As I often said at the time, my prospects of election to the U.S. Congress in 2008 rested precariously on the hope that Mike Michaud would defect to North Korea with top secret plans for a turbo-charged fork-lift.

With this in mind, I decided to spend my savings and credit on a series of essays in the 2nd District’s weekly and free newspapers. My primary purpose was to explore the deficiencies of normal electoral practices. By deficiencies, I mean imbecilities, vulgarity, shallowness, silliness and futility.

One of the things I addressed was the almost complete absence of serious discussion about the U.S. Constitution. What passed for constitutional debate was the choice of judges who will find what we want in the Constitution. The idea that the Constitution might prevent a desired outcome without amendment played no part.

The tea party erupted two years later, forcing candidates to pay attention to the fundamental question of what powers our founding document was intended to deny to the government.

Defenders of the Second Amendment had always paid attention to this question, and this year’s slaughter in Newtown has placed it at the center of the discussion.

Since leading liberal law professors have abandoned the argument that the Second Amendment protects only the collective right of the state militias now known as National Guards, we now hear calls to reform or remove the Second Amendment by constitutional amendment.

Probably inspired by constitutional objections to gun controls, Professor Louis Michael Seidman has taken the debate further with an New York Times op-ed headlined “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution.”

He frames his objections thus: “I suppose human nature changes every decade or so, so why shouldn’t constitutions as well? Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago. As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is and those who defend it.”

It’s certainly surprising that he took almost 40 years to stumble across progressive arguments against constitutional fidelity that are more than a century old and were fully developed by the New Deal era.

I knew them all as an undergraduate 50 years ago.

Seidman’s predictable argument goes like this: It’s irrational for a group of white propertied men dead for two centuries “who knew nothing of our present situation” to influence political decisions today. Why should anyone care what Madison and his colleagues thought?

Seidman dismisses the document written in 1787 as “poetic piece of parchment” and scoffs at the “claim by the Constitution’s defenders that we would be reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature if we asserted our freedom from this ancient text.”

I’m pretty sure no one has ever made that claim, or anything close to it. It’s a mere rhetorical flourish or a red herring. Seidman may know constitutional law, but he’s clearly ignorant of constitutional history.

The problems that the Founders foresaw were based on a study of the past. St. Augustine, writing in the fifth century, believed that the libido dominandi, a lust for power, was an enduring sin among humans. Niccolo Machiavelli, writing in the 16th century, assumed that power lust was the driving force in all politics; Lord Acton, writing in the 19th century gave us the axiom that “all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Seidman may believe that “human nature changes every decade or so” (implying an evolutionary velocity that would have made Charles Darwin’s head spin like a top), but those who established our republic assumed it had fixed qualities.

This explains Thomas Jefferson’s observation that it is the natural order of things for government to expand and liberty to contract. Nothing in the history of the last two centuries contradicts his expectation. Nothing.

In his column, Seidman imagines a political elite motivated only by concern for the public welfare as they understand it — imagine that.

The Founders set limits on the powers of the national government because they never envisioned such an imaginary elite. Their understanding of history convinced them that no one can be completely trusted with power. That is why our Constitution placed restrictions on the powers of the national government.

John Frary, of Farmington, is a former congressional candidate, retired history professor, a board member of Maine Taxpayers United and publisher of www.fraryhome Email to [email protected]

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