Radley Balko has a story I’d never heard before that will make your eyes roll. In 1995, after Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, a bill was submitted to water down the exclusionary rule. Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) submitted the following amendment to that bill:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
You may recognize that as the text of the 4th Amendment. The amendment was voted down by a 3-1 margin. Balko also has this depressing news:
There have been a number of public opinion polls over the years showing majorities of American opposed to the Bill of Rights when they aren’t told the language they’re being polled about is actually from the Bill of Rights. Probably the most famous example came in an April 1969 segment of 60 Minutes focusing on a poll commissioned by the show which asked respondents questions like should the government be able to ban peaceful demonstrations?, and should the government be allowed to censor news stories?, and should the government be able to try someone again after they’ve been acquitted were already prohibited by the Constitution?. In each case, a majority sided in opposition to the Bill of Rights.
Ten years later, a Gallup poll found that 80 percent of Americans couldn’t identify the freedoms protected by the First Amendment, and nearly 40 percent thought the press had too much freedom.
The great jurist Learned Hand famously said, “I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon law and upon courts. These are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no courts to save it.” And this is never more true when demagogues use fear to justify the loss of liberty.