Since the inauguration of President Trump, there have been many discussions about the constitutionality of certain actions he has taken. It is worth publishing a post to briefly explain why these conflicts arise and why it is necessary to form a bipartisan coalition of people to oppose alleged unconstitutional acts. To create this coalition, Americans must agree on a set of principles as to why the constitution is important in the first place.
The Constitution is the bedrock of our republic. Its words are the first dose of political philosophy most Americans will encounter in their lives. It is an amalgamation of some of the deepest intellectual minds this nation has ever had. The plethora of struggles the founders wrestled with over single phrases and words are evident in the original text of the document and are embodied throughout its amendments as well as the countless rights and powers absent from its parchment. A document which inspires hope in millions for creating a more equitable society, while simultaneously the source of frustrations about the limits its clauses impose for enacting legislation due to its devotion to compromise and trepidation of majority rule, nevertheless insulates us from tyranny’s persistent threat. Notorious for its brevity, yet time-tested having survived some of the greatest social, political, and economic challenges in our nation’s 240-year history. The Constitution serves as the initial point of discussion regarding our policy and politics and a necessary element to consider when enacting great change or fighting against our enemies. It implicitly supports separation of church and state, while simultaneously granting government to foster innovation and development of the sciences through the patent system. Our veneration for the document can often blind us to institutional problems, yet unites our patriotism greater than any politician with the simple words “We the People.” The events surrounding its struggle for existence, principles, and evolution that are showcased in its text make it truly fascinating to learn about for all Americans. No doubt as a person reads the document they will walk away with more questions than answers about its meaning and intent, which will continue to last for generations.
From this, I believe it is important for people to comprehend three essential truths about the Constitution if citizens are to avoid conflict about it. First, the Constitution is inherently a philosophical document. Thus, when invoking a constitutional argument, one should ground their ideas in an explicit analysis of interpretation. I have detailed my framework previously, which I think can serve as a baseline of how people should approach policy arguments. Second, we need recognize that the strength of the Constitution comes from the people, all people; thus, when even one citizen is inflicted with injustice or unequal treatment under the law, we are all to blame either by our ignorance, unwillingness to act, or apathy. It is a fundamental duty of all citizens not only to co-exist peacefully in our country, but also to relentlessly advocate for others who are facing injustice. Third, the Constitution is not an end in itself, but only a beginning of how to build a just society. Fourth, the Constitution was built on the need to compromise; thus, one must be willing to compromise to reap its political benefits.
My last point is critical because I am not sure how true it is today. Our founders did not foresee the power of political parties and partisanship, including its effects, which both deteriorate the need for compromise and substantially weakening an argument that separation of powers can alone be enough for one branch of government to check the other.
The founders’ inability to foresee this is exemplified by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 60:
The House of Representatives being elected immediately by the people, the Senate by the State legislatures, the President by electors chosen for that purpose by the people, there would be little probability of a common interest to cement these different branches in a predilection for any particular class of electors.
And James Madison in Federalist 48:
An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one which should not only be founded on free principles, but in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies of magistracy, as that no one could transcend their legal limits, without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.
Hamilton went further and discussed how the Senate would be an even greater check in Federalist 27:
Various reasons have been suggested, in the course of these papers, to induce a probability that the general government will be better administered than the particular governments; the principal of which reasons are that the extension of the spheres of election will present a greater option, or latitude of choice, to the people; that through the medium of the State legislatures which are select bodies of men, and which are to appoint the members of the national Senate there is reason to expect that this branch will generally be composed with peculiar care and judgment; that these circumstances promise greater knowledge and more extensive information in the national councils, and that they will be less apt to be tainted by the spirit of faction, and more out of the reach of those occasional ill-humors, or temporary prejudices and propensities, which, in smaller societies, frequently contaminate the public councils, beget injustice and oppression of a part of the community, and engender schemes which, though they gratify a momentary inclination or desire, terminate in general distress, dissatisfaction, and disgust. Several additional reasons of considerable force, to fortify that probability, will occur when we come to survey, with a more critical eye, the interior structure of the edifice which we are invited to erect. It will be sufficient here to remark, that until satisfactory reasons can be assigned to justify an opinion, that the federal government is likely to be administered in such a manner as to render it odious or contemptible to the people, there can be no reasonable foundation for the supposition that the laws of the Union will meet with any greater obstruction from them, or will stand in need of any other methods to enforce their execution, than the laws of the particular members.
Now, if given a large enough majority, no society is free from tyranny, especially over the long run. However, instead of being a separate branch of government with its own interests and agenda, Congress because of partisanship, has instead formed lock step with the Executive branch. Thus, Congress is no longer a check on the President as it was drafted to be, but when aligned with the party of the President becomes a servant and enabler to whoever holds the Oval Office and the opposing party in Congress, if they are in the minority, can only scream in space as a tyranny of unity between the majority in Congress and the Executive. To recites an adage, the first step in solving any problem is admitting there is one. We know that certain essential political mechanisms that are designed to preserve the Constitution and instill unwavering belief and respect in our government are missing from its text, which acknowledges that certain problems will need amendments to eradicate them.
- Ending of partisan gerrymandering. Which will allow politicians to pick their voters instead of the other way around.
- Eradicating unfettered and unlimited campaign finance spending. Which will instill a belief that best candidate in an election actually won and that is was not because of a candidate’s inherent wealth or access to outside funding is what allowed them to be victorious.
- Abolishing the electoral college. Which advances the idea of one person one vote and the cornerstone of a democracy of the candidate with the majority of the votes wins.
Although this is not a comprehensive list, it is no surprise as I have elucidated that these necessary changes will take a bipartisan coalition of citizens across the political spectrum. This work is essential to instill the belief that our government works for the people as intended, but allow politicians to be free from the corporate and partisan shackles preventing them from legislating and suppress the corruption and distrust that has infected our government. 2 3