I’m so sick of fundamentalist politicians and internet trolls. And not just the religious ones — the Constitutional ones.
These people view the US Constitution as if it were written on stone, never changing, and can never be questioned.
Like religious fundamentalists, they believe there is only one interpretation of their holy book and — here’s the amazing part — that interpretation is always exactly in line with their own personal views!
Most of us who study the Constitution for a living are aware that the Founding Fathers, though great men, were not gods. We know that the Constitution was written by politicians, who made compromises and wrote the thing to be deliberately vague in parts because that was the only way they could get the damn thing passed. That’s how politics works.
The most obvious example may be “The Virginia Compromise.” (Look, it even has “compromise” in its name.) The smaller states wanted each state to have an equal vote so that they wouldn’t be ignored. The larger states wanted it to be based on population which would obviously benefit them. In the end, we got both — a Senate where each state gets the same representation no matter how small, and a House where the states with more people get more representation.
Then there are the first ten amendments themselves (the “Bill of Rights”). Many states refused to ratify the Constitution without these protections, and it’s a good thing they demanded them.
But the clearest example of compromise in the Constitution has to do with slavery. Most of the northern states had already abolished it and wanted the entire country to do the same, but the southern states refused. The south was worried that as soon as this Constitution was passed, the northern states would outlaw slavery completely. Without some provisions to prevent this, the south refused to agree to the Constitution. Rather than split the country within the first ten years of its existence, a series of compromises were worked out. (Sadly, postponing this only led to the bloodiest war in American history seventy years later.)
First, there’s Article I section 9 which specifically prohibited Congress from passing any law outlawing the importing of slaves before 1808 (twenty years from the Constitution’s signing). Why 1808? Was there something magical about that year? No, that was just the number that compromise produced. (And as soon as 1808 came about, Congress did exactly what the south was worried about and banished the importation of any more slaves.)
Second, there’s the ridiculous 3/5ths clause. The south demanded that when determining how many representatives they would get in the House, that slaves should be counted as “people” even when they were property in every other respect under the law. The north rightly pointed out how stupid this was, but the south insisted and there was another compromise made. We ended up with a provision that held that 3/5ths of every slave would count. No mention as to which 3/5th of the slave counted, though, but apparently it didn’t include the head since the views of the slaves mattered not.
Third, there’s the 2nd Amendment, which allowed the southern states to keep their state “militias” which were basically armed gangs whose only job it was to intimidate slaves and capture ones who escaped.
Within a few years of its passage, there were cases before the Supreme Court to determine the Constitution’s meaning and its application. The Founding Fathers themselves were still around and they could not agree! To think that there is some magical interpretation we can know today, hundreds of years later, is ridiculous.
So anyone who claims to “know” the intent of the Founding Fathers — as if they all agreed completely — is either lying to you or just too damned stupid to realize they’re spouting bullshit.
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