BY SHARON MARTIN
When Sen. Tom Coburn questioned Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, he made clear his belief that original intent trumps legal precedent. He seems to know what our Founding Fathers intended when they created the Constitution; he called their intentions “pure.”
The Founding Fathers wanted freedom from oppression. They put their lives and reputations on the line when they demanded that freedom. However, if we go back to original intent, do we go back to the premise that white, male landowners are free and women and minorities are only as free as the white, male landowners allow them to be? Not a single woman or person of color signed the Declaration of Independence. Where were their voices when the Constitution was first penned?
Our country has evolved, and so has our Constitution. We freed the slaves. Women earned the right to vote. We made the sale of liquor illegal then made it legal again when prohibition didn’t work. Our Constitution is a living, breathing document, capable of changing as our nation, itself, evolves.
Some conservatives profess to be strict constitutionalist. What is it they really want to conserve? If we go back to original intent, our president counts as three/fifths a person, and his wife would not be a successful lawyer but a cook in someone’s kitchen. Neither Mary Fallin nor Jari Askins would be running for the office of governor of Oklahoma. Women couldn’t own property unless they inherited from their fathers and did not marry.
There are plenty of women and even people of color who have jumped on this constitutionalist bandwagon. They need to be careful, because they could get what they’re asking for. If we return to those darker times, when people could be bought and sold in this country, women and minorities won’t remain on the bandwagon for long. They’ll be standing along the roadside watching the wagon go on without them. Or worse, shoveling the manure the horses leave behind.
Our Constitution is an amazing instrument. It survives because it can adapt to the times. The original authors were intentionally vague because they anticipated change.
A true conservative seeks to conserve and preserve. We must conserve what’s left of the old growth forests. We must protect endangered species. We must preserve historic sites.
American citizens and our Constitution, however, must be allowed to change and adapt so our country can survive in a change-is-inevitable world.
Dr. Coburn, legal precedent is a sound avenue for that change.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer