After the “G-word” has been spoken

In the early Church, witnesses to the faith who had been persecuted and tortured but not killed were known as “martyr-confessors.” It’s been one of the great privileges of my life to have known such men and women: Czech priests who spent years as slave laborers in uranium mines; Lithuanian . . . . Continue Reading »

The Passing of the Voting Rights Act

In 1965, the U.S. Congress made a seismic decision. Faced with the disenfranchisement of black voters on the one hand, and a Constitutional mandate to maintain equal sovereignty among the states on the other, Congress decided that jurisdictions with histories of racial discrimination at the polls should be compelled to seek “preclearance” from federal authorities any time they wished to change their voting procedures. Continue Reading »

The Myth of Washington Gridlock

“Gridlock” along the Potomac – the difficulties the Congress has in getting things done, the difficulties the Congress and the White House have in cooperating to get things done, or both – is regularly deplored by pols, pundits, and citizens alike. My contrarian view is that this kind of “gridlock” can serve useful public purposes, acting as a brake on passions and a gauge of the nation’s moral health. As George Will has long insisted, “gridlock” – in the sense of making it difficult to get legislation passed – is built into the American system. The Framers of the Constitution saw fit to establish three branches of government and a Congress with two houses; they also required congressional supermajorities for certain grave matters, like ratifying treaties, convicting impeached officials, or sending constitutional amendments to the states. And that is a prescription for something resembling “gridlock.” Continue Reading »

How the Constitution was Defeated in 1788

In a parallel universe, the United States of America is somewhere still governed under the Articles of Confederation. Here’s what happened in this other United States: To the dismay of Federalists (called “nationalists” or conservatives at the time) the proposed constitution of 1787, which would have replaced the Articles of 1781, was defeated in four crucial state conventions and never became the framework of the American union.The hard political battle pitted radicals (called anti-Federalists) against conservatives and the radicals won, barely. The “United States, assembled in Congress”, remained the political subordinate of the states. Continue Reading »

Leaping Headfirst Into the Smith Trap

Richard John Neuhaus has joined the chorus of those singing a lament to the death of religious liberty (“Polygamy, Peyote, and the Public Peace,” October 1990). The cause of the choir’s mournful tune is the Supreme Court’s decision in the so-called peyote case, Employment Division v. . . . . Continue Reading »