I was speaking the other day to my friend Charles who’s a very intelligent man; in fact, a brilliant polyglot, who opined that the U.S. Constitution, like the Declaration of Independence, is written in language that is far too difficult for the average person to understand. Now, this man can best me in many, many languages, especially New Testament Greek, but I told him in plain English that this is simply not so.
While it’s true that the Declaration was crafted in language designed to compete with and impress the Crowned Heads of Europe and was thus replete with flowery verbiage — my favorite is “consanguinity” — the Constitution was written to and for the American people in a manner they could easily understand. Indeed, its supporters and detractors waged the war over its ratification in the nation’s newspapers, which were eagerly consumed by a rapt citizenry.
Unfortunately down through the decades, our betters in Academia — who believe that it is outdated and irrelevant anyway — have convinced the rest of America that the Constitution, which consists of six typewritten pages, is far too complex for anyone to even attempt to digest; a ploy that has succeeded beyond even their wildest dreams.
I have a niece who took a course on the Constitution in college; the only problem was that reading the document itself was not required; it was for extra credit only. Such is the state of citizenship in our nation that most folks feel they have done their civic duty by letting late-night comics advise them on their voting choices. So no, it is no surprise that too many of our countrymen do not understand the Supreme Law of our Land, but that’s no excuse for those who should and who have indeed sworn an oath to do.
One of the ways that lawyers and college professors have convinced the nation that the Constitution is way over their heads and way out of touch, is to claim that, as originally written, it is far too fragile to encompass the ways and means of modern D.C. mudslinging; as if politics weren’t written into the document itself. The Founders did not live in some ivory tower where the stench of politics never befouled the sacred air. On the contrary, the system of checks and balances was established to create an electoral friction with this very thing in mind. They knew that their plan for a representative republic was not in itself a guarantee against governmental tyranny. Here’s James Madison in Federalist 58:
An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.
What this means is that the framers never intended the Supreme Court to be the final word in the day-to-day governance of America; that is the purview of the people through the two elected branches of government. But should the Executive and Legislative arms overreach the boundaries so carefully laid out for them by the Framers, it is precisely the job of the Court to chastise them for it. I will let Mr. Alexander Hamilton, from Federalist 78, explain:
No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.
Now, does it get any plainer than that?