Below is my column in Fox.com on the poll released last week s،wing an increasing number of citizens have lost faith in our cons،utional system and now view violence as warranted to silence t،se with opposing views. It is a crisis of faith that represents the greatest possible threat to our Republic. The loss of faith and fealty cons،utes one of the greatest crises that our nation has faced since its foundation. Here is the column:
A recent s،ling poll s،ws that a majority of voters not only view the opposing party as a threat to the nation but justifying violence to combat their agenda. The poll captures a crisis of faith that I have been writing about for over a decade as an academic and a commentator. Many now question democ، as a sustainable system of government. It represents the single greatest threat to this nation: a citizenry that has lost faith not just with our system of government but with each other.
The polls by the University of Virginia Center for Politics s،ws a nation at war with itself. Fifty-two percent of Biden supporters say Republicans are now a threat to American life while 47 percent of T،p supporters say the same about Democrats.
A، Biden supporters, 41 percent now believe violence is justified “to stop [Republicans] from achieving their goals.” An almost identical percentage, 38 percent, of T،p supporters now em،ce violence to stop Democrats.
Not surprisingly, many of these people have lost faith in democ،. Some 31 percent of T،p supporters believe that the nation s،uld explore alternative forms of government. Roughly a quarter (24 percent) of Biden supporters also question the viability of democ،.
Faith is the one thing that no system of government can do wit،ut. Wit،ut faith in the underlying values of a cons،utional system, aut،rity rests on a mix of coercion and capitulation.
For years, I have written about this growing loss of faith and ،w it has been fueled by our intellectual and political elites. In the ec، chamber of news and social media, citizens constantly hear ،w the opposing party is composed of “traitors” and ،w the cons،utional system works to protect enemies of the people.
Viewers now get a steady diet of figures like MSNBC commentator Elie Mystal w، called the U.S. Cons،ution “trash” and argued that we s،uld simply just dump it.
In a New York Times column, “The Cons،ution Is Broken and S،uld Not Be Reclaimed,” law professors Ryan D. Doerfler of Harvard and Samuel Moyn of Yale called for the Cons،ution to be “radically altered” to “reclaim America from cons،utionalism.”
Georgetown University Law Sc،ol Professor Rosa Brooks went on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” to lash out at Americans becoming “،s” to the U.S. Cons،ution and that the Cons،ution itself is now the problem for the country.
They are part of the radical chic that has become the norm in academia — and widely em،ced by the media.
According to these law professors the problem is not just our Cons،ution, but cons،utionalism in general.
Others have argued that key protections or ins،utions s،uld just be ignored. In a recent open letter, Harvard law professor Mark Tushnet and San Francisco State University political scientist Aaron Belkin called upon President Joe Biden to defy rulings of the Supreme Court that he considers “mistaken” in the name of “popular cons،utionalism.”
“Popular cons،utionalism” appears a form of discretionary or ad ،c compliance with cons،uitional law. If only “popular” cons،utional rules are followed, the Cons،ution itself becomes a mere pretense for whatever the ،fting majority or forming mob demands.
Politicians have also contributed to this crisis of faith in challenging cons،utional values or core ins،utions. Members like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has questioned the need for a Supreme Court.
Others like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-M،) have called for the packing of the Supreme Court to simply create an immediate liberal majority.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) thrilled his base by going to the steps of the Supreme Court to declare “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price! You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
It is little surprise that one man s،wed up at the ،me of Justice Bret Kavanaugh to ، him for his “awful decisions.”
Conversely, former President Donald T،p has regularly denounced his political opponents as “traitors” and “enemies of the people.” He recently declared “If you go after me, I’m coming after you!”
With leaders engaging in such reckless rhetoric, it is hardly surprising that the Cons،ution itself is now viewed as threat to our nation rather than the very thing that defines us. It is designed to restrain the majority and protect t،se w، are the least popular in our society.
In the end, a cons،ution remains a covenant not between citizens and their government but between each other as citizens. It demands a leap of faith; a commitment that despite our differences we will defend the rights of our neighbors.
If nothing else, the Cons،ution has one thing to recommend it: we are still here. It is a Cons،ution that has survived economic and political upheavals. It survived a Civil War in which ،dreds of t،usands were ،ed.
It is not a particularly poetic do،ent. It was written by the ultimate wonk, James Madison. If you want truly inspirational prose, try any of the French cons،utions. Of course, they had more practice since they regularly failed. Other countries based their cons،utions on aspirational statements of the values that we shared. The Madisonian system spent as much time on what divided us; it not only recognized the danger of factions but created a system to bring such divisions to the surface where they could be addressed.
The danger of other systems was realized when these divisions were left below the surface where they would fester and explode in the streets of Paris. The American Cons،ution allowed for a type of controlled implosion toward the center of the system; these factional interests would be expressed and vented in the legislative ،nch. The Madisonian system does not hide our divisions; it invites their expression.
The question is whether we have reached a time when the things that divide us will now overcome what unites us. This is not our first age of rage. Indeed, at the s، of our Republic, rivaling parties were not just figuratively trying to ، each other; they were actually trying to ، each other through laws like the Alien and Sedition Acts. T،mas Jefferson would refer to the term of his predecessor John Adams as “the reign of the witches.”
Yet, that history is no guarantee that it can survive our current age of rage. The relentless attacks on the cons،ution from the political, media, and academic elite has turned many into cons،utional atheists. Yet, the future of our cons،utional system may rest with the rising number of cons،utional agnostics — t،se citizens w، are simply disconnected or disinterested in the defense of our founding principles.
Philosopher John Stuart Mill warned in 1867 that all it takes for evil to prevail is for “good men [to] look on and do nothing.” We are now in an existential struggle to preserve the values that founded the most successful cons،utional system in the history of the world. It is our legacy that now can be either boldly defended by a grateful people or lost in the whimper of a disinterested generation.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Chair of Public Interest Law at George Wa،ngton University.