Forget the Constitution

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The argument over the Constitution is typically between the "strict constructionists" and the "living Constitution" school of thought. Louis Michael Seidman, professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown University Law Center and the author of On Constitutional Disobedience (Oxford University Press, 2013), offers the contrarian view that the Constitution is outdated and that instead of re-interpreting it to fit current issues, it should be ignored altogether.


Louis Michael Seidman
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Comments [14]

Anne Mendelson from North Bergen, NJ

I can accept some of the Seidman argument. The spectacle of citizens, politicians, and even judges FIRST polishing up their own beliefs and THEN figuring out why the Constitution agrees with them is so crazy that you wonder why it took until now for someone to start pointing it out.

However, the obvious joker is: What point can there possibly be in getting laws through Congress or any state legislature when we all know that they face tests of constitutionality? What point can there be in judges handing down opinions based on 2013 reality without no constitutional basis, when higher courts can reasonably be expected to throw them out as unconstitutional? I haven't read Seidman's book; is he in favor of leaving any part of the Constitution intact, or how does he propose that lawmakers or judges jettison assorted bits and pieces?

Mar. 20 2013 10:06 AM

I'm in agreement with rosellen. The constitution can be twisted into nearly anything. For example, in theory we are granted religious freedom. In practice, religious freedom means that Christians are free to subject the rest of us with their religious beliefs. The rest of us do not have freedom of or freedom from religion. Also, how on earth does the constitution support the idea that corporations are people? I think Howard Zinn questioned the constitution in similar ways.

Mar. 19 2013 11:48 AM

We would follow the bill of rights; a belief in fairness, decency, justice, balance of the individual liberty and the common good.[the iconic scales of justice]. It would be worked out legislatively by elected legislatures. Like it happens now any way-regardless of what is in the constitution. The constitution just shores up ones positions[like appealing to the bible for justification.]It gets in the way of critical thinking on any socio/political position as both sides merely invoke it to support their beliefs.But I would not mind having a constitution that enumerates CONCRETE rights befitting an advanced 21st century society.[like the right to a home, health care, a job or living wage etc., the way new constitutions in African countries enumerate].The oft stated position that it is our constitution that unites us is bogus. We have different values on many issues but once laws are enacted-we do tend over time to more or less come along and accept the values expressed in those laws. No more no less then all advanced democracies do who don't have our constitution but also have evolving mores which their laws reflect.

Mar. 19 2013 11:46 AM

Finally-I've lived to see the day when someone dares to say that the emperor has no clothes. The constitution can and has been interpreted to mean whatever just enough people in positions of power believe it to mean at any point in time. It is in fact irrelevant; as mores change so too do our laws reflect those changing mores. When grass roots movements gain just enough influence on either the legislatures, judiciary or executives branch often propelled by a sympathetic media-our laws reflect those evolving values. Be it civil rights, women's rights, gay rights etc. Doesn't matter what is in the constitution. And where it is specific -it can be amended. Advanced countries can have enlightened laws without a constitution[Britain].What does the right to bear arms mean? The right to have a local police force, a national guard, a state militia, the right to own one firearm or an unlimited amount of firearms?It means whatever just enough people in positions of power say it means.
I would like to see a constitution that enshrines concrete rights ;the right to a home, a job or living wage, the right to food and water and the right to health care and education. And one day it will -I believe.Our constitution is indeed like the bible-people use it to rationalize and justify their particular positions on any issue. Second amendment? Free speech? If it's accompanied by a crime-it's hate speech and you can be punished for it. If your name is Alawaki and you express anti -American views or sympathy for a designated terrorist group you can be killed for it! Due process, innocent till proven guilty ? Except if we really hate you then we call it a war on terror where the whole world is a battle field and any one can be killed without due process.

Mar. 19 2013 11:27 AM
The Truth from Becky

The founders of this country could not forsee this far into the future. Revise it or drop it, it was NOT created with ALL people in mind.

Mar. 19 2013 11:25 AM
Mike from Jersey City from New Jersey

The answer to pretty much everything this clown had to say can be found in the Constitution's provisions for amendment.

The problems folks like this clown have with the process is that it makes it harder for them to do whatever it is they want to do, because they have to submit their proposed changes to the democratic process.

The case this clown cites is a perfect example. The Emancipation Proclamation only had force of law in the States that were in a state of rebellion. This authority flowed from the President's power as Commander-in-chief. Lincoln did, in fact submit what he wanted to do -- abolish slavery -- to the democratic process of amending the Constitution.

Mar. 19 2013 11:04 AM
Michael from Staten Island

I certainly believe in the rule of law, but I'm troubled about the geographical biases of the Constitution in the age of the Internet. We no longer stay at one job in one state, but move around to several jobs. Technology has allowed techniques like gerrymandering to grossly skew Congressional representation. Is it time for a government that recognizes individual rights over the power of interest groups?

Mar. 19 2013 11:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Robert

People are always going to be flawed, well into the future, therefore nothing should be taken seriously. There should never be any set of principles about anything. That is called anarchy, where each man and woman can do "what is right in his (or her) own eyes."

Mar. 19 2013 11:02 AM

The founders left us a mechanism for revising the constitution. Either follow the law or change it.

Mar. 19 2013 11:01 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Why does the media give WACKOS like this air time? Just enriching total nut jobs.

Mar. 19 2013 10:59 AM
Robert from RBC

Correct, like the bible the constitution was written my flawed human beings. Thank you for that educational clarification.

Mar. 19 2013 10:57 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Without our Constitution, we are not a nation at all. By definition, a nation is a group of people bound together by either blood or a set of principles they agree to bind them together. Since we are not bound by blood, the Founding Fathers understood we need a set of principles that a diverse group of peoples can agree to abide by.

The fact that slaves in general, going all the way back in history, were never considered part of the nation - which only free men could be part of - we disestablished slavery and gave blacks and native "Indians" citizenship, making them part of the nation.

Mar. 19 2013 10:57 AM

What are Prof. Seidman's suggestions for dealing with the new Nullifiers of the GOP - denying Obama his sub cabinet & judicial appointments, state laws attempting to nullify Federal statutes, etc.?

After all, the current paralysis by divided Government is a repeat of earlier attempts to defang the central government.

Mar. 19 2013 10:54 AM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Without a written Constitution, what forms of authority would the guest suggest we follow? Other founding documents, religious training, "because I say so"? British common law? What precisely?

Mar. 19 2013 10:30 AM

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