Ignoring Constitution, useless solution for meaningful change
In his recent op-ed “America Desperately Needs Constitutional Convention,” columnist Jose Sanchez makes some very questionable assertions about our founding document, the Constitution and our American system of governance. In disparaging the fact that our Constitution was written in 1787, calling it a “neo-medievalist” document, Sanchez cites Japan and France as other industrialized nations that have more recently written constitutions. Japan’s current 1947 constitution, left in place a hereditary monarchy dating back centuries before ours was even conceived. An Emperor, not elected by the people, being head of state simply because some distant ancestor claimed he had divine right seems exponentially more archaic than anything in our “neo-medievalist” Constitution. Furthermore, the Japanese constitution was a term of surrender imposed by the U.S. when Japan’s previous constitution had failed them and led to a military dictatorship. In the case of France, their most recent constitution dates back to 1958. Notice I say “most recent,” because they have had too many to even name in this newspaper! Since 1791, just four years after ours was written, the French have had over ten constitutions. French governments have collapsed, been taken over by both leftist and militarist coups, re-established and dis-established monarchies, and have even been controlled by a foreign power — Nazi Germany from 1940-1944. It’s hardly an example to follow. Meanwhile, our Constitution has provided for stability since 1789, the year it went into effect, with the only real threat of disunion and collapse being the illegal secession of eleven Southern states and the Civil War. Yet, even our bloody Civil War, which cost the lives of over 600,000 Americans, did not result in any collapse or decay. While Sanchez believes our Constitution dating back to 1787 isn’t “something to be proud of,” I think it’s a testament to political stability and indeed something all Americans should take pride in.
Aside from the juvenile complaint that our Constitution is “too old,” Sanchez takes issue with other institutions of American government established by the Constitution, specifically the Supreme Court. To him it is flawed because it is made up of only “old men” — ignoring three women that sit on it today — and unaccountable to the people. I have to ask however just how wise it would be to have the highest judges in the land be subject to the whims of a popular majority? Would anyone really want the most important of legal decisions being influenced by public opinion polls and upcoming elections? Japan’s highest court is appointed by the executive branch. The same process takes place in Iceland, and the highest German court is appointed by the Bundestag. Although I don’t have time to research the judicial appointment process of every democracy in the world, I think it’s safe to say that most of them don’t believe the justices deciding constitutional law should be directly accountable to the people. It was our “undemocratic” Supreme Court that in 1974 ruled against President Nixon and stopped his usurpation of the Constitution. Nixon resigned and President Ford was promptly sworn in that afternoon. No coup by Nixon, no breakdown in civil order. Crisis averted again! As Ford said, “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.”
Of course, as much as I hold the Constitution in high regard, knowing how well it has served us for over 200 years, it’s needless to say that our Constitution isn’t absolutely perfect. The Founders knew this when they wrote it, which is why they included Article V, which provides mechanisms for amending the document. Despite Sanchez’s bizarre claim that the Constitution “has been left fundamentally untouched,” there were 27 amendments last time I checked, each working to improve and perfect our Union. Sanchez calls for amendments — although he never specifies any whatsoever — through a constitutional convention, a right granted by Article V. However, his reasons for doing so are very troubling. “Unless we do that, then nothing on the left wing’s wish list will ever get delivered...” The Constitution and our American system of government do not and should not exist to grant the wishes and demands of a minority faction of leftists. The Founders made sure the Constitution would protect against the tyranny of the majority, as well as the minority. This probably doesn’t mean much to Sanchez, since those guys lived 200 years ago! Perhaps in a few decades Marx and other leftist theorists will be discredited and ignored because they’re stuck too far back in the 19th century. In sum, there is nothing wrong with calling for amendments to the Constitution — it’s been done before and will be done again. What is wrong is blindly assailing our supreme law as irrelevant and having failed us, since this is simply untrue. Unlike Sanchez, I firmly believe this Union is one worth saving.
Sergio Rojas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior double majoring in history and journalism and media studies. His column, “Common Sense Conservative,” normally runs on alternate Tuesdays.