Editorial Notebook: A very different declaration day

Published: Thursday, Jul. 3, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Jul. 3, 2014 - 12:10 am

As we pause on July Fourth to celebrate the Declaration of Independence, I wondered what would happen if the present players in Congress were in charge in 1776. Politics were nasty back then, too, what with the duels and all, but eventually most people got on board with the whole freedom and liberty thing.

I suspect it might have gone down like this:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – The Continental Congress deadlocked again today over language declaring independence from Great Britain, as negotiators fought to make a July 4 deadline before the group hit the so-called Independence Cliff.

Under pressure from tea party leaders, Delegation Speaker John Boehner told the assembly that he would file a lawsuit to stop consideration of independence if the “taxation without representation” clause wasn’t redrafted to include language that provided more tax breaks for colonial plantations.

“Plantations are people, too,” Boehner said at a news conference in Independence Hall.

Deposed Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was recently ousted from his Virginia plantation, had no comment. Meanwhile, his successor, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was pamphleteering against the proposed plan.

The declaration talks broke down over several key provisions, according to delegation sources.

One major sticking point was the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Aides scrambled to revise language that was acceptable to both sides.

“ ‘We’ is a pretty specific term, and we were unable to agree who ‘we’ are,” Delegate Nancy Pelosi said.

Another point of contention was the use of the word “inalienable,” which anti-immigration delegates asserted might be a code phrase for lax border enforcement.

President of the Continental Congress Barack Obama dismissed what he called “stalling tactics” by Boehner and other so-called “Founding Fathers,” and implored them to “send me a declaration I can sign.”

Some members of the Continental Congress objected to the use of the phrase “Founding Fathers.”

“It’s patriarchal, it’s paternalistic, it’s sexist and it’s probably a violation of Title IX, which we haven’t drawn up yet,” Pelosi said.

“And don’t get me started on ‘all men are created equal,’ ” Pelosi added.

The “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” clause, long a source of friction, faced scrutiny as outside political action committees ran a series of commercials critiquing various aspects of the proposed phrase.

“The Continental Congress wants to tell you what liberty is. That’s just more big government. Call your Continental Congressman and tell him you’ll decide what liberty means, not some Philadelphia politician,” one ad said.

As both sides raced to meet the deadline, a few took time off to pursue their own happiness.

Continental Congressional investigators were examining precisely what the delegates were doing but remained mum on what, if any, charges might be filed.

“We’re looking into the matter, but we need to wait until 1787 to act.”

Read more articles by Jack Ohman



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