But is that any reason to abandon the Constitution? Some think it is.
Louis Michael Seidman, a law professor at Georgetown University, wrote in the New York Times that we must “give up on the Constitution.”
“Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse,” he wrote. “Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.”
Yes, that’s precisely the point. Because we’re only human, our “solutions” to issues all too often are worse than the problem itself. So the Framers of the Constitution intentionally put in roadblocks.
Do they get in the way of Washington doing business? We certainly hope so.
Seidman feels differently.
“Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber,” he noted. “Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation’s fate?”
Seidman, however, values expediency, and says it shouldn’t matter what a bunch of “white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries” would think. After all, they thought it was “was fine to own slaves.”
But that’s no argument against the Constitution. Sure, it’s more than 200 years old — and it has provided for the peaceful transition of power for longer than any other country on earth.
And yes, some of the Framers owned slaves. But when President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation exactly 150 years ago, he pointed to the Constitution for his authority to do so.
What Seidman and others who support a “living document” view of the Constitution really object to is government gridlock. And they’re right, it can be an unsightly process when politically manufactured crises, like the fiscal cliff, can no longer be avoided.
“It is hard to take seriously the claim by the Constitution’s defenders that we would be reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature if we asserted our freedom from this ancient text,” he wrote.
But that’s not what’s at risk here. We’re not afraid of our fellow citizens running amok if the Constitution were to be set aside. We’re afraid of our government running amok.
Gridlock is good; in fact, it’s intentional. It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t have to be.