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Constitutional scholar says January 6 "represents the framers' nightmare" - "The Takeout"

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National Constitution Center's Jeffrey Rosen on "The Takeout"
President & CEO of the National Constitution Center Jeffrey Rosen on "The Takeout" — 7/2/2021 47:23

Jeffrey Rosen, the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, is sure that the country's founders would be horrified by the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

"January 6 represents the framers' nightmare," Rosen told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett on "The Takeout" podcast this week. "This is a nonpartisan statement. It's a statement of fact to say that what they most feared was armed mobs interrupting the peaceable engines of government."

Listen to this episode on ART19

Highlights from this week's episode:

  • Jeffrey Rosen on January 6: "January 6 represents the framers' nightmare. This is a nonpartisan statement. It's a statement of fact to say that what they most feared was armed mobs interrupting the peaceable engines of government."
  • Rising extremism in the House: "In an age when representatives are deferring to their most energized and conspiratorial constituents, rather than the other way around, we have a problem."
  • Modern challenges to democracy: "Resurrecting faith in institutions and in truth rather than falsehood is an important democratic challenge."
  • Rosen on the role of the Supreme Court: "As Congress has become more polarized and paralyzed and has wanted to pass the buck or has just been unable to act, the courts either by choice or necessity have been asked to step in, and they've been resolving stuff that the framers didn't think they would, and few people have been happy with the results."

Rosen explained that the framers wrote the Constitution in part as a response to Shays' Rebellion of 1786, during which a mob unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the government. The rebellion served as a catalyst for the Constitutional Convention to create a new government to replace the one established by the Articles of Confederation.

The mob that overran the Capitol sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election. But unlike the members of the Shays' Rebellion, many of whom were Revolutionary War veterans responding to economic injustices, the rioters attacked the Capitol because they believed false claims that the election had been stolen. Those falsehoods continue to be promoted by former President Trump and some Republican members of Congress.

Rosen noted that the framers of the Constitution intended representatives in the House "to play a cooling role" to their constituents, instead of bowing to their passions — a contrast with the present, which has seen some House members espouse conspiracy theories.

"In an age when representatives are deferring to their most energized and conspiratorial constituents, rather than the other way around, we have a problem," Rosen said.

He also talked about how the inability to agree on the truth, in part due to divisions sowed by social media, is damaging democracy.

"An age where people can't agree on the truth is one where we have a serious problem. And generally, the truth depends on some deference to expert bodies," Rosen said. "Resurrecting faith in institutions and in truth rather than falsehood is an important democratic challenge."

Rosen discussed the increasingly large role the Supreme Court plays in setting the country's policy because Congress hasn't been able to legislate.

"As Congress has become more polarized and paralyzed and has wanted to pass the buck or has just been unable to act, the courts either by choice or necessity have been asked to step in, and they've been resolving stuff that the framers didn't think they would, and few people have been happy with the results," Rosen said.

For more of Major's conversation with Rosen, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

Producers: Arden Farhi, Katiana Krawchenko, Jamie Benson and Sara Cook

CBSN Production: Alex Zuckerman and Eric Soussanin

Show email: TakeoutPodcast@cbsnews.com

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