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GOP Pulls a Huck Finn Revision with the Constitution In Reading the Constitution, Republicans Leave Out the Ugly Parts

The House Republicans read the Constitution in Congress today, but they left out most of the racist parts. That was stupid.


Today the House Republicans began their symbolic, Tea Party-sating reading of the U.S. Constitution on the House floor. And while they will be covering historical passages like "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes ... To regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes," they've notably chosen to omit some of the text's other dated language. Specifically, all that stuff about thinking black people are subhuman.

Indeed, the GOP leadership has decided it will leave out "those portions superseded by amendment." That means not acknowledging the part of Article One that states American Indians would not be counted in state population numbers and that black slaves would be considered three-fifths of a person (the famous "three-fifths compromise"). Interestingly, though the House won't be acknowledging the beginning of slavery, John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia who participated in freedom rides during the civil rights movement, has been tapped to read the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery.


Earlier this week, a Mark Twain scholar announced he would be republishing a version of Twain's Huckleberry Finn without any uses of the word "nigger." In a way, the House's decision to ignore some of the uglier parts of America's founding appears to be an extension of that Twain scholar's stupidity. Ignoring history doesn't make it go away; what it does is make it more nebulous and undefined until fiction blurs with fact.

Ignoring the three-fifths compromise also stands in diametric opposition to the pragmatic idea that the Constitution is a "living document" that follows the trajectory of Americans' hearts and minds. Why try to ignore the fact that our founders made mistakes? Why not instead be excited about the fact that, through amendments and hard work, America has righted some of its former grievous errors?

At its best, America is an ever-continuing story of redemption over adversity. Today, the Republican party made America a fairy tale.