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The ‘Constitution Spring’

Long-time residents of California know what the aftermath of a major quake is like. Even those completely uninjured and complete strangers to personal or property loss are jittery for weeks or even months. They hate to be stuck under overpasses. They loathe being in Los Angeles’ very tall buildings when the inevitable aftershocks roll through. It’s very, very disconcerting, even for the untouched. It’s terribly hard for those wounded or who lose loved ones.

Eventually, however, nearly everyone picks up, cleans up, shows up and carries on. So it is with political earthquakes too.

Tuesday’s was a 7.0 (and my experience with the big real ones is limited to the 6.7 1994 Northridge quake and the 6.5 1992 Big Bear temblor.). Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory is the closest to what just happened, and 1994 was an aftershock of it, even as the 2010 and 2014 elections were aftershocks of President Obama‘s own quakes.

American politics has been a regular Ring of Fire for the past 15 years, which shouldn’t surprise given the twin traumas of 9/11 and the panic of 2008 and the Great Recession the panic unleashed.

Tuesday wasn’t an aftershock, though. The triumph of Donald J. Trump was so unexpected that the stun among elites is still palpable and will be for a long time. Everyone is twitchy, just as we Golden Staters are after a big one. “What’s next,” we wonder. “Could this be the preshock to the dreaded Big One?”

Lots of Americans are worried now that the Constitution is up for grabs, and while that is foolish it is also understandable when all expectations have been dashed on the left. The desolation of the Democratic Party at every level is almost complete and with the Supreme Court saved at least for a bit, the omnipotence of the regulatory state will be curbed.

“Progressives” were very close indeed to having the government govern the people as opposed to the people governing the government, as Hilllsdale College President Larry Arnn likes to say when describing the situation. He was also the first to say, more than a year ago on my show — and he repeated it often — “Fundamental things are afoot.” He was right. Boy, was he ever right. And the left knows it and is deeply discouraged to the point of despair. They shouldn’t be, as just as in 2008 the GOP didn’t despair.

But if President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell move quickly and purposefully, the country can indeed spring into a new era of “energy in the executive” — to borrow from the suddenly popular Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 78 — balanced by a renewed Article 1 power in the Congress and a sustained, reasonable and originalist overwatch from the Article III courts, especially the Supreme Court. With one vacancy at the top and 99 below and the “Reid Rule” that ended the filibuster on appointments in place, the courts can recover quickly where just a week ago I thought the originalism movement near death.

Many “springs” have come and gone in recent years, and just these past two months there was silly progressive talk about a “Catholic spring,” which is just shorthand for changing the church.

But the prospect of a “Constitution spring” is very, very real. Let’s hope everyone tends that particular shoot while putting aside their jitters.


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