The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong should serve as a sobering reminder for Americans as to why we have the Constitution. The freedoms of speech, press, and assembly outlined in our founding document are diametrically opposed to the Chinese Communist Party’s record of censorship and ruthless crushing of dissent.
Chinese law has not afforded Hong Kong demonstrators the same First Amendment protections we enjoy, not even close. For these young activists, there is nothing stopping Communist Party thugs from moving in and squashing their dissent through force.
Americans too often forget that the liberties afforded to us by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are what makes our country exceptional. On Constitution Day 2019, many so-called progressives argued for tossing the founding document in the trash in order to clear the way for advancing their big government agenda.
For example, the far-left activist group Indivisible stated, “Today is Constitution Day, and rather than talk up a document that is hugely flawed and racist, we want to use the 232nd anniversary of its signing to talk about the future of American democracy as we see it.” Meanwhile, in places like New York and Hollywood, it’s in vogue to hold a reductionist view that the U.S. Constitution is little more than a flawed and racist document that benefits the privileged and well-connected.
Critics argue the Constitution is too old. They cite nations around the world that continually change and adapt their founding documents. In other words, they have completely missed the point.
The U.S. Constitution is unique and superior because it grants inalienable rights in absolute terms, without caveats. When someone says we should do away with the Constitution in the name of “progress,” they are ignoring that the document has been — and continues to be — freedom’s best defense against tyranny.
The attacks on the Hong Kong demonstrators are just one example of how precious freedom is in the world today. With authoritarian regimes in Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China, freedom is never guaranteed. Americans are lucky our founding principles are solidified in the Constitution. Without them, a crisis similar to Hong Kong could easily play out in the United States.
Support for basic civil liberties should not be a left or right-wing issue. Americans who are concerned about censorship or criminal justice reform at home should be just as disturbed by the state-based tyranny and oppression we are seeing on the streets of Hong Kong.
Why don’t we see that type of government power grab in the U.S.? It’s not because our politicians are more virtuous. And it’s certainly not because our government never had the opportunity.
It is because our Constitution — that “outdated piece of paper” — is the best structural defense of individual freedom and liberty the world has ever seen. It has not always been perfect. The U.S. fought a war to end the horrific injustices of slavery. But thankfully today, our founding principles apply to everyone equally.
What the Constitution does best is protect the rights of the minority; to free speech, press, and assembly, from the tyranny of the majority. It doesn’t matter who the minority is, what they look like, or what they believe in. It could be a community, a political party, or even a single person. The Constitution is designed to protect individual and minority rights above all else.
If the Constitution was ever discarded, this privilege of liberty would no longer be a guarantee. The door would be open for tyranny and oppression by whatever majority happens to have the most power. There would be no right to free speech, and no right to peacefully assemble. There would be no more Twitter rants against that member of Congress you can’t quite stand, or the law you wish didn’t exist.
In other words, Americans would live at the mercy of our government, as many people around the world do. Without the Constitution, there is no U.S. as we know it.
As former President Barack Obama said in his farewell speech, “Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power — with our participation, and the choices we make.”
If we do not enforce the rule of law and govern in accordance with our constitutional values, they will begin to deteriorate. We are blessed to live in a republic. But it’s up to us to work to keep it.