an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Richard Primus raprimus at umich.edu
K. Sabeel Rahmansabeel.rahman at brooklaw.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
The Washington Post reported a few days ago on the heavy involvement of conservatives in the world of viral political chain emails.
I receive a fair number of these – passed on by my father – and so do my friends, passed on by either family or family friends. Many of these chain emails involve the Constitution and the Supreme Court, to the point where I suspect many people around the country, of all ages, are now getting influential lessons on the Constitution from these sources.
I’ll describe just a few that I’ve received from my father in the past year or so. I should say, by way of background, that, although my father is a life-long Republican, the tone of these is really out of synch with the longtime (now former?) tenor of his politics (until recently, he was a moderate Republican; he is a Jewish Long Islander, who, over the years, supported, amongst others, William Miller, Richard Nixon, Jacob Javits, and Nelson Rockefeller).
I received from him, for instance, an anti-New Deal editorial cartoon published in the Chicago Tribune in 1934, under the (original) header “Planned Economy or Planned Destruction?” (a little sleuthing revealed that the cartoon was drawn by Carey Orr (1890-1967), a front-page cartoonist for the Trib for nearly 50 years, a Pulitzer-Prize winner, and an indefatigable opponent of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal). Orr’s cartoon shows the FDR brain-truster Rexford Tugwell (in academic cap-and-gown) driving a horse cart holding several professors (also in caps and gowns, with a sign appended reading “Young Pinkies from Columbia and Harvard” [Obama attended both!]), along with Harold Ickes, Donald Richberg, and Henry Wallace, who are frantically shoveling bags of money off the back of the cart. Words on rear of the cart read: “Depleting the resources of the Soundest Government in the World.” Off to one side of the road, on the right, stands Joseph Stalin, remarking “How red the sunrise is getting!” On the left is a man who appears to be Leon Trotsky, insisting “It worked in Russia!” and scribbling a manifesto stating: “Plan of Action for the U.S.: SPEND! SPEND! SPEND! Under the guise of recovery – bust the government – blame the capitalists for the failure – junk the Constitution and declare a dictatorship.”
The chain email called the cartoon “a wake-up call for all of us!” and warned that “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”
Another email in the style of a news report was headlined “Our New Dictator May Be in Deep Trouble… with Chief Justice John Roberts, U.S. Supreme Court.” The article opens: “According to sources who watch the inner workings of the federal government, a smack-down of Barack Obama by the U.S. Supreme Court may be inevitable.” The reporting begins “Ever since Obama assumed the office of President, critics have hammered him on a number of Constitutional issues. Critics have complained that much, if not all of Obama’s major initiatives run headlong into Constitutional roadblocks on the power of the federal government.” The article goes on to score Obama for “publicly declar[ing] war on the court” during his State of the Union Address [the noted incident in which Justice Alito mouthed “That’s not true.”] “even as [Obama] blatantly continued to propose legislation that flies in the face of every known Constitutional principle upon which this nation has stood for over 200 years.”
The article reports that Obama has identified Roberts as “his number one enemy.” But it then says that sources tell them that the Court has had enough, and is preparing to put a stop to Obama’s desecration of the Constitution. “Obamacare” is cited, as is “the Obama doctrine of open borders,” Obama’s eligibility for the office of the presidency (going well beyond the birth certificate controversy, we are told), along with Eric Holder’s Justice Department’s refusal to pursue the New Black Panther Party for preventing white people from voting, and for “calling for the murder of white people and their babies” (“This one is a biggie that could send the entire Administration crumbling – that is, if the Justices have the guts to draw a line in the sand at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”).
The email is labeled “a must read.”
I’ve also received a power-point tutorial on the (presumably) anti-gun control Second Amendment, and a list of rabidly anti-government quotes from Thomas Jefferson (some accurate, some not), and so on.
Apparently, inboxes are now a major site for “popular constitutionalism."
If my father’s attentiveness to these viral blasts is any indication, their influence (as you probably already suspected) has spread well beyond the fringe.