VII.5: Getting Back to the Constitution

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Getting Back to the Constitution

Many believe that America could solve the problems with our government if only we would “get back to the Constitution”.

I like that idea, but it misses the real point. Let’s imagine we could re-align our laws and government operations perfectly with the Constitution. If those laws and operations got away from the Constitution before, what would prevent them from getting away from it again? That is, if the Constitution lacks the “teeth” to assert itself, it cannot prevent the corruption it was designed to prevent.

The U.S. Constitution is the one and only thing that requires our laws and government operations to conform to its self. So if those laws or operations are defective, then the U.S. Constitution must be defective as well. Furthermore, we all know that the rich and powerful control our government through their lobbyists. So the U.S. Constitution is the only thing that stands between them and the most powerful military in the history of man!

I am certainly NOT saying we should trash the Constitution. But the real problem is that the Constitution consists only of words. And words are totally dependent on interpretation. The meanings of words ooze like putty in the hands of skilled lawyers, who are the professional interpreters of law. And we have given final judgement for those interpretations to the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. But who else could we give it to? Can you imagine the chaos if we gave that judgement to the people at large?

To get back to the Constitution, “we, the people” must have ultimate control over how the Constitution’s words are interpreted.

The people elect the president and the senators. Then the president nominates new Supreme Court justices, and the senate approves or disapproves them. Of course, to be precise, the people can only fill the presidency and senate by selecting politicians chosen by one or the other of the two major political parties.

How much power do the people really have in interpreting the Constitution? Is the actual political power you control really worth all the time you spend standing in line waiting for a voting booth?

Thomas Jefferson thought every generation should have the right to create a new constitution:

Let us … [not] weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself and of ordering its own affairs. (Jefferson 1816)

But Daniel Webster plays the devil’s advocate to Jefferson’s comment:

We live under the only government that ever existed, which was formed by the deliberate consultations of the people. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in six thousand years, cannot be expected to happen often. Such a government, once destroyed, would have a void to be filled, perhaps for centuries, with evolution and tumult, riot and despotism. (Webster 1805)

Both of these men were extremely wise. Our constitution is not perfect. On the other hand, I would approach the idea of significantly changing it with fear and trepidation. I have given these conflicting notions a lifetime of study, and I am eager to hear the opinions of my countrymen.

Would it be wise for us to send delegates to a new constitutional convention?

Absolutely not! If we sent delegates to a constitutional convention as the states did in 1787, the moneyed interests would take complete control of it. They would seize even more power over you and me than they already have. All Americans must be involved in deciding what needs to change, and that could take a very, very long time.

Would you consider the possibility of significantly changing the U.S. Constitution? What if anyone who’s interested published, discussed, and modified all proposed changes in the open, over decades or even generations? Would that make changing the U.S. Constitution less terrifying or more so?

This site is for discussing how to improve our political system. It is NOT for discussing party politics or political figures. So if you have a non-partisan question or comment, feel free to leave it below.

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Jefferson, Thomas. 1816. “Proposals to Revise the Virginia Constitution: I. Thomas Jefferson to “Henry Tompkinson” (Samuel Kercheval), 12 July 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, version of January 18, 2019, [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Retirement Series, vol. 10, May 1816 to 18 January 1817, ed. J. Jefferson Looney. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013, pp. 222–228.]

Webster, Daniel. 1805. “An Anniversary Address Delivered by Daniel Webster Before the Federal Gentlemen of Concord and it’s Vicinity, July 4, 1805”. The Granite Monthly. (Accessed Feb. 6, 2019)

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