The Left is eating up an award winning Broadway play - “What the Constitution Means to Me” - that is about to tour the country. The playwright, Heidi Schreck, has discovered, like the producers of the play Angels in America and many other artists before her, that the ticket to success in the arts world is to tilt to the Left and serve up exactly what Progressives want to hear.
As a teenager, Heidi Schreck loved the Constitution and paid for her entire college education by going around the country giving speeches on it. Her play “What the Constitution Means to Me” features her as an adult revisiting her teenage love of the Constitution and finding fault in the document now that she’s older. Her current views are quite far to the Left. She believes that transgenders have a basic human right to serve in the military, when the fact of the matter is NO ONE has a right to serve in the military. It’s a privilege reserved for those who qualify. She’s in favor of the Climate Kids lawsuit which seeks to establish a Constitutional right to a pristine environment, even though it would mean that the entire U.S. economy would be run by one federal judge out of a courtroom in Oregon, which is what the Climate Kids are asking for. She believes that our democracy is a lie and the United States is sliding into tyranny under President Trump, even though he has not shut down any newspapers or thrown any editors in jail. Schreck suffers from full-blown Trump Derangement Syndrome.
The adult Heidi Schreck has developed two problems with the Constitution, both straight out of the Left’s playbook - first, that the Constitution fails to achieve diversity and inclusiveness and, second, that it fails to protect people against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. With regard to diversity, Schreck says the Constitution only protects “the people who are already protected” - whatever that means - and is working perfectly as intended - to protect rich, white men. Everyone else is pushed to the margins of the Constitution, she says. We all belong in the Preamble, she declares. Never mind that the Preamble starts with “We the People”, not “We the Rich, White Men”. It’s an “appalling” document, she says, because it views blacks as property, not human beings. Never mind that the Constitution set things up to eventually get rid of slavery. [E.g., Slave Trade Clause - Article I Section 9].
The original Constitution may not look so good when viewed through the narrow prism of today’s identity politics, but this ignores the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments - getting rid of slavery, ushering in Equal Protection, and guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race or biological sex. Why would you throw out a document that has shown it can bring the blessings of liberty to more and more people over time, as our Constitution has? The worn-out observation that the original Constitution included some people but excluded others is true, but misleading.
Moreover, judging the Constitution by the standards of the Left’s diversity narrative du jour ignores all the things that are wrong with the narrative itself. Here are just three: First, it’s way out of balance. It crowds out other important values that the Constitution does embody like limited government, popular sovereignty, personal freedom, and individual rights. Get people all hepped up on diversity theory to the exclusion of all other considerations and, before you know it, they’re in Kentucky teens’ faces at the Lincoln Memorial [Nicholas Sandmann] and committing hate crime hoaxes in Chicago [Jussie Smollett]. Second, diversity policies hurt people. Just ask the excellent Asian students who can’t get into Harvard because of affirmative action policies favoring other groups. Third, the diversity narrative is leading to absurd results, like the resegregation of college dorms and the self-identify phenomenon where you can wake up one morning and proclaim you are something you are not and everyone else just has to bow down to it. Schreck and her play say nothing about any of these complications.
But there’s a second, more fundamental flaw in Schreck’s thinking. She criticizes the Constitution for failing to protect people, like her grandmother who was the victim of an abusive childhood. “I believe we need a brand-new positive rights document...,” she says during the play. The Constitution contains mostly negative rights that keep the government from doing bad things to you, like shutting you up or searching your house without a warrant. Positive rights include various forms of economic security, such as the rights to housing, education, and a job in FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. But positive rights also include the right to police protection, thus her beef with Justice Scalia’s opinion in a 2005 case [Castle Rock v. Gonzalez] declining to find a due process right to police enforcement of a restraining order against a father who ended up taking and murdering his three children. With positive rights, the three children and Schreck’s grandmother would have been protected, Schreck evidently believes. Forget that that police don’t always get there in time and all the other real-world complications to her rose-colored view.
The impulse behind all these positive rights is to have the government put a soft pillow under absolutely everybody for absolutely everything. Security in all things. As Schreck puts it, "Maybe instead, we could start thinking of the Constitution as a kind of ur-mother, whose job it is to actively look out for all of us, especially the most vulnerable among us." That’s the pioneer spirit.
There’s a lot of pseudo-science coming from the Left purporting to show that people on the Right are a bunch of fraidy cats and their brains are wired differently to seek security in all things. [Language of Terror by Kendall, et al.] Never mind that Social Security was a left-wing invention. But here we see the impulse for absolute security on full display from the new darling of the Left, which gets to the heart of the matter. As told to me by a former Leftist, the Left honestly believes it can bring about heaven on earth and the end of all human suffering. They believe they alone possess the secret knowledge to fundamentally transform human nature and bring about this earthly paradise. The rest of us are too stupid to figure it out. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s a bunch of malarkey. It’s a pipedream, it’s not ever gonna happen. Which makes Heidi Schreck’s play a nice bedtime story but nothing of substance that goes beyond the realm of fantasy.
So there you have it: a complete mirage from a mixed-up playwright. One minute she’s calling the Constitution “magical” and a work of “genius”, and saying it’s “appalling” the next. One minute she’s expressing her fundamental faith in the Constitution because it gives us what we need to make the country better, then calls for “a brand-new positive rights document” the next. Just because she’s conflicted and mixed up about the magnificence of our country’s founding document doesn’t mean we have to be.