Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro offered a powerful response to author Elie Mystal’s comment that the U.S. Constitution is “trash.”
Mystal, The Nation’s legal analyst and justice correspondent, was promoting his new book “Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution” on ABC’s “The View” Friday.
Co-host Ana Navarro asked Mystal if he was arguing for throwing out the Constitution.
“Is it a living document or is it a sacred document?” she asked.
“It’s certainly not sacred, all right, let’s start there,” Mystal responded. “The Constitution is kind of trash. Now let’s just, again, let’s just talk as adults for a second.”
“View” co-host Joy Behar appeared a bit taken aback by that claim.
“What did you say? It’s what?” she asked.
“It’s kind of trash,” he reiterated.
Well, given the Constitution has been in operation since 1789, making it the world’s longest-surviving written charter of government, most Americans probably would respond the same way to Mystal’s remark.
“It was written by slavers and colonists, and white people who were willing to make deals with slavers and colonists,” the author argued. “They didn’t ask anyone who looks like me what they thought about the Constitution.”
“This document was written without the consent of black and brown people in this country and without the consent of women in this country,” Mystal added.
“And I say that if that is the starting point, the very least we can do is ignore what those slavers and colonists and misogynists thought, and interpret the Constitution in a way that makes sense for our modern world,” he said.
Shapiro responded Friday on Twitter.
“When he writes a document that ends up founding the most powerful and tolerant nation in world history, I will take this buffoon more seriously,” he said.
When he writes a document that ends up founding the most powerful and tolerant nation in world history, I will take this buffoon more seriously https://t.co/vZxAjtNIqz
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 4, 2022
In the introduction to “Allow Me to Retort,” Mystal wrote, “Our Constitution is not good. It is a document designed to create a society of enduring white male dominance, hastily edited at the margins to allow for what basic political rights white men could be convinced to share.”
It was this kind of thinking that had Black Lives Matters demonstrators and others pulling down statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and even Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Ulysses S. Grant, who fought not only to preserve the union under the Constitution but also to end slavery.
Let’s run down some real history of the Constitution and the founding of America for Mystal and any others who might be tempted to believe as he does.
The first legislative blows against slavery, really in the history of the world, came in the United States, when the Northern states began outlawing the institution during and in the years immediately following the Revolutionary War.
By 1804, all of them had passed legislation ending slavery.
Britain would not abolish slavery until 1833, over 50 years after the American colonies declared their independence.
Further, in 1787, the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, as the Constitution was being drafted across the street in Philadelphia, barring the introduction of slavery into the territory that would become the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
The Constitution specifically authorized the federal government to ban the importation of slaves in 1808 (approximately 20 years from the date the document was ratified).
Further, the Constitution contained a compromise that the Founders had reached, counting three-fifths of the state’s slave population when calculating the overall population for determining how many representatives a state would have in Congress.
The Southern states wanted to count their entire slave populations for representation purposes, but the Northern states were not willing to allow it.
The impact was to lessen the number of votes slave-holding interests held in the House of Representatives.
Both of these constitutional provisions were a recognition that slavery was a present evil, not something many of the Founders wanted to see continue in perpetuity.
So after millennia of human history in which slavery existed on every habitable continent, it was in the United States where the abolition movement took hold and bore legislative fruit in the Constitution and the laws of the Northern states.
Abolitionist and former slave Douglass argued convincingly that the Constitution was an anti-slavery document.
In his famous 1852 speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” Douglass said, “Now, take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single proslavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.”
Ultimately, President Lincoln and the North would oversee the demise of slavery on all American soil during the Civil War in the 1860s.
The Republican-controlled Congress then passed the three post-Civil War amendments outlawing slavery, guaranteeing equal protection under the law and securing the right to vote for African-Americans.
This history should be a source of great pride.
“Yes, there are racists in our society,” GOP Rep. Tom McClintock of California observed during a congressional hearing about reparations last year.
“There are racists of all colors in every society. It is the baser side of human nature,” he said, “but no nation has struggled harder to transcend that nature and isolate and marginalize its racists than have Americans.”
The Constitution and the amendments to it have been a central part of that effort.
Mystal is wrong.
The Constitution is not trash — rather it, along with the Declaration of Independence, launched the greatest experiment in liberty the world has ever seen, and we are the beneficiaries of it over 230 years later.
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