A Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial
It would be silly to pretend that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t matter in Flagler County. Of course it does. It matters in every corner of the county: In the workplaces, the schools, the libraries, on the streets. It matters in sprawling, suburban Palm Coast; in Bunnell’s county seat; in tiny communities like Korona that have identities but no legal form. It matters in the dozens of houses of worship across the county. It matters in Flagler County’s elections office, in its courtrooms and in its jail. It matters in the places where homeless people gather to take shelter from the rain.
The Constitution is the foundational law of our democracy. It never ceases to matter, in its magnificent entirety.
And we would certainly like to believe it matters to Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins as well, so much so that he recently dragooned the rest of the commission into a vote of support for that august document. Put in context, however, it’s difficult to believe Mullins regards the Constitution as anything more than a platform for a political stunt, to be brandished at a politically trying time.
At the meeting, Mullins seemed most concerned by decisions by privately held social media sites who had banned former President Donald Trump from their pages, though he seemed to be confused about the scope of the First Amendment, which doesn’t govern actions by private companies. And he left little doubt about his ardent support for the Second Amendment. But the rest of the Constitution? We’re not so sure.
Normally we would refrain from guessing how someone feels, in their heart of hearts. But we have witnessed Mullins’ outspoken rejection of the results of the 2020 presidential election. We have read his astounding request to Florida’s congressional delegation, on official county letterhead, that representatives and senators ignore the very detailed process set out in the Constitution, and find a way to nullify legally cast votes in Georgia, Pennsylvania and other states. As backup, Mullins repeated several assertions that were known to be false. Where was his respect for the Constitution then — or as recently as late March when he told a gathering of fellow conservatives Joe Biden “is not our voted-in president”?
We have also witnessed his fulminating about former News-Journal staffer Pierre Tristam, the editor of the Flagler Live news site — who is, as we are certain Mullins is quite aware, protected by the First Amendment. Was Mullins thinking about the First Amendment when he posted pictures of Tristam’s head digitally altered onto the body of a cockroach? How about when he derisively mocked Muslims?
Was he musing on the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution when he suggested, on his radio infomercial, that liberals should be beheaded? Was he pondering the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause when, at that same late-March meeting, he mocked transgender people and more temperately suggested liberals should be “put on a bus” and sent elsewhere?
We would believe Mullins, however, if he spoke lovingly of the Constitution’s guarantee of access to the courts, and due process for those accused of wrongdoing — such as, for example, his right to defend himself against a lawsuit alleging he sold invalid tickets to the 2018 and 2019 Masters golf tournaments to a travel company.
Overall, however, we must join those registering doubt of his sincerity last week, when he pushed the resolution of support for the Constitution that allowed him to unleash a flood of patriotic-sounding rhetoric in the middle of a commission meeting. And though his fellow commissioners played along, we suspect that the time is fast approaching when even the most conservative of his colleagues will tire of his antics.
For now, though, we’ll close with this: The next time Mullins wants to talk about the Constitution, he should download a new copy. If he was, in fact, sincere, it seems likely that his personal copy of the Constitution has more than a few pages missing.
The editorial ran in the April 27 edition of the News-Journal. It is reprinted here with permission.