Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seideman argues that:
Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse....
... Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?
Constitutional disobedience may seem radical, but it is as old as the Republic.
So what about out basic freedoms? Seidman answers that:
This is not to say that we should disobey all constitutional commands. Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution. We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.
One wonders whether Seidman would include the unenumerated rights like "privacy" and the corollary "right" to kill unborn babies, BTW.
As Jonathan Adler notes, this is an unprincipled argument:
... the Constitution itself provides for its own revision to cure deficiencies: Article V. This amendment process has allowed for dramatic changes to the document, from the Bill of Rights and the Civil War Amendments to women’s suffrage and changes to election procedures.
Seidman suggests that liberal constitutional values such as the freedom of speech and religion, equal protection, and due process “are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution” and that “we should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.” But our political history shows quite clearly that the political process is more than willing to trample such principles, often with substantial popular support even with a constitutional obligation to respect. Yet the whole point of a constitution is to prevent such abuses and constrain popular majorities.
Seidman writes that if we followed his advice: “The Supreme Court could stop pretending that its decisions protecting same-sex intimacy or limiting affirmative action were rooted in constitutional text.” So supreme court opinions would be nothing more than policy briefs and appeals to moral principle? It seems to me that is a recipe for undermining the legitimacy of judicial review and ultimately relegating all such questions to the political process — and producing quite a few results I doubt Seidman would much like (e.g. greater limits on expression, lesser protection of criminal defendants, and more expansive national security authority). There are reasonable arguments for constraining (or even eliminating) judicial review — I don’t agree with them, but I think they are reasonable — but I don’t take that to be Seidman’s argument. To the contrary, he seems to want to keep judicial review, but just for those constitutional provisions he likes, but that’s hardly the basis for a principled argument for “constitutional disobedience,” as such.
BTW, if we can ignore constitutional provisions, does that mean we just ignore the entire Warren Court era? Or, if I could pick just one case to ignore, how about Wickard v. Filburn, which is the root of all evil.
See the problem?
See also John Vecchione:
In what reads like a parody of liberal thinking from Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, Professor Louis Seidman of Georgetown Law School posits that we should ignore some parts of the Constitution while keeping the parts he likes. He risibly blames the crisis of spending and entitlements — brought on by men who think like him — on an over-punctilious adherence to the Constitution.'
I dunno. Does this mean we should ignore Roe? Or Miranda? And Baker v. Carr? And if the Constitution is this obsolete and “evil,” then maybe secession isn’t off the table after all? . . . .
I find myself agreeing more frequently than ever before with Glenn Greenwald, at least on the issue of the willingness and desire of “progressives” to go where even the demonized George W. Bush was not willing to go, and the willingness with which the progressive intelligentsia embraces such ideas in the service of Obama.
Been then and done that.