Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An amendment proposal to root out the cancerous forgetfulness of the American People

In a comment to a thread at VA's, Chasing the elusive 'Hispanic vote', commenter Matt declares that we need a constitutional amendment establishing English as the official language of the United States.

I can understand why some would think such an amendment a good idea, and I'm not arguing against having an English language amendment attached to the U.S. Constitution, at least not in the abstract. But Matt does not stop there.

Matt Writes:

We seriously need, for starters (since none of these candidates are serious about deporting the illegals), a Consitutional ammendment that says English is the official language of the United States (not a law, since it could be easily repealed). We further need to make it clear in said ammendment that state's laws regarding langauge are null and void (since some people have forgotten state law is trumped by federal law). (emphasis mine)

Matt's concluding sentence reads fine (it's a debatable point which I disagree with, but it reads ok) until we get to his gawd-awful parenthetical reasoning behind his assertion. We need to make it abundantly clear, in proposing and ratifying the English language amendment, says Matt, that any and all State language laws are declared null and void. Why? Because some people have forgotten that state law is trumped by federal law. You're gettin' this, right? If there's a federal law in force, state law dealing with the same issue is automatically trumped by the federal statute, which some people have forgotten, therefore we need to make this fundamental constitutional principle crystal clear to all. And the only way to make it crystal clear is to state it explicitly in the language of the amendment, leaving absolutely no discretion to the states on the issue. Presumably Matt would only have us stating this with regard to this particular amendment until we got to the next amendment Matt thinks necessary to be added to the constitution, then, here again, we'd have to make it explicit (since some have forgotten this) that federal law trumps state law. I think I may have a better alternative; a perpetual reminder to the American People (particularly the forgetful among us) that power and authority emanate from the federal head:

Perhaps the thing to do is to write an amendment up that deals specifically with the issue of federal law trumping state law, since, once again, some people seem to have forgotten this fundamental principle of American Constitutional government? The underlying issue, or, the root cause of the problem, according to Matt, is that some people (presumably a majority of Americans) have forgotten this constitutional principle that federal law trumps state law, correct? If that's the case, I might ask Matt, then why go through the motions of applying a bandaid to the wound. It's not going to heal. It's just going to fester and get worse. The better approach, then, would be to cut out the cancer at its roots, would it not? If so, I submit to Matt that the way to handle this unacceptable forgetfulness Americans display concerning the all-powerful federal government is to state explicitly in the federal constitution that federal law trumps state law unless and until the federal authority, by its good graces, decides that the states are trustworthy enough to make their own laws concerning language or whatever. And of course the fed would have to take into consideration whether or not the states and the people were mindful enough of the absolute authority in all matters, local or otherwise, of the almighty federal government before allowing us to create any laws for ourselves, necessary as they may be. Hence the need for a perpetual reminder, which by all rights should head the Constitution. In other words strike out the old tattered obsolete preamble and insert the new.

In truth I see no problem with this. The ninth and tenth amendments, the principle of federalism and of constitutional government have already effectively been overthrown anyhow, why not make it official?


Michael Tams said...

Great post Terry. Don't you get the calculus? Let me break it down for you.

Federal size > state size = Federal is in charge of everything. ROTFLMAO!