In the Constitution, conservatives have found a potent symbol.
For decades, Democrats and Republicans fought over who owns the American flag. Now, they’re fighting over who owns the Constitution.
The flag debates began during the Vietnam era when leftist radicals made the fatal error of burning it. For decades since, non-suicidal liberals have tried to undo the damage. Demeaningly, and somewhat unfairly, they are forever having to prove their fealty to the flag.
Amazingly, though, some still couldn’t get it quite right. During the last presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama, when asked why he was not wearing a flag pin, answered that it represented “a substitute” for “true patriotism.” Bad move. Months later, Obama quietly beat a retreat and returned to wearing the flag on his lapel. He does so still.
Today, the issue is the Constitution. It’s a healthier debate because flags are pure symbolism and therefore more likely to evoke pure emotion and ad hominem argument. The Constitution, on the other hand, is a document that speaks. It defines concretely the nature of our social contract. Nothing in our public life is more substantive.