Today is Constitution Day. Monday, September 17, 1787, 220 years ago, was the last day of the Constitutional Convention. Ben Franklin, by proxy, gave this speech about the flaws of the Constitution. yet, his address fit into the “let not the perfect be the enemy of the good” theorem.
I double-checked the Constitution, and yes, I remembered correctly: the legislature is discussed in Article I and the executive branch in Article II, suggesting that Congress should have important role in the governance of the country. Guess some folks have forgot.
Here’s something that totally slipped my mind – There are TWO ways to amend the U.S. Constitution:
1. Both houses of Congress approve by a two-thirds vote a resolution calling for the amendment; this does NOT require the president’s signature. To become effective, the proposed amendment then must then be “ratified” or approved by the legislatures of three-fourths (currently 38) of the states . Usually, but not always, Congress places a time limit of seven years for ratification by the states.
2. The legislatures of two-thirds of the states (currently 34) vote to call for a convention at which constitutional amendments can be proposed. Amendments proposed by the convention would again require ratification by three-fourths of the states.
I’d forgotten about the second way because the Constitution has never been amended by that method, though there has been conversation about such an event, e.g. for a balanced budget amendment. The Constitution has been amended 27 times; the Bill of Rights are the first ten, and the 18th and 21st, concerning prohibition, canceled each other out.
Of course, the interpretation of the Constitution falls to the judiciary, established fairly early on. The notions of “legislating from the bench” or “strict constructionist” have been so mangled in this politicized era as to be rendered nearly meaningless.
Still, I hold a (cautious) hope that the rights long established, fought and died for – including the right of dissent – will survive the current attacks, cockeyed optimist that I am. Here’s another view.