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Are some Americans more equal than others?

By Lisa Fabrizio
web posted January 25, 2010

All men are created equal. This was the noble sentiment expressed by our founders at the birth of our nation; a statement of a religious truth yes, but also a profound hope that it might someday be a governing reality as well. Now these words appear only in the Declaration to the world that we desired to live in a different manner than any other people had up until that time.

But what was deemed more important than Thomas Jefferson's soaring rhetoric were the principles for governance as drawn up in the supreme law of our land, the U.S. Constitution. So while the Declaration proclaimed that all men are created equal by their maker, the Constitution was crafted to ensure that those in this country might have a chance to stay that way. Sadly, as evidenced especially by the blatant deal making undertaken to pass the Healthcare Reform Bill, this is not the case.

Pandering for votes in this country is nothing new of course; that practice, along with the language we shared in consanguinity with the British, was something we unfortunately inherited. Yet our founders sought ways in which to curb the more egregious instances of political corruption, and the fruit of their labor resulted in the most perfect governing document ever crafted by man.

At the time of our founding, most states only gave the vote to property owners--some counted livestock or even a minimum of money as property--and this practice is often vilified because it is so misunderstood. But they did so because they knew that if a man counted on another man for his subsistence, he would be likely to vote in the same way as his employer; a prediction that has become all too true with today's union rank and file.
 
Likewise, women, unless they were property owners (usually widows or unmarried heirs), did not need to vote because it was incomprehensible that a wife's interests would not be the same as those of her husband.

Of course those were different times and over the years the Constitution was amended to preclude the individual states from denying certain groups the right to vote, although a strict interpretation of its tenets should have rendered this unnecessary. By creating special status for certain classes, albeit via the amendment process, Americans lost the sublime sense of equality across the board, as so wonderfully foreseen in the Declaration. Also gone was the idea that we are a nation of sovereign states, with virtually the only vestige remaining being the Electoral College.

This has opened the doors for disaffected groups from every quarter in America to claim special rights based in part on the distinctions spelled out in Amendments XV, XIX and XXIV. Affirmative action, Title IX and hate crimes laws all trace their origins from them, and serve to polarize our nation in ways that would have horrified our founding fathers.

Equally horrifying would have been the extent to which huge chunks of political payoffs have been doled out to these special interests, as most recently evidenced by the healthcare reform debacle. Again, this is nothing new in itself. The difference is, that for the first time in our history, these minorities--unions, for example--are being allowed to actually write legislation rather then just heavily influence it; not exactly the idea our founders had in mind when they wrote Article I. But that is how far away we have lurched from the unifying ideals that launched this country.

But if we continue with the status quo, this country may never be restored to the lofty goals of equality and unity that once enlightened American minds; until it is once again understood that the limits placed on the federal government by the U.S. Constitution were meant to protect the rights of minority groups and not empower them to cancel out those of the majority. ESR

Lisa Fabrizio is a columnist who hails from Connecticut. You may write her at mailbox@lisafab.com.

 

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