In 1824, in retirement 37 years after serving as the Constitutional Convention's prime mover, James Madison, 73, noted that the 1787 "language of our Constitution is already undergoing interpretations unknown to its founders." He knew that the purport of the text would evolve "with the changeable meaning of the words composing it."
Conservatives are dismayed about the Supreme Court's complicity in rewriting the Affordable Care Act -- its ratification of the IRS' disregard of the statute's plain and purposeful language. But they have contributed to this outcome. Their decades of populist praise of judicial deference to the political branches has borne this sour fruit.
Hillary Clinton's reticence is drowning out her message, which is that she is the cure for the many ailments that afflict America during a second Democratic presidential term. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has called her "the most opaque person you'll ever meet in your life," but when opacity yields to the necessity of answering questions, here are a few:
Americans should light 800 candles for the birthday of the document that began paving the meandering path to limited government. Magna Carta laid down the law about "fish weirs" on English rivers, "assizes of darrein presentment," people being "distrained to make bridges," and other "liberties ... to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity." But what King John accepted at Runnymede meadow on June 15, 1215, matters to Americans because of something that happened 588 years later in the living room of Stelle's Hotel in Washington, where the Library of Congress now sits.
Before presidential politics -- the game of getting to 270 electoral votes -- completely eclipses governing, there is the urgent task of getting to 217 votes in the House of Representatives to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). This would guarantee a vote without amendments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Without TPA, any trade agreement will be nibbled to death in Congress by persons eager to do organized labor's bidding. So, Republicans who oppose TPA are collaborating with those who oppose increasing the velocity and rationality of economic life.
Campaign finance "reformers" think America would be better governed if the government could thoroughly regulate campaign speech, which is speech about the composition and comportment of the government. Reformers scold the Supreme Court for construing the First Amendment as though it says "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech." Reformers say government can limit campaign money without limiting what most such money funds -- political speech.
Does any stricture of journalistic propriety or social etiquette require us to participate in Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' charade? Is it obligatory to take seriously his pose of being an "independent" and a "socialist"? It gives excitable Democratic activists a frisson of naughtiness to pretend that he is both. Actually, he is neither.
Commencement season brings a respite from the sinister childishness rampant on campuses. Attacks on freedom of speech come from the professoriate, that herd of independent minds, and from the ever-thickening layer of university administrators who keep busy constricting freedom in order to fine-tune campus atmospherics.
A simple apology would suffice. Instead, campaign finance reformers, horrified by the predictable results of their handiwork, aspire to yet more regulatory wrinkles to limit political speech. These, too, would have consequences unintended and undesired by reformers, "requiring" a new round of reforms. But the Constitution, properly construed, requires a wall of separation between campaign and state.
The Revolutionary War and Civil War ended in Virginia, which was involved, by the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, in the beginning of today's war with radical Islam. Now a Virginia senator is determined that today's war shall not continue indefinitely without the legitimacy conferred by congressional involvement congruent with the Constitution's text and history.
Without a definitive judicial ruling or other galvanizing event, a perennial American argument is ending. Capital punishment is withering away.
A near miss can be a sharp spur, so Rick Santorum wants to say something to those who profess condescending puzzlement about his persistence in pursuing the Republican presidential nomination: You probably have no idea how close I came to defeating Mitt Romney in 2012.
Controversies about "free-range parenting" illuminate today's scarred cultural landscape. Neighbors summon police in response to parenting choices the neighbors disapprove. Government extends its incompetence with an ever-broader mission of "child protection." And these phenomena are related to campus hysteria about protecting infantilized undergraduates from various menaces, including uncongenial ideas.
In the 1950s, during one of his two campaigns as the Democrats' presidential nominee, Adlai Stevenson was invited to address a gathering of Baptists in Houston, where in 1960 John Kennedy would address a group of Protestant ministers to refute charges that his Catholicism rendered him unfit to be president. This was an opinion vociferously promulgated by Norman Vincent Peale, a broadcast preacher and author of "The Power of Positive Thinking."
America's smallest state -- one Nevada county is nearly eight times larger -- has the longest name: In a 2010 referendum, voters kept the official title, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The state also has a dark-horse presidential candidate who is the only Democratic candidate so far who can shoe a horse. "Put a blacksmith in the White House" could be Lincoln Chafee's slogan.