On Strict Constitutionalism


Yesterday I had an interaction on Twitter with a few folks about strict constitutionalism. The context was the Utah County Republican Organizing Convention happening today. In response to a tweet I made about being leery of strict constitutionalists, Connor Boyack said:

You oppose strictly adhering to the party's constitution? Seems odd. :)

The point isn't that I oppose strictly adhering to the constitution. The point is that I distrust the motives of people who make strict constitutionalism a point of their platform for office (in the party or otherwise).

I don't doubt that there are many sincere people who are seriously distressed at what they see as departures from the rules that have been clearly established. Certainly there is danger in such departures. Nevertheless, I fear that many people use the argument of strict constitutionalism as a way of gaining power without clearly stating why they want power.

There is nothing humans get more worked up about than when someone else isn't following the rules. We see it all the time from the playground to instances of road rage. People hate when someone else seems to be getting away with something. I'm sure there's some social science theory about how that instinct is critical to societal cohesion or something. Still, we don't need to understand why to know that it is a powerful force.

Given that, making a case--valid or otherwise--that someone in power isn't following the rules is an easy way of gaining support to "throw the bum out." Not only is it an easy play, but it has the advantage of not requiring that the person making the charge be for anything other than following the rules.

I distrust the motives of people who want to be elected because "they'll follow the rules." I want to know what they will do and what they stand for. I'm not interested in playground politics and constant arguments about rules. Such arguments make me tired of party politics. Today at the convention, I'll be voting for people who will run the party to get things done, not those who make their platform about strictly following the rules.