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Tag Archives: Constitution

Lanhee Chen: The “Liberal Lion” and the Future of the Courts


Stephen Reinhardt, who was called the “liberal lion” of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, passed away on March 29th in Los Angeles. During his almost 40 years on the appeals court bench, Reinhardt wrote opinions that struck down the constitutionality of the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and overturned Proposition 8, California’s initiative defining marriage as a male-female union.

Reinhardt’s death means that there are now seven vacancies on the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. President Trump has an historic opportunity to remake the Ninth Circuit—and the entire federal judiciary. The vast majority of his judicial nominees thus far have been stellar. They will adhere to the rule of law and interpret the Constitution based on the words in it, not the ideas they want to be in it.

The President should continue his good work in this arena.  Doing so will remake federal jurisprudence for decades to come.

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David Davenport: The Lost Art of Political Compromise

Compromise

Among many lost arts in Washington the most problematic is the lost art of compromise.

The dictionary says compromise includes the root word “com” or together with the word promise:  We make promises by coming together.  America learned this early, with the Constitutional Convention full of compromises.

But now members of Congress vote not to find the best solution for the country but the best platform for their next election.   Democrats threatened to shut the entire government over dreamer immigrants, while Trump was willing to see a shutdown over his wall.  And so it goes, politicians standing firm on one issue or another which they believe will get them reelected, and the whole of the federal government is held hostage.

We need more politicians like Ronald Reagan, who told House Speaker Tip O’Neill, “I will take half a loaf today, but I will come back for the other half tomorrow.”

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David Davenport: Power to the States

One encouraging development is that power is leaving Washington, DC and heading to the states. Policy wonks call it devolution, I call it progress.

 

After 15 years of federalizing K-12 education, for example, Washington turned its back on No Child Left Behind and passed a bill returning power over schools to the states.  There’s no need for Washington to act, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says, as a national school board.

 

There’s discussion in Congress that the states should not only manage the trees, plants and flowers in their territory, but wildlife as well, including endangered species.

 

Welfare reform may be the next big issue and any solution is likely to create a larger role for states. Only the marijuana laws are moving the other way, toward Washington.

 

It’s heartening that Washington may finally be reading the Tenth Amendment—that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution belong to the states or the people.  Not everything needs to be a federal case.

 

I’m David Davenport.

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David Davenport: Previewing Trump’s First State of the Union Speech

Compromise

A president’s first state of the union message is an important occasion. But in our era of political theater, there is some danger that this year the sideshow will overshadow the main attraction.

Several Democratic members of Congress say they will boycott the event.  One Congresswoman is encouraging females who do attend to dress in black.

Despite the political challenges, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  If Trump makes this primarily an economic address, he can succeed.  Think about it:  unemployment is down, jobs are up and the stock market is on fire. His big piece of legislation, the tax bill, is projected to lead to even more economic growth. The president has problems elsewhere, but so far so good on the economy and that should be his message.

The Constitution does not actually require this kind of televised state of the union address, though tradition does.  It’s always possible that a nontraditional president like Trump might surprise us and do something completely different.

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David Davenport: Not All Free Speech Is Constitutionally Protected

Compromise

NFL players kneeling to protest the national anthem isn’t going away. Two owners say their players must stand; now the Commissioner wants a rule requiring all NFL players to stand. Vice President Pence famously walked out on the protest.

But here’s one thing you should know that many don’t: Even though the phrase free speech is thrown around, the players have no constitutionally protected right to protest the anthem.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting free speech, not a football team. In fact, sports teams are businesses and their leagues may regulate all kinds of things, from tucking in your shirt to what patches you wear. If there is any legal angle here, it is a matter of labor negotiations between the players’ union and management or the League. But it’s not a matter of constitutional law under the First Amendment.

Sadly our society knows so little about the Constitution, but this teachable moment is about free speech.

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David Davenport: Free Speech Under Threat

Compromise

This summer, Commentary magazine published a forum on the question: Is free speech under threat in the United States?

Ironically, in a country where the Constitution and the courts carefully protect free speech, many people do not feel free to speak freely. Why? Because of a smothering blanket of political correctness that starts in our colleges and permeates our society.

Speakers with points of view that differ from the liberal orthodoxy are not welcome on many campuses, and in some cases have been subject to threats and violence. Students are supposed to be protected from so-called trigger words and microaggressions in the classroom. So much for free speech and the open debate of competing ideas.

The problem is that the First Amendment protects free speech from limitations by government, but the big challenges to free speech come from our culture and our campuses. It will take a strong fight to protect free speech, which is clearly under threat.

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