The white, Christian, land-owning authors of America’s Constitution set us up for failure the moment they penned “All men are created equal” without actually meaning “all men”. They screwed the pooch just as badly (if not worse) by meaning JUST men. So, the fix was in from the start.
America was doomed because while aspiring to government of the people, by the people and for the people, we settled for a government of, by and for only some of the people. Let’s be kind and call it a rookie mistake. The men who wrote up our founding documents had never founded a country before. They were forward-thinking but only up to a point. Still, some did grasp America’s true potential – as when James Madison insisted we put “E Pluribus Unum” on our Great Seal. “Out of many, one” is precisely what makes America exceptional! That’s the thing that had never happened before in the whole history of humans. We created a new country borne of all the old ones, that aspired to give every citizen an equal shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Originalism (conservatism’s wettest wet dream) asserts that whatever those wealthy, white, Christian, land-owning men wrote down? That’s it. That’s the country America must always and can only ever be. Yeah, sure – the Constitution’s framers built in an amendment process (and even tossed in the first ten amendments, calling them “The Bill of Rights”) – but they didn’t foresee how “crazy” some of those amendments would be (like giving the vote to women and Black people). In the Originalist’s mind, America is a long-dead butterfly trapped in amber. Problem is, it isn’t a butterfly; it’s a moth aspiring to butterfly-hood. Nonetheless, originalists want that low-achieving moth revived and celebrated.
Want to stymie any conservative? Ask them directly: “what exactly is it that you want to conserve?” They’ll “hummina-hummina” about freedom and liberty and rugged individualism and how socialism is evil because even they can’t articulate what they want. But, it’s this: conservatives want to conserve the past – or as much of the past that’s still left in the present. Conservatives resist change. Many outright detest change. They want the world to remain as it is right now. If they could have made that happen yesterday – or the day (or century) before? They absolutely would have. American conservatives idealize an America that’s majority white and understands that their whiteness is what binds them together. Diversity – AKA “E Pluribus Unum” – terrifies them because all those “Pluribus” believe they’re equal to white people, a thing a full one third of America cannot tolerate.
In their defense, the white people now insisting on the Big Lie have all lived in the shadow of another “big lie” – the one where America t said “All men are created equal” while knowingly not meaning it. That “big lie” hung over America like a secret we were keeping from ourselves. Slavery, first and foremost, is stolen labor. The slave master gets the slave’s work product for nothing (minus the cost of feeding, clothing and housing the slave). Stolen labor was the basis for almost the entire Confederate economy. If the cotton, tobacco and sugar cane businesses had all had to pay fair wages for the labor they needed to get their product from field to factory? For one thing, there never would have been an American Civil War.
Alas, things didn’t go down that way. Instead, white people dug in their heels. They resisted sharing power with Black people by repeatedly either denying them the vote outright or by making it almost impossible to vote. Denying citizens the right to vote in a democracy is how you destroy the democracy. That assumes, of course, that you want to preserve our democracy.
The simple fact is, the GOP doesn’t want to preserve our democracy because democracy’s just not working out for them. Wanna win in “the marketplace of ideas”? Start by having a few ideas other than “let’s go live in the past”. But then, the past is where conservatives and white people (apparently) lived their best lives ever. Probably because, back then, they were all created equal while the rest of us weren’t.