Joe Romm, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, has a new blog post in which he calls America's founding document the "Declaration of Interdependence," slams global warming critics and claims that the GOP has "tragically, abandoned the values embraced and articulated by" Abraham Lincoln.
To begin, allow me to present the first portion of the Declaration (which Romm uses to defend his global warming stance throughout his piece):
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Romm begins his article by claiming that America's founding document is advocating "interdependence" among all of mankind, rather than simply announcing America's proclamation of dependence from the British. He writes:
By saying that it is a self-evident truth that all humans are created equal and that our inalienable rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, our Founding Fathers were telling us that we are all in this together, that we are interdependent, that we have a moral duty to protect these inalienable rights for all humans.
The Declaration was, in itself, a bold call for separation. Utilizing it to advocate for various partisan policies doesn't fit in with its intended purpose. While Romm isn't entirely wrong here in claiming that Americans should come together to protect human rights (we have a history of doing so), his piece, on the whole, exploits the nation's founding document as a means to his own, policy-driven end (i.e. convincing the public that the "Declaration of Interdependence" would demand we address global warming).
Also, Romm very interestingly leaves out the word "Creator" in addressing this section of the Declaration. Certainly, the Founders believed that every man, woman and child is created equally and with inherent rights, but this portion of the document is about more than that. It's about an admittance, on behalf of America's forefathers, that God (i.e. "Creator) bestows these rights upon mankind. Should these rights be protected? Certainly. But, explaining this section without recognizing that it is a Higher Power that allocates them is, again, an improper or, at the least, incomplete analysis of the Founders' intended meaning.
Next, Romm writes:
The double appeal to “Nature” — including the explicit appeal to “the laws of Nature” in the first sentence — is particularly salient. For masters of rhetoric like the authors of the Declaration, a repeated word, especially in an opening sentence, is repeated for the singular purpose of drawing attention to it...
Yes, the phrase “laws of nature” meant something different to Jefferson than it does to us (see here). But as a living document, and as a modern Declaration of Interdependence, the words have grown in meaning.
This should cause pause for a number of reasons. To begin, is the Declaration truly a "living document?" Even if it is living, which many contend that it is not, the meaning of "nature" in this instance is related to the character and nature of God and of humanity. Expanding this definition to include anything other than that is a major stretch that doesn't pass the smell test. How can a document that was intended to free a nation be "living" to a degree that would allow for such distortion?
As the piece continues, Romm explains that "unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions" are threatening the "unalienable rights" of "billions of humans":
Ironically — or perhaps intentionally — the toughest inalienable right to maintain is “the pursuit of happiness.” Certainly, the catastrophic global warming we know we face (thanks to our understanding of the laws of nature) threatens life and liberty.
Then, he goes on to present Apocalyptic projections that the world will face if America does not pass legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Then, he attacks Republicans' take on climate change and writes:
The party of Lincoln has, tragically, abandoned the values embraced and articulated by its greatest thinker and rhetorician — and those embraced and articulated by our Founders in the Declaration...
In this instance, Romm is exploiting the Declaration of Independence, not to mention the Founders' intentions, to drive home policy points that simply don't mesh. While the author is certainly entitled to his opinions, in this article they happen to be tough to follow and, historically speaking, incorrect.