Today is Wednesday, September 17, 2014, Constitution Day — the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Some in our country feel that it needs to be a living document. I certainly agree to the extent that “living” means relevant, in control.
In order for it to have life we must respect it, not ignore it.
Who would not agree that a document more than 230 years old that enumerates specific provisions cannot have contemplated our situation today?
Vote for change
The issue comes down to how we change it. Current fashion is to circumvent it whenever what people in power want to do is not authorized by the plain wording of the document. Thoughts like “since it says that it exists to promote our common welfare we should go ahead and do what I want to do because my plan would be good for a lot of people” put us in jeopardy of letting an oligarchy, a few people in power, rewrite the rules as they see fit.
Others think that our supreme court should decree changes to it when in fact the supreme court exists to interpret it, not modify it. Interpretation to me does not include deciding what it should say. The should interpret what it does say.
Our Constitution was agreed to by the people after months of intense discussion and decision making. Changes to it should be made by the people, not by our government officials.
Article V of the Constitution provides two methods of changing it. Whenever two-thirds of the members of congress want to propose a change they can. Alternatively two-thirds of the state legislatures can propose changes. From there it takes the approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures or three-fourths of specially called state conventions. How a proposed change is to be ratified (legislature vs. convention) must be specified when the proposal for the change is made. No amendment has ever been taken to state conventions.
You might think that the process for making changes sets a pretty high bar. It does. We don’t want to change our basic rules whenever the wind changes direction. Time has a way of solving many problems.
Part of the “living document” movement is the feeling that it takes too long to change the Constitution.
Our Constitution has been amended 27 times. The 26th, changing the voting age to 18 passed in three months. Eight passed in less than a year. With the exception of one outlier the two amendments that took the longest to pass were passed in less than four years. The outlier was our last amendment, the 27th. The 27th prohibited congress from raising their own pay until after the next election of representatives. It took 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days. No need to wonder why.
We could strip our governments of much of their abuse of power if we made them follow the rules, not the rules as they think they should have been worded. If they don’t like the way things are worded, they should ask to change it. It doesn’t take long in the scheme of things.
We deserve better