Only have a minute? Listen instead
The Constitution is our anchor of stability in a turbulent world! We can withstand a bad president and a petulant Congress (for the short term, at least) because our Constitution both guides and limits. If someone asked me to provide proof of a loving God, I would simply ask how else so many geniuses in the matter of human governance could have been clustered together in the right time and place to create both our country and the means to govern it. Our founding fathers had the vision to devise a way to not only govern themselves, but govern a country that they could not imagine, yet believed would prevail.
The Constitution of the United States is like a good parent. It has allowed us to grow up as we have grown older, with the result that ours is the oldest living democracy in the world. The miracle of this document is that it lives, breathes and moves with the times. The three branches of our government work together while standing alone. While our laws must carry the weight of immediate and complete enforcement, the amendment of the laws must also be fluid and responsive. Laws that cannot be enforced produce anarchy and laws that cannot be changed calcify into totalitarianism.
It is like a sonnet. The structure is specific and rigid. But what you say is entirely up to you. If governed by good and intelligent people we should be able to make the best decisions at the time, given the best facts available, and the confidence to know that we can change our mind when needs and circumstances change. This isn’t flip-flopping (a term I hate); it is adjusting to better data. Laws that got us where we wanted to be in 1830 didn’t function well in 1930 and won’t work in 2030.
Consider Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof ….” Not until 1913 when the 17th Amendment was passed would the citizens directly elect their senators. Both the original decision and its amendment had good and justifiable reasons. Times change; we change.
I am very suspicious of people who try to fiddle with my Constitution. Changing it is a difficult, time-consuming and laborious process. Not impossible, but not something done on a whim either. Of course, you can always try to get around the Constitution by presidential decree or judicial interpretation, but those efforts are fairly transparent and we can see them for what they are — subversion of good government. It is important to have the courage to call foul when we see this happening — even if the results might be those of which we approve.
The current Republican Party is trying to keep its tenuous and ill-begotten hold on power by circumventing the Constitution. They are foresworn enemies of the very land that nurtures and protects them. Their behavior is at best ignorant, but it goes from there all the way through undisciplined self-aggrandizement straight into criminal. It is, in all these forms, un-American. You cannot love your country and love what Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, Ted Cruz and the rest of these spineless cowards at local, state and national levels are doing. As a former Republican, I can say this without fear of partisan accusations.
The same Constitution that protects us now will protect us from our worst nightmares. It is our shield, but like every shield, we must hold it up to allow it to work.
Guard the Constitution and keep the faith.
Louise Butler is a retired educator and published author who lives in Edinburg. She writes for our Board of Contributors.