Vermont’s Richard McCormack vs. the Consitution

Vermont Senator Richard McCormack disseminated a letter in which he misrepresented health data to justify imposing extensive restrictions on the rights of unvaccinated citizens, and dismissed as stupid anyone who raised “pseudo-libertarian” arguments against vaccination.  When challenged, the senator offered yet more misinformation, defending his dishonesty as “a good faith attempt at logical persuasion.”

It was not good faith to allege that “We know [vaccines] greatly lessen the odds of contracting COVID and/or spreading it to others” and “Not being vaccinated risks prolonging the pandemic… long enough for the virus to evolve resistant variants.”  He has not pointed to any source for these factual claims, which he presented to the Vermont public as ironclad scientific conclusions.

When pressed about the overt Fourteenth Amendment infringements of his proposals, Senator McCormack (who holds a Juris Doctorate) doubled down:

I am qualified to teach the U. S. Constitution, and the Vermont Constitution at the college level, though I’m now retired.

Discrimination is an evil, and illegal, when based on illicit criteria like race, sex etc.  Discriminating against threats to public health is more analogous to a speed limit than to race discrimination. Public health does not violate the Constitution. There is no constitutional right to spread deadly virus.

For government to impinge on fundamental liberties, it must demonstrate a “compelling interest” based on scientific evidence, not concocted histrionic assertions by a dogmatic progressive legislator. McCormack procured false science to fabricate a “deadly” threat to which he similarly fantasizes the Constitution will bow.  He has conflated the law as he has the facts.

The confused senator seeks to distinguish “bad (illicit) discrimination” like race or gender from “good discrimination.”  Fortunately, the Constitution does not employ the “McCormack standard.”  The Fourteenth Amendment provides

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In contrast, Senator McCormack pronounced in his letter to Vermonters that

we must not agree to the pseudo-libertarian argument that vaccination should not be a requirement for entering indoor public spaces, using mass transit, school, camp, work places, etc. The right to not be vaccinated does not translate to a right to infect others or to prolong a pandemic.

Elected officials with law degrees must be held to high standards — people trust them not to lie about the law, let alone the facts.  McCormack calls to compromise vital liberties such as school attendance, travel, and assembly by treating them as “privileges” like driving.  But the government is held to two completely different standards by the Constitution: infringements of privileges are generally subject only to “rational basis” review and are rarely struck down; violations of fundamental liberties are subject to “strict scrutiny,” and rarely survive the challenge.  Does this “qualified” teacher of law not know this, or is he being deliberately deceptive?

Even discrimination in privileges is barred by the Fourteenth Amendment, as its plain language states.  What’s more, it requires due process so that citizens have an opportunity to compel government actors to prove their factual “medical science” (so they can’t just make it up).  McCormack ignores this, as he does the due process rights of those previously infected, or who are immuno-threatened.  The grotesque distortions of both facts and law by this senator reveal an epidemic of stuporous thinking that eclipses COVID-19 as a threat to Americans’ mental, economic, and constitutional health.

I requested that McCormack retract his misstatements, or instead agree to a public debate with me.  His response:

Your inability to manage your vitriol, and your tendency to mangle clear statements into straw men, make you more quarrelsome than logical. So I doubt a “debate” with you would much resemble anything like a debate.  Trying to debate with someone who quarrels as you do usually makes both parties appear equally unreasonable. So I’ll decline the invitation.

The senator “managed his vitriol” by denigrating his own constituents (“Real freedom includes the right to be stupid.”)  He mangled scientific data into straw facts with which to dismiss the rights of those he is charged to represent with integrity.

It is the Constitution that is in argument, and it is clear victor.  It is eminently reasonable, and resistant to falsehoods.  We the People must remain armed with its protections at all times, as a shield against dishonest despots using fear to eclipse reason.

Image: J. Stephen Conn

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