This essay continues a series exploring briefly why the Constitution is ineffective at restraining federal officials today, and illustrates how members of the present generation must come to view their relationship to the Constitution if it is to be of service in effectively responding to federal overreach. The series will conclude by highlighting two largely untried and fundamentally different approaches to restoring constitutional constraints; issue-based legislative accountability, and a convention of states to amend the US Constitution.
The Constitution in the 21st Century
The two hundred and forty years of our independence as a nation are replete with examples of times that our constitutional forms were temporarily set aside, and sometimes by our nation’s most revered statesmen. The claim of public necessity was used sparingly at first, but it is now made by presidents with an alarming frequency, and in recent years simply on the grounds that Congress has been slow to act. While the nation was once strict in drawing distinctions between matters of truly dire emergencies and matters of mere presidential impatience, it is claimed by some today that the American people have adopted a much more permissive posture and no longer have need of a Constitution whose primary role is simply to serve as an impediment to progress and “the political will of the people”. The nature of the Constitution as a political document is now readily admitted. What is now more likely to be questioned is whether it is—and should remain—a legal document as well. As Washington forewarned us, we have now reached that point where change by usurpation has become the custom of the land.