Mitt Romney: Meet Calvin Coolidge

by Patrick J Buchanan – February 9, 2004

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” With that sentence in a letter to Sam Gompers of the AFL, denouncing the Boston police strike of 1919, Gov. Calvin Coolidge electrified a nation and found himself on the Republican ticket in 1920.

When Warren Harding collapsed and died in 1923, Silent Cal was president. His career, said a wag, showed signs of celestial intervention. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may not see it, but he has today a like opportunity to electrify conservatives and vault himself into contention for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Last November, the Massachusetts high court, in a 4-3 decision, gave the legislature and Romney a six-months’ ultimatum to rewrite state law to give homosexuals a right to marry. Responding to a request from the state senate for advice on how to comply, the court this week ruled that civil unions would not do. Only full and equal rights for homosexuals to wed would meet the terms of the November edict. Reporters are now predicting a shower of same-sex June weddings in Provincetown. What’s a governor to do?

As with Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” the answer is lying right on the mantle piece in front of Mitt Romney. Defy the court.

Romney should step out in front of the state press corps and read a statement that would stun America, rally social and judicial conservatives of both parties, and bring every network camera in the nation to Boston:

“I have read the court’s decision, and while I respect the court, I cannot respect its decision. There is no basis for it in law. There is no basis for it in precedent. There is no basis for it in the letter or spirit of the constitution of our Commonwealth nor in the intent of the men who wrote that constitution. Whence, then, comes this opinion?

“It emanates entirely from the ideology of the majority. The court has distorted our constitution by attempting to write into state law the social views of four justices that are not shared by the people of the Bay State. They have no right to do this. And as I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the Commonwealth, I intend to disregard the court order of last November.

“I will neither propose nor will I sign any bill from the legislature that places homosexual unions on a moral and legal plane with traditional matrimony. To do so would violate my oath, conflict with my beliefs and trample upon the convictions of the people of this state.”

After issuing his statement, the governor should take up leadership of the fight to put on the state ballot a constitutional amendment restricting marriage in Massachusetts to men and women.

What would the Massachusetts high court do?

Declare Romney in contempt? Order Romney’s arrest? Tell state employees to start accepting requests from homosexuals for marriage licenses? Romney could tell the employees to politely reject such requests.

How, then, would the court enforce its decision?

Answer: It would have to tell the legislature to impeach Romney. But by then, Romney would be a hero to traditionalists of all parties, and impeachment would only make him a martyr.

Should Romney take such a stand, it would be a blow for freedom in America. For we Americans today live under a judicial dictatorship that our Founding Fathers never intended and would never have tolerated. Yet, we need not resort to muskets to be rid of it. We only have to consult our Constitution.

In Article III, Congress is empowered to restrict the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. As University of South Carolina legal scholar William Quirk argues in a new paper, “The Fourth Choice,” all Congress has to do is pass the Defense of Marriage Act again, and add a one-line amendment that denies to the Supreme Court any right to review cases brought under this act. That would send the issue of homosexual marriage back to the states where it belongs.

There, legislatures and governors should decide it. And they can do so by ignoring court orders to alter state law to conform to the prejudices of judges. Thus the people, through their elected representatives, can decide these social issues that so divide us all.

Which is as it should be and was intended to be before judges came to believe they were anointed lawmakers who answered to some higher authority than the written constitutions they are sworn to uphold.

“I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical,” said Jefferson.

Upon taking office, Jefferson declared the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional and refused to enforce them. Chief Justice John Marshall’s Supreme Court did nothing.

This country is lurching toward confrontation on social issues. The best way to decide them is through a democratic, not an autocratic, process. The mantle of Jefferson lies waiting for someone to pick it up. If you will but listen, Gov. Romney, the shade of Silent Cal is calling.