by Brendan Beery
I did some blogging a few years back (and I’m glad to be doing it again). Back then, a family member mused that I seemed to spend a lot of time going after “low-hanging fruit” on the conservative side of things. That, of course, led to a blog post. I asked, what is left of conservatism but low-hanging fruit?
Since then, conservatism has devolved even further. It’s a chore anymore to find anything – one single complete thought – expressed by a Teabagger or a “base conservative” that even nibbles around the edges of coherence. No sooner does one right-wing jobbernowl belch an absurdity than another one belches something even more obtuse.
It was shocking to learn that a majority of Republican presidential aspirants propose a repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Although Republicans’ stated target is just the first sentence of the Fourteenth Amendment – the one that grants birthright citizenship – let’s not kid ourselves. Conservatives are no fans of equal protection or privacy rights either, so if they get their horny sheaths on one part of the Amendment, they’d just as soon repeal the whole thing.)
This new Republican reality was just starting to sink in, like the newness of the world close behind the death of a good person. Okay, we were thinking, we have reached a new place; in the orchard of conservative thinking, the fruit now hangs below a toddler’s waist, and it looks primed to drop from there onto the ground below it, with nothing left to do from there but rot. And then, almost miraculously, it hung even lower still.
It turns out that the Republican project to lay waste to the noblest provisions of our Constitution is more ambitious than we’d thought just two or three days ago. Yesterday we learned that a Teabagging radio host in Iowa, a creature called Jan Mickelson, said this:
… I would just say this: As of this date, whenever we decide to do this, as of this date, 30 – this is a totally arbitrary number, 30 to 60 days from now anyone who is in the State of Iowa who is not here legally and who cannot demonstrate their legal status to the satisfaction of the local and state authorities here in the State of Iowa, become property of the State of Iowa. So if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you’re still here, and we find that you’re still here after we we’ve given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do.
Mickelson is not just a radio host. He is a “kingmaker” in Iowa Republican politics, and appearing on his show is a rite of passage for Republican presidential candidates almost as obligatory as gnashing on fried butter at the Iowa State Fair. Mickelson is not an outlier: he’s a bona fide Republican “thinker.”
It is now unquestionable that Teabaggers, conservatives, “the base,” whatever these troglodytes like to call themselves – these people have not a clue what our governing charter says. Nor do they care. Mickelson’s idea, charming though it may be, runs afoul of a little legal technicality called the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Thirteenth Amendment provides, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
This provision of the Constitution seems clear enough. It is essentially self-defining: that rare constitutional rule that begs no interpretive wrangling. But it is dangerous to assume that a conservative Republican will comprehend its manifest command given that he finds the clause “All persons born … in the United States … are citizens of the United States” to be ambiguous. So let’s spell it out in language any ape could understand: No, Republicans, you may not own people.
I can see the black exhaust smoke billowing as the puny Teabagger brain chugs into high gear, the “gotcha” moment so close one can almost taste it: “Oh,” says the bagger, seeing that part about involuntary servitude being okay as punishment for a crime, “I’ma gonna git him on this one! Since all these illegals are crim’nals, we can make ‘em work til they puke! That’s what that there ‘Mendment done says.”
Right, except the Amendment incorporates another pesky constitutional roadblock called due process of law (yet another constitutional principle that conservatives might consider abrogating). See that part about “whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”? Mickelson does not propose that we arrest, try, and convict undocumented immigrants; he proposes that we round them up and commence their indentured servitude forthwith. The concentration camps can’t be far behind.
I’d say that Republican “low hanging fruit” couldn’t possibly hang lower than this. But I await tomorrow’s news. What will it bring?