"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free ... it expects what never was and never will be." -- Thomas Jefferson
One of the most bothersome things about the current incarnation of the Republican Party has to be their sheer hypocrisy when it comes to the concept of liberty. To hear them tell it, they're "strict constitutionalists," but how strict are they, really? Just look at the Bill of Rights, for example. Except for the right to bear arms, which they exaggerate greatly, they don't seem to care much about the rights the rest of us hold dear.
Amendment I -- Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Republicans really hate this one, although they pretend to love the religion part, because they think it'll get them votes. But really, when they talk about "freedom of religion," beside the fact that it's usually phony, they tend to mean their own freedom to annoy you with their religion. They want to be able to preach to you at will, and to create laws that conform to their religious views, without regard to anyone else's. But if anyone, including other Christians, want to remove the Ten Commandments from the secular courthouse, or make sure their kids don't feel forced to say a prayer before or after school, they scream about it at the top of their lungs, and complain that their religious freedom is being infringed somehow. And don't even discuss putting a “mosque” in an old Burlington Coat Factory in the neighborhood where the World Trade Center once stood, because that will make them crazy.
They're not much better when it comes to freedom of speech or the press. They are quite fond of their own, but no one else’s matters much. I mean, they get to spew as much nonsense as they want, but anyone who offers up an opposing viewpoint is often accused of trying to stifle their right to free speech somehow. Rush Limbaugh must be allowed to scream as much racist, misogynist nonsense as he wants, but his targets are just supposed to take it, and keep quiet about it. But if anyone complains to his advertisers about it, that's somehow a violation of Limbaugh's free speech.
Republicans also feel the right to free speech should be severely limited to whatever fits into their narrow view of how the world should be. When someone says one of a few dozen words or phrases, the right wants to punish them for “obscenity,” regardless of context. But Fox News is allowed to perpetrate any lie under the guise of "news," and will even go to court to defend their right to lie. When someone's on a crusade to ban certain types of art or pornography, it's usually a Republican.
Few Republicans seem to have a problem petitioning the government for a redress of their grievances, but they have a serious problem when anyone else does it. For example, they'll show up at Tea Party rallies wearing guns and wielding signs likening President Obama to a monkey and calling him a Commie, but they also cheer police who bust the heads of Occupy protesters.
As one can see, right wingers are not fans of the First Amendment at all.
Amendment II -- A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
This is the one, folks. This is the Amendment that most right wing Republicans think is the key to the survival of the United States. Forget freedom of speech and the right to a trial and all of that; without a gun, our freedoms are in mortal danger.
Republicans absolutely revere this Amendment. Well, most of it. You know that first part? The part about the "well-regulated militia"? As far as most right wingers are concerned, that's just a "qualifier," and has no real meaning. You can just ignore that. As far as Republicans are concerned, the Second Amendment creates an unlimited right to buy any gun you wish and shoot anyone who gets in your face. Period. No qualifiers.
Amendment III -- No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
This one doesn’t come up very much, so we’ll skip this one.
Amendment IV -- The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V -- No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI - In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Right wingers absolutely detest this section of the Bill of Rights, because it's not just nice and neat, and it requires work to enforce. Their basic premise is based on the bromide, " if you haven’t done anything wrong, you should have nothing to fear if authorities wants to check you out. Of course, there seems to be an exemption for those who are doctor-shopping for oxycontin to feed their addiction. But for the most part, they believe, if you're not doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to fear. If you think I'm exaggerating, consider drug laws and the TSA setup at the airport. Look at their blind worship of the almighty driver's license. If it has a picture, then it proves who you are, right?
This is, of course, insane. The purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to ensure that government works for us, and not the other way around. For our justice system to work at all, the government should always have the burden of proof anytime you’re charged with a crime. The government has to prove you’re a criminal; you do not have to prove you’re not.
Well, the current Republican Party tends to stand that concept on its head. If a police officer accuses you of a crime, there must be something to it, and you should just sit tight while said officer searches everything you own. As the right sees it, because one out of every 20 million people in the world is a terrorist and far more do drugs once in a while, it is incumbent upon all of us to prove we’re not one of them. As the GOP sees it, the government has every right to comb your phone records at will, in order to keep you safe.
If you think I'm exaggerating, consider the Arizona "Show me your papers" law. Think about it. In order for police to determine who’s here illegally and who isn’t, Arizona's GOP lawmakers happily gave them the power to approach people randomly and demand proof of American citizenship. And their Republican governor happily signed it and even fought the federal government over it.
Look in your wallet. Do you carry proof that you're a citizen around with you at all times?
Add that sickening example to the myriad violations of the Fourth Amendment concept contained in the ridiculous “drug war.” For years now, law enforcement officials have been allowed to confiscate the goods and money of anyone who has even been accused of taking and/or selling drugs, and they've even been able to force the owners to go to court to recover it. According to the Fourth Amendment, that should be illegal. Yet, Republicans love the idea.
Honestly, Republicans do like the very last part of the Fifth Amendment. But the rest of it? Not so much. For eight years, their las president, George W. Bush, violated every aspect of the Fifth Amendment, with the Republican Congress happily acquiescing. Capturing people, holding them in prison without benefit of counsel for years, and even torturing them, all became part of the "war on terrrrrr," whic was something of an opposite bookend of the "war on drugs." Apparently, as the current Republican Party sees it, if due process is inconvenient, and prevents you from throwing someone in jail because you think he or she is dangerous, then screw the Fifth Amendment.
Hell; President Obama has been trying to kill the "war on terrrrrrr" for four years now, and return our system to something resembling sanity, but Republicans (and a few Democrats) seem to like having a boogeyman, and using that boogeyman to create a system that is easier for them to navigate, but more difficult for us. That's not how it works, folks. It's supposed to be difficult for them to accuse us of a crime and prove it. Again, the burden of proof is always on the accusers/government. That is how we stay safe. Republicans don't think that way. They want to be able to label someone a criminal, throw them in jail and be done with it. Due process is just a bother to them. Innocent until proven guilty is a major pain in the ass to them.
Amendment VII - In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
This is another one Republicans kind of hate, given all of their talk about tort reform. Of course, their idea of tort reform is basically to eliminate them altogether. They have no confidence in the judiciary's ability to determine the merit of a lawsuit, to the point that they refer to almost any lawsuit they disagree with as "frivolous," and want to limit damages to whatever the defendant in any suit (except those they bring) can afford comfortably.
For example, earlier this year, the Republican House passed the HEALTH Act, despite the fact that they knew it would never become law, which would have capped non-monetary damages in medical malpractice and other health-related torts, to $250,000 and to cap contingncy fees charged by lawyers. That would effectively have ended the right to a jury trial for many people, as many cases would have just settled out ofcourt for the maximum. Again, the current Republican Party doesn't seem to have the same regard for the Bill of Rights as its creators.
Amendment VIII - Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Once again, Republicans have never had a problem with excessive bail, and they don't have a problem with excessive fines against those they don't care for, such as those they label "terrorists" without a trial. But they also don't seem to have a problem with imposing the death penalty, which has become increasingly cruel and unusual in recent years.
Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
I'm not even sure most Republicans know what this means.
What this means is, just because a right isn't explicitly mentioned in the Constitution doesn't mean the people don't have others. In fact, you pretty have the right to do just about anything that isn't expressly prohibited by the law.
Apply this concept to same-sex marriage. Republicans argue that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman only, and that same-sex couples don't have the same rights as everyone else. But the Ninth Amendment (and later, the Fourteenth Amendment) says otherwise. Just because marriage rights aren't spelled out in the Constitution doesn't mean they don't exist.
Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
This one is deceptively simple, but Republicans either don't understand it, or pretend to think it has some broad meaning under the umbrella "states' rights." Essentially. the way Republicans seem to interpret this Amendment aligns with their concept of state sovereignty, which is a bit skewed. Essentially, the average Republican seems to think this Amendment gives states sovereign powers, which is doesn't. In fact, it's almost the opposite. It simply says that states have power over any subject matter on which the federal government hasn't already passed a law. Some of the more right wing courts seem to be trying to relax that standard a bit, but for the most part, the courts have stayed firm. Except for a few functions specifically reserved to the states, such as voting, real estate and insurance matters, the federal government can take charge of just about any issue, and create a standard.
Republicans don't like this, of course, when they find it inconvenient. Again, look at the Arizona immigration law. The southern border with Mexico isn't actually a state border, but a national one.
Republicans are into power. When they're in charge of the federal government, the federal government becomes all-powerful. When Democrats run the federal government, they become advocates for what they call "states' rights." And if you think I'm joking, look at the difference between Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. When Bush and the GOP Congress were in charge, the federal government took control of disaster relief, all but removing states from the process of recovery altogether, and putting FEMA and DHS in charge of everything. By the time of Hurricane Sandy, Republicans wanted states to take charge of relief efforts.
And that illustrates the problem with the current incarnation of the Republican Party. They are far more interested in power than rights and freedoms, so they tend to change their view of the Bill of Rights based on what will give them the most power.
They don't really care about your rights, just theirs.