Why is it sacrosanct? It’s a question I have often asked myself as someone born, and mostly educated, outside of the United States but who has spent most of my life in America. The question relates to the U.S. Constitution.
I am not suggesting that it’s an unimportant document, far from it. However, the reverence in which it is held and the conviction that every word is sacrosanct, when the document was written over two hundred and fifty years ago, is puzzling. Logic would tell you that a small group of businessmen, and small-town lawyers, writing in the mid seventeen hundreds could not possibly have created a document that would be totally relevant today even if it is the country’s constitution. Differences in cultural interpretation alone, two hundred and fifty years later, would make the intentions of the Founding Fathers virtually impossible to understand today. Why, then, is such strict adherence to the wording, and today’s interpretation of the original intent, the political norm? Why is it sacrosanct? The answer, of course, is that such adherence and interpretation is an illusion foisted on the general public to keep them under control and feeling safe. It is politically convenient for those in power.
Those few businessmen and lawyers did a remarkable job in producing a document that has any relevance at all, today, after 250 years. However, they could not possibly have anticipated how their wording might be twisted by self-serving lawyers and politicians of the future. They would probably be horrified by how their high moral standards of representational government, within their limited framework of acceptable representation has played out. (Women, non-land-owners, Native Americans, Blacks, Asians didn’t exist in that framework, and it’s treated as sacrosanct!).
Almost as soon as it was written, the Southern Governors created, and passed into law, the concept of the Electoral College. They did that, including the legal ability to count every slave as two-thirds of a person, to retain power over the burgeoning Northern population. One man, one vote, which was never contemplated anyway, went straight out the window at that point: I should add that the Founding Fathers’ concept of one man, one vote, was actually one male landowner, one vote! Today, the Electoral College is still used to obviate the will of the people by rigging the system to eliminate the popular vote as a method for choosing the President. The system is corrupt and archaic, not to mention undemocratic.
Why then, if the original document was so easily manipulated right from the beginning, is it still treated with such reverence that no changes (Amendments) have occurred in the last fifty years? I would submit that no changes have been passed in that period, and few before that, because it suits political ambitions. It is only promoted as sacrosanct by those who use it for their own ends.
District gerrymandering, district packing, both of which are designed to disenfranchise certain elements of society and/or to rig elections in favor of the incumbent administration, could easily be eliminated with a constitutional amendment. It will never happen because politicians won’t let it. They are constitutionally within their rights, because the writers of the constitution, in their perfectly understandable naiveté, probably never imagined such shenanigans.
The U.S Senate is a great example of the ability to rig elections without compromising the Constitution. Republicans, in admitting Dakota as a state, decided to divide it into North Dakota and South Dakota. Why, because the two states would provide them with 4 senators whereas one state would only provide them with two? An effective ploy when voting in Congress is all about numbers. Further, why is it that, for example, Wyoming has two senators for a population of 581,813 (2022), when California has two senators for a population of 39,185,605 (2022), and Washington DC has no senators at all for a population of 4.7 million. Doesn’t sound much like democracy to me.
Re-districting can occur every 10 years. On the surface that appears to be a sensible rule in a growing, and geographically mobile, population. However, it has allowed each political party, when they are in power, to manipulate district lines to include, exclude and concentrate segments of the population to rig election results. All legal under the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers are probably turning in their graves at the abuse visited on their good intentions and words.
I don’t expect that this situation will ever change because it is not in the interest of the decision-makers who are in power, to do so. It is in their interests to maintain the illusion that the Constitution is sacrosanct.
However, perhaps schools should teach, not only the Constitution itself, but also the abuses to which power-hungry politicians and political parties have put the document. That might, eventually, produce the changes necessary to establish an actual democracy. One can hope!