Gongol.com Archives: March 2024

Brian Gongol

March 19, 2024

The United States of America Amendments are enough

For more than a century, pockets of America's political left wing have been restlessly agitated with the Constitution. Woodrow Wilson resented its constraints. Franklin Roosevelt famously bent the rules to get the New Deal he wanted. Today, no small number of people can be found making "progressive" arguments to jettison everything from the Electoral College to lifetime appointments on the Supreme Court. ■ Critics from the left today often discount the Constitution on the basis of identity politics. There should be no doubt whatsoever that the Constitutional Convention (and politics of the time more broadly) ought to have included people other than men of exclusively European ancestry. ■ But civilization is always constructed from the "crooked timber" of humanity: Whether an organization, institution, philosophy, or other framework has been assembled by a wholly diverse committee or by a single person working alone, the merit of the outcome depends upon the quality of the underlying ideas on which it was built, not the immutable features of its authors. ■ When a self-described "Constitutional equality enthusiast" today denounces the relative youth of Founders like James Madison and uses that youth as the foundation for a critique like, "The [C]onstitution was basically a Reddit post", it's not rigorous enough to deserve respect. The Constitution could have been drafted by a room full of octogenerians or by the Revolutionary Era equivalent of a high school debate team. What would matter is the validity of the work, not the ages of the people involved. ■ In particular, though, this argument that youth ought to be a disqualification of the authors is patently non-credible. Sometimes age brings wisdom. Sometimes it just brings calcification. Sometimes youth brings vitality. Sometimes youth merely brings fanatical obliviousness. ■ The Constitution is imperfect, and it has always been imperfect. Where it may be most perfect is in its embrace of a process for amendment: The forthright acknowledgment by its authors that they got things wrong, and those things might only be revealed by time and unfortunate experience. ■ Implicitly, the Constitution says, "Please revise and resubmit as often as necessary". But it says that as a substitute for disorder, violence, and revolution. ■ Its flaws aren't veiled behind a purported divine right of kings or the all-consuming power of a Politburo. They are written down, out in the open, with a process for correction built clearly into the original. All it asks in return is a thoughtful, incremental process of reform and correction which depends upon persuading not just some of the country, but an overwhelming majority of it. ■ Neither left nor right should discount the contributions of youth nor of old age to political decisions. We have assessed that, under the law, a person is an adult upon reaching the age of 18 -- free to enjoy adult freedoms, and accountable to adult consequences. ■ Voting is one of those freedoms, and elections have consequences. Every election is itself a referendum on keeping the Constitution. Those whose patience with it runs thin ought to remind themselves that only four full Presidential cycles pass between a person's birth and their first eligibility to vote. Changes can come fast if persuasion is applied early and well to the task.