one basic takeaway i’ve had from reading, at this point, a couple thousand pages on the writing and ratification of the constitution is that those bamas didn’t even agree amongst themselves what the Constitution meant at the time of ratification
ah yes, the ignorant take is that “the constitution was a political document that sought to build a working mechanism for self government while satisfying a large number of mutually exclusive interests” and the smart take is “no it’s not”
mine isn’t an argument about legislative history, it’s an argument about the political disputes around ratification as well as the subsequent decade of american politics.
“the full structural implications of what the words meant” was contested from the moment the ink was dry to the moment it went into effect to the moment actual officeholders tried to exercise those powers.
everyone claims fealty to some original meaning, and what it means for something to be an “original meaning” is constructed and reconstructed again and again, generation after generation.
And as much as Americans might want to have some approach that provides a definitive rule for what is constitutional and what isn’t, that just isn’t possible. Instead, we have and will always have contested “original meanings.”

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More from @jbouie

13 Oct
given that the constitution was effectively rewritten by the reconstruction amendments, it would be great to see a supreme court nominee say something like “I will interpret the Constitution as it was understood in 1870.”
let’s resurrect the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th amendment baby
the authors of the 13th amendment sought to eliminate the “badges of slavery” and the second section gives Congress the power to “enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” let’s take it for a spin!
Read 5 tweets
10 Oct
finishing up FORREST GUMP tonight and i forgot that the film makes gump responsible for stopping the watergate break-in
looking forward to the remake of gump in 20 years where it turns out gump did 9/11
Gump makes his way on The Apprentice and tells Donald Trump “you should try being president sometime.”
Read 5 tweets
10 Oct
most anti-court expansion arguments depend on pretending not to notice a 40 year conservative effort to make the judiciary a permanent veto point for progressive lawmaking
“installing right-wing judges is so critical to the conservative project that the entire movement united behind a white supremacist demagogue to accelerate and complete the project and also HOW DARE you try to do anything about it!”
“if a vestigial organ of the constitution unexpectedly gives us power without support from most voters, then of course we have the right to turn a whole branch of government into a permanent redoubt for our partisan & ideological interests & it would be unfair of you to stop us.”
Read 7 tweets
10 Oct
I’ll note, again, the effort to conflate the entire magazine issue with its lead essay — and really, a single sentence in that essay — a transparent attempt to discredit a host of arguments and observations from historians, artists, & other journalists.…
I’ll also note that the objectors have arguably gone too far in the other direction, so eager to discredit the project as to ignore volumes of scholarship on the ways that the drive for racial control — by way of slavery and expropriation of native land — shaped the revolution.
It is really something to assert that 1776 demonstrates the nobility of the American founding when the Declaration explicitly charges the crown with stirring up slave revolts and preventing Americans from stealing Native land.
Read 5 tweets
8 Oct
the interesting thing to me about this conspiracy is how much it depends on seeing monochrome photography as the exception to the capturing of images and not, until relatively recently, the rule.
it so reminds me that you do have to learn how to “see” a monochrome photo, as it were, same as how modern viewers have to actually acclimate themselves to pre-color films.
right! black and white photography is its own thing and for my part there are ways and circumstances in which it can more effectively communicate a story or feeling than color.
Read 5 tweets
8 Oct
“we have taken away your right to self-government for your own good”
forgot about that time the federal government tried to disenfranchise the citizens of florida under the argument that “we’re a republic, not a democracy”
don’t be stupid. “democracy” in common american parlance means “representative government in which all citizens count equally and the people are sovereign.” no one on these streets is calling for athenian style assemblies or direct plebiscites.
Read 6 tweets

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