Today marks 235 years since, on September 17, 1787, the US Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. From Supreme Court rulings against government power grabs and for the rights of the people to the booming constitutional carry trend spreading across the nation, there’s much to celebrate on Constitution Day 2022. But with each victory for those who would see the Constitution taken literally comes increased demand from progressives that it be either loosely interpreted or even abolished entirely.
A Battle-Worn Watch
The nation established by that document has weathered many a storm, as forces both from without and within have tried to either destroy or reshape it. Much has changed since the Founding – both the Constitution and Republic bear the scars of that nigh constant fight. Authoritarian reactions to attacks by outside enemies and years of exposure from within to ideologies incompatible with the Founders’ vision have succeeded in wearing down the republican protections put in place against the tyranny of both the state and the popular majority. Social welfare spending, massive government projects, and a labyrinth of agencies, departments, and other bureaucratic entities to manage it all brought about increased taxation and ever more regulation. No longer is the United States a true union of sovereign states that more or less regulate themselves; federal meddling in the day-to-day lives of all Americans is now the norm.
Yet still the core of that Republic remains today – battle-scarred though it may be. The Constitution took effect March 9, 1789, and the first ten amendments – the Bill of Rights – was in place by December of 1791. In the almost 231 years since, the Constitution has only been amended an additional 17 times. And it’s not for lack of trying. According to the National Archives Foundation, more than 11,000 proposals have been sent to Congress, which passed on just 33 to the states for ratification.
America has changed much since the Founding – often for the worse, especially regarding government powers. But no other nation exists today that has maintained unbroken representative democracy under a single constitution as long as the United States.
Constitution Day 2022 – How Many More?
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exceeded its legal authority to regulate power plants by creating emission caps without congressional direction, thus putting a stop to the agency’s – and by extension, the Biden administration’s – naked power grab. That same month, the Court ruled New York’s longstanding “proper-cause” requirement for the state conceal carry license unconstitutional. Even beyond New York, though, the ruling effectively ended “may issue” permitting in several other states and increased the constitutional scrutiny that must be applied to gun laws. This year also saw constitutional carry, which removes permit requirements to keep and bear arms, sweep the nation, with half the states now honoring it in some form.
But with a Supreme Court more originalist than we’ve had in years comes alternating calls to change the Constitution, abolish it, or pack the Court so that it can be interpreted more “liberally.” Liberty Nation’s Tim Donner explained it well:
“For decades, from the advent of the liberal Warren Court in the mid-1950s, leftists counted on the Supreme Court as their principal agent of change. They relied on the increasingly, shall we say, creative interpretations of the commerce and general welfare clauses of the Constitution to justify almost any action deemed unconstitutional by their opponents. The left succeeded to a remarkable degree, convincing the high court of, among other things, a hidden constitutional right to abort and gay marriage, the legitimacy of racial quotas, and a grand expansion of federal power in its many forms.”
For the true believers on the left, the ends seem to always justify the means, and anything is permissible for the greater good – which, of course, only they can determine. As such, so long as SCOTUS played ball, the Court and Constitution were tolerable. Then along came Donald Trump and the three justices he successfully appointed. Now the balance of power on the bench sits with those who would have the nation adhere to a more originalist reading.
And so, the founding document of the Republic is under fire once again. Calls for a “living Constitution,” – one that can be interpreted more loosely to fit the times – are now being crowded out by more direct assaults upon its very existence. “The Constitution Is Broken and Should Not Be Reclaimed,” declared a recent headline from The New York Times. There have always been so-called progressives demanding we free ourselves from the Constitution, but this is The New York Times – hardly a fringe outfit. We have a president and most of a major political party who want to completely restructure the Supreme Court and eliminate the Senate filibuster – anything to get even the slightest left-wing majority and empower it to rule absolutely.
The tyranny of the majority stands just outside, pushing against the door and with one foot already across the threshold – and once inside, he always leaves the door wide open for his old pal, the tyrannical state. There is much to celebrate on Constitution Day 2022, it’s true. But thought must always be given to how many more there are to follow. As former President Ronald Reagan was wont to say, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”