Hey congress, you were supposed to have already read the Constitution in eighth grade, now get to work!

So the Republicans are reading the Constitution in Congress. Nothing too wrong with that, I suppose.  And some Democrats are reading it as well, no doubt to jump on the bandwagon to appease the Tea Party and various elements of the far-right crowd.

While I don’t think there is anything wrong with reading the Constitution, it does seem like a waste of time when so much needs to be done to get the economy going and figure out a way to deal with the national debt and our extremely high unemployment rate. We are all supposed to be somewhat familiar with the Constitution already through our schooling through high school.

Earlier, I thought I read or heard that the Republicans were going to seek to halt any legislation they deemed to be unconstitutional. Well first, who would try to push through legislation that was thought to be unconstitutional? And second of all, it is not the job of the legislative branch to determine the constitutionality of a law. We were all supposed to have learned in eighth-grade civics, and then again in high school, and even then again in college (for those of us who did that) that the government is divided into three branches, a separation of powers — the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. It is up to the Supreme Court, with the help of the lower federal courts, to determine the constitutionality of laws. Although I have to admit that curiously folks way back when may have not completely thought that one out because it took the famous case (famous for lawyers and political science buffs) of Marbury v. Madison to determine that the high court had the power to determine constitutionality (but who else would?) or “judicial review” as it is called.


And then there is “strict constructionism” or the idea that the Constitution just kind of says itself with no interpretation needed. Well I have seldom read anything that is not open to at least some interpretation — Slow Children. 

Arguing that the Constitution is literal with no need for anyone to interpret it or no room for differences of opinion on what it says is like arguing that the Holy Bible, everything in it, must be taken literally as the word of God (who interprets the word of God, you or me?). For the most part, the Bible is not written in straight-forward language (and what language did God speak?) and it has been translated into or from the Greek and Latin and from the original (help me here) Aramaic writings (I’m not a Bible scholar — maybe other languages too).

The Constitution is written in legalese and no doubt many of its provisions were intended to have differing interpretations due to the compromises necessary to get everyone to agree to all of its elements, not to mention (okay I mention it) that it was originally written in the 18th Century, before the industrial revolution even, and when customs and the whole world was far different than today.

And anyway, constitutions are not laws in and of themselves, they are frameworks for laws.

All that said, I tend to go along with the idea that lawmakers should hold fairly strict to the actual wording of the constitution. The document can be and has been amended, 27 times so far. It is often argued that if we were to follow the original intent, Blacks and Indians would only count as three fifths of a human being and that slavery would be legal. But the Constitution was amended to make that not so.

But views on what is constitutional and what is not do change over time. At one time the high court ruled that racial segregation was perfectly fine, but a half century later it reversed itself — so was it wrong to reverse itself? Or was it wrong the first time? Intelligent and not-so-intelligent people can disagree. Someone has to make the final decision. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plessy_v._Ferguson

Anyway, I guess it is okay for lawmakers to demonstrate they have read the Constitution. But now let’s get down to business!


And here is kind of a strange twist, I think: While it is usually so-called “liberals” who are accused to bending the Constitution or stretching it to make it say what they want it to say, when it comes to the 14th Amendment, originally adopted as an outcome of freeing the slaves and making sure all citizens were protected under the law, the right wing, or at least the pro-business types, have stretched it (I think) to make it protect artificial citizens known as corporations and give corporations the same rights as actual individual people. So who was the strict constructionist here?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: