“Scholars warn outdated Constitution a threat to democracy” reads the CNN chyron.
A scholarly conclusion? Miss Constitution begs to differ. The problem with the United States Constitution is that some of those who vow to preserve, protect, and defend it don’t want to, so those academics who support those who don’t want to have decided to come up with a reason for breaking that vow.
An analogy that might make sense is a football team that decides changing the rules will bring better results. Changing thoughtful rules just brings new and different problems. Similarly:
- The United States Constitution is a short set of rules that the federal or national government is obligated to follow and some of these rules are applied to state and local governments. Public servants who are elected or appointed to public posts in the federal government take a personal vow to follow these rules. State officeholders and appointees must follow the rules in their state constitutions.
These rules are equivalent to the dimensions of the football field, the width of the goal posts, and the ten-yard lines for a first down.
- The reasoning behind the rules represents what we know about human nature and have known for hundreds if not thousands of years. Humankind has not changed. There are always those who try and manipulate for themselves or those whose hubris outweighs their duty. Unless human nature has changed, the US Constitution is not outdated because its rules attempt to thwart political misconduct.
These rules are equivalent to penalties for holding, unnecessary roughness, catching a pass out of bounds, and so forth.
- The United States Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy. Originally, direct elections (democracy) were for the House of Representatives only, and then for only two years. The number of House members per state is based on population and often changes with every 10-year census. This way, it was thought, uninformed or corrupt House members could do little damage to the country as a whole. Senators, two for each state, protect the interests of their states, and were supposed to be chosen by their state legislatures for that purpose (a fishing state – Maine – might have different interests than a timber state – Washington). This was changed with the Progressive Amendments to the US Constitution at the turn of the 20th century and the result has been enhanced federal power at the expense of state power. The President is elected indirectly by the Electoral College, for the purpose of protecting the votes of the less populated states. The Electoral College is not outdated; it prevents large populations in urban areas from swamping the polls and eliminating the interests of suburban and rural populations. The Supreme Court of the United States is the referee that makes sure the rules are followed.
These Constitutional rules, then, represent the concept of fairness, so important in any sport, and also respect for the referees and their rulings. Players and coaches are not allowed to physically threaten those whose job it is to keep the game as “clean” as possible. The requirements for personal honor and integrity are baked into the US Constitution and another reason why it is not outdated. No one would think of playing football without a set of rules and referees. National governance has the same needs.
So, is the US Constitution inconvenient?
Yes; for some. Congress does not like the checks placed on it by the President and the Supreme Court. The President does not like the checks placed on him by Congress and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court does not like the personal attacks members receive when ideological mobs hit social media or a President comes up with a court-packing plan. The three branches of the federal government are co-equal. Each is expected to fully respect the other in word and deed. No one, elected or appointed, likes the exposure of misconduct by real journalists. Yet it is these very restraints, part of the rules, that make the US Constitution the great governing document that it is.
In fact, we want to make Executive wars inconvenient. . . Article I, section 8, Congress declares war, not the President
In fact, we want to make Congressional inattention to duty inconvenient. . .Article IV, section 4, Congress is to protect states from Invasion
In fact, we want to make Judicial partisanship inconvenient. . .Article III, section 1, Judges shall hold their offices during good behavior, meaning without political bias based on the views of the President that recommended them
The irony – that scholars from Harvard University think the US Constitution outdated – is that the very expression of this point of view is protected political speech under the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. Replacing the very document that gives one the Liberty to trash it is the nes plus ultra of ironies.
If not outdated and purposely inconvenient, where does the US Constitution take us?
The US Constitution takes us to the mission of the Republic itself. That mission is to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” The mission is about the individual, not the group, about the individual stewardship required to pass the blessings of Liberty on to future generations. Liberty is personal choice within the Rule of Law. Liberty is not about equal outcomes; it is about the ability to personally choose an outcome.
We acknowledge that each person winding his or her way through our society has unalienable rights from God to Life and the Pursuit of Happiness within the Rule of Law. Part of that Rule of Law is the US Constitution and each state’s Constitution. While our national public servants take a vow to preserve, protect, and defend the US Constitution, We the People vow to “do our duty to God and our country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Rule of Law.”
Miss Constitution guesses that if the Harvard scholars who find the greatest experiment in the history of the world “outdated”, they might want to examine their own journeys, their own stewardship of the personal Liberty extended to them by long-gone Americans, and come to appreciate our simple set of time-honored rules.