individuals, designed to preserve the best opportunity for a qualified person concerned first with America’s interests to arise to the office of President. With some of the charlatans we’ve had, it clearly isn’t foolproof. But the design is obvious and easy to defend.
Instead of such wise, minimal restrictions equally applied to every individual American (natural-born, of course), this proposed amendment offers further restrictions for a tiny minority of citizens. To prevent something we feel is terrible – something that has never occurred in the office of president – we wish to prevent possible “unfair” benefits by placing unfair burdens. We would deny equal opportunity to individuals for what is not their doing.
Worse, Norquist understands the faulty logic at work:
… While our amendment would not have forbidden George W. Bush from running for president eight years after his father or Hillary Clinton eight years after her husband, both Republicans and Democrats see this amendment as sending a message about the other party’s abuse of familial power.
The Constitution is apparently no longer¹ the place to protect the rights of individuals by defining the limits on our government. “Sending a message” to a few dozen individuals is sufficient justification. Again, we should just ignore that voters already have the power to prevent the hideous possibility of dynastic democracy. We’ve generally shown our indifference. I don’t like it, but I also understand that liberty is more important. Supporting it sends a message.
Link via Andrew Sullivan.
¹ The 18th Amendment made this clear. Did the 21st Amendment teach us nothing?