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April 16, 2024

President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation ending slavery in the District of Columbia on this date in 1862.

The Constitution Bites Back

POSTED: March 20, 2017, 7:00 am

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The Constitution has proven over time to be the antidote to tyranny.

By any interpretation, last week might have been the roughest week experienced by any American president early in his administration. In the course of one week President Trump saw his second executive order banning Muslims’ entry into the country blocked by two federal judges on opposite coasts, had ‘Trumpcare,’ his health-care proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) revealed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to leave millions of Americans uninsured, and was widely ridiculed for his baseless claim that his building in New York City, Trump Tower, had been wiretapped by the Obama administration. Trump sunk further in the swamp when he pointed the finger (and you know which digit he raised) at British intelligence, claiming they were in on the spying by the Obama White House.

To further frustrate President Trump, he had members of his own party pan his preliminary FY ’18 budget proposal as some were also declaring Trumpcare dead on arrival in the Senate. It appears that members of the upper house were paying attention to the bashing their House colleagues have been taking by citizens in town hall meetings on the repeal of the ACA or “Obamacare.” Further complicating matters for the president is the GOP’s conservative bloc that simply wants to kill Obamacare and offer Americans no suitable replacement. Suddenly, those voters who were rabid in their support of the president on the campaign trail are realizing that “Make America Great Again” is a war cry that won’t pay for cancer treatments, provide support for opioid addiction, care for a sick spouse or keep their children healthy.

Now, in almost any presidency, this sequence of events would be seen as bizarre and a sign of a White House that is dysfunctional. For this administration, though bizarre is the new normal, even by Trump standards, last week this presidency was exposed as morally and ethically challenged to a degree we have likely never witnessed. And that is saying a lot given the Watergate crisis.

The irony is that President Trump’s plunge to the depths of public disapproval has not been at the hands of the opposition party, liberal activists or outside agitators. He is being done in by the handiwork of a group of dead white men who, despite their own personal flaws and immorality, created a document that has proven itself resilient, malleable and customizable to the times. The Constitution is kicking this president’s posterior and reminding us that we don’t tolerate imperial rule, no matter who sits in the Oval Office or their partisan leanings and personal ideology. It is the triumph of Karma that this president, who objects to facts and denies history, is being met with resistance by a document crafted by men who possessed his arrogance and penchant for drama.

Despite the neat packaging of this nation’s founding, and the patriotic lore that has been spun regarding the democratic temperament of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and later advanced the Constitution, humanity was not in the room. Somehow, these men reconciled their human trafficking with liberty, and saw no contradiction in the great crime of inhumanity they were committing and their claim that a great democracy was being formed. What is equally confounding is that despite this great travesty, a governing framework was established that served them at the moment but incredibly has shape-shifted to respond to moments of hostility toward our founding principles throughout times.

A president who has succumbed to the banality of Tweeting is facing his greatest opposition in the form of a document that must be read to comprehend not only the scope and limits of executive power, but the framework in which that power is exercised and the core principles that ultimately are inviolable. Yes, there have been hiccups along the way, the Supreme Court ruling in Dredd Scott v. Sanford perhaps being the most offensive, but after 240 years this country has deferred to the document much more than to the leader of the moment. And that’s a good thing.

“What should comfort most Americans albeit with the exception of those who are partial to this president’s childish rhetoric, is that the United States has always found its way back to the Constitution”

What should comfort most Americans albeit with the exception of those who are partial to this president’s childish rhetoric, is that the United States has always found its way back to the Constitution. Sometimes it takes longer than desired, but we have never allowed tyranny to win the day. It could be why the address for the White House is not 1861 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Constitution held its ground against a bloody Civil War, rebellious states that instituted Jim Crow segregation, an attempt by a Democrat to pack the Supreme Court and a Republican who trampled its principles in a quest for unchecked power.

Last week the Constitution showed it hasn’t lost its punch. Just ask the folks in the White House who are licking their wounds.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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