First and foremost, the facts: Constitution Day was established in 2004 by an act of Congress, resulting in the celebration of the document with a federally recognized holiday.
Why celebrate today? The Constitution is the framework for how our government works. It’s a pretty awesome document in a lot of ways — for example, it establishes checks and balances between lawmakers, the chief executive, and the judiciary, which was a pretty big deal for the time it was written.
For the most part, the Constitution is deserving of celebration, particularly the protections it grants to minorities in this country, and the rights it guarantees as well.
But it’s not a perfect document either: the bulk of it being written by wealthy, white men before the turn of the 19th century, we could never expect it to be perfect. At its start, for instance, it protected slavery as an institution.
Happy Constitution Day! September 17, 1787, 39 delegates at the Constitutional Convention sign the U.S. Constitution. In the following months, states would debate ratification, call for amendments, and ultimately, by June 1788, New Hampshire would become the 9th state to ratify. pic.twitter.com/x3uPuiugut
— IndependenceNPS 🇺🇸 (@INDEPENDENCENHP) September 17, 2019
That provision has since been removed, but many others need changes as well. Here are three ways in which the Constitution can be improved upon.
Ending the Electoral College
The Electoral College made sense to the founders at the time — some didn’t trust an uneducated mass of voters to take seriously the task of selecting the president on their own (but this point is largely exaggerated…read on). Over time, the population has become more educated, and the justifications for keeping it in place simply fall apart upon examination. Ending the Electoral College won’t hurt small states, either, and it will produce a system where every person’s vote is weighted equally to other voters’.
One other thing worth noting: the Electoral College was a compromise agreement between northern “free” states and southern “slave states.” In other words, the system for picking our president was based on an agreement to placate slaveholders. Perhaps that, more than any other reason, is why it’s time to get rid of it.
Reining In the Second Amendment
A right to protect one’s self, one’s family, and one’s property is probably about as inherent of a right as we can get. But the Second Amendment’s verbiage makes it, in many right-leaning lawmakers’ and judges’ eyes, an absolute right that makes it difficult to restrict when necessary.
Nowhere in my history of covering the subject of guns have I ever said the right to own a weapon doesn’t exist. But certain weapons deserve extra restrictions, and some don’t deserve to be in the hands of the non-military public at all. To have a proper debate on where those restrictions and limitations exist, however, the Second Amendment has to be worded in an agreeable way. Right now, it’s interpretation leaves too much to the imagination…a dangerous place to allow it to stand, given the gun crisis in our nation.
Protecting Your Right To Vote
The common belief in America right now is that, if you’re a citizen over the age of 18, that gives you the right to vote in every election, from dog catcher up to the president. That’s not actually the case.
Examining the Constitution directly, we see that a person has a right to be involved in federal elections only if they have the right to vote in their state elections. The bolded part below is what’s important:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.
In other words, if you can vote for your state rep, you can vote for your Congressional representative, too. But this right is only protected so long as your state allows you to vote for your state representative — changes to who can pick that person would result in your losing the ability to voice who you think should sit in that state seat as well as your representative in Congress.
Again, for the most part, the Constitution is a document worth celebrating. Free speech and religious protections, a framework for how the federal government should function, and other parts of it shouldn’t be overlooked when we consider the “greatness” that exists within its provisions.
Being “great” doesn’t mean it’s “perfect,” however. And these three items aren’t the only ways in which the Constitution could be better.
Where imperfections exist, we should seek to remedy the document to make it “more perfect.” That’s what the founders hoped would happen, after all.