Can One Want to Follow Even An Imperfect Constitution?


Politico reporter Reid Epstein is vexed by Republican presidential candidates who promote constitutional fidelity, but yet also call for amending the document:

To hear the Republican presidential candidates tell it, the U.S. Constitution is the guiding light of democracy, a bedrock document so perfect and precise that it shouldn’t be challenged, interpreted or besmirched by modern-day judges.

Except for all the parts the GOP candidates themselves want to change.

The same candidates promising to appoint strict constructionist judges clearly think the Framers, for all their wisdom and foresight, forgot a few things, which they now want to tack on with an array of proposed constitutional amendments that would bulk up the document.

Oh, the hypocrisy! But wait…there is no conflict here at all. Epstein’s piece confuses advocation for constitutional fidelity with a belief that either the document or the Founders are perfect.: But that isn’t the point.

By adhering to the supreme legal document of the land, we guarantee that we have a nation of laws and not of men. When elected officials decide they know better than the Constitution and disregard it at will, that is no longer the case.

But the Constitution is amendable for a reason. It is necessarily imperfect, and needs to be open to change over time. The main point is that doing so through the appropriate means maintains the rule of law, and is thus perfectly consistent with views promoting Constitutional adherence.

The choice is not, as Epstein seems to understand it, between either believing that the Constitution is perfect and unassailable, or being willing to step out from under its limits where necessary. The real choice is between whether we believe politicians are bound by the limitations clearly established within the Constitution, or that they may act freely within only electoral constraints – a system akin to mob rule.

Cross-posted from Conservative Compendium.

Brian Garst

Brian Garst is the Director of Government Affairs for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a non-profit think tank dedicated to preserving tax competition and free markets. He also blogs at BrianGarst.com.

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