Inside the progressive bubble, the Constitution is a living, breathing document that can, at any moment, declare, “To hell with Article 5, I’m just going to change it on my own!” It’s a hipster Constitution that keeps up with the times and considers progressive whims greater than or equal to a convention of the states. Sure, it’s the “legally binding law of the land,” but if some pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing, liberal, Ivy-league professor has a better idea, why not roll with it? Progressives treat the Constitution like it’s the Wiki-Founding-Document of the Republic and can be validly updated by any leftist with a keyboard.
However, when it comes to the work of obscure poets from the late 19th century, progressives suddenly become strict constructionists. At least, that’s how it seemed when CNN’s Jim Acosta went nose-to-nose with White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller over President Donald Trump’s newly proposed immigration policy, which would cut legal immigration by half and favor would-be immigrants who can speak English, have been offered high-skill jobs, and who have more impressive résumés.
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Acosta argued that the proposed immigration policy violated, not the Constitution, but the poem “The New Colossus,” engraved on a plaque and mounted inside the Statue of Liberty in 1903. The poem, which has been voted on by zero members of Congress and ratified by zero states apparently, in the mind of Jim Acosta, does not possess the fluidity of a lesser document like the Constitution.
Luckily, in a shrewd move to protect us from the romantic, idealistic whims of obscure 19th-century poets, the framers of the Constitution delegated the power of making immigration and naturalization policy to Congress. In fact, a closer reading of the Constitution reveals that obscure 19th-century poets aren’t a branch of the U.S. government at all!
This information, which has been widely disseminated by second-grade social studies books, has somehow been jettisoned from the progressive zeitgeist of 2017. However, despite its dwindling popularity on the Left, it remains an important nuance of how our government functions. After all, if 19th-century poets were a lawmaking body, we might face steep penalties for taking the road most commonly traveled by or dissevering our souls from the soul of Annabel Lee.
They’d prefer to quote Thomas Jefferson or James Madison on the matter, but Emma Lazarus is the best they could do.
Here’s the truth about progressives: If the Statue of Liberty’s poem didn’t seem to advocate for the globalist, open-up-the-borders agenda that they’ve been pushing for years, they wouldn’t give a damn about it. But it does. It says, “Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” so progressives aren’t willing to concede that it’s just an ideal. They aren’t willing to concede that actual immigration policy requires a bit more nuance than can be crammed into a 13-word poetic sentiment that they’ve corrupted into a leftist platitude.
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Instead, they pretend that it’s a bonafide, ratified founding document with magical governing properties that allow it to juke, stiff-arm, and — propelled by the ultra-clean-energy fuel of wishful thinking — supersede Article I of the Constitution.
What a surprise that the political party that operates on this sort of magical thinking is the same party that nearly nominated oxymoronic “Democratic-Socialist” Bernie Sanders as its nominee for the presidency. If ever there was a candidate whose rise mirrored the romantic thought of 19th-century American poetry, it’s Sanders. After all, Sanders is the candidate who went from college town to college town promising free-everything to his supporters with nary a mention of the $18 trillion price tag The Wall Street Journal attributed to those promises.
What does the burden on taxpayers matter so long as a policy sounds warm and fuzzy? Shouldn’t the preamble of the Constitution really be a utopian poem where logic, reason, and responsibility are replaced with unicorns and sparkly fairies who grant $18 trillion wishes with a simple snap of their fingers?
There’s a reason governing has to look more like realist poetry than romantic poetry. There’s a reason immigration policy has to be more nuanced than a couple lines from an Emma Lazarus poem. There’s a reason the U.S. government is not bound to “The New Colossus” even if liberals want to pretend it is: The American taxpayer foots the bill.
If progressives are willing to wax strict-constructionist over a poem, where’s their reverence for the Second Amendment? When liberal politicians try to enact anti-gun legislation, where’s Jim Acosta flexing his muscles at them? Why isn’t he dropping from the sky with a red cape flowing majestically behind him as he quotes the Second Amendment at them? The Second Amendment isn’t a catchy poem, but it has actually been ratified by the states into a legally binding limitation on the power of government.
Why should it carry less weight than a poem? Maybe CNN reporters would suddenly be inspired to join the NRA if the Second Amendment read:
“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I have a right to carry a Ruger .45,
And so do you.”
But they probably wouldn’t. Rallying around the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty is nothing more than a pathetic attempt by progressives and the media to appropriate a symbol of America. They’d prefer to have the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence on their side. They’d prefer to quote Thomas Jefferson or James Madison on the matter, but Emma Lazarus is the best they could do.
In truth, the U.S. — even though it has the most generous jus soli immigration policy on Earth — has never had an immigration policy that could live up to the lofty ideals of “The New Colossus.” Imagining utopian paradises is the nine-to-five work of romantic poets. Creating immigration policies that are sustainable and beneficial to the people who foot the bill for those policies is the job of the American Congress.
Eddie Zipperer is an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College and a regular LifeZette contributor.
(photo credit, homepage images: H. Zell/Gage Skidmore; photo credit, article image of Acosta: Gage Skidmore)