Our nation’s Constitution has become the subject of considerable discussion in recent years as politicians seek ways to sidle up to what they believe the nation’s founders intended when they wrote it.
I never have considered myself to be a constitutional expert. However, I long ago appreciated the brilliant rhetoric the founders used to frame the document that has become the model for much of the rest of the world.
The Constitution’s very first sentence lays down the predicate for what has followed. The founders wrote: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union … “
We’ll stop there. You do realize, I hope, what I believe to be the three most critical words in our governing document: “more perfect Union.”
Our founders knew from the get-go that forming a “perfect Union” was way beyond their reach. They knew that perfection was unattainable.
I mean, we have amended the Constitution 27 times since its ratification in 1789. One of the amendments was enacted to overturn a previous amendment that turned out to be a monumental failure.
The 18th Amendment — ratified on Jan. 16, 1919 — sought to make the production, sale and consumption of liquor illegal. It didn’t take long for politicians to realize the mistake they made. On Dec. 5, 1933, Americans ratified the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment.
Where am I going with this? I am trying to understand what the founders intended when –having won our nation’s independence after the Revolution — they crafted what I believe to be a “living document” that is subject to change, reform and improvement.
Indeed, the founders likely expected the Constitution to need improvement when they inserted the word “more” just ahead of “perfect” when they signed off on the greatest governing framework in world history.
Those who insist on following “original intent” so many years later, or proclaim themselves to be “constitutional conservatives,” should take heed of what I believe the founders intended.