In this final segment of PBS 4-part series, the defining issue is whether after 225 years, the Constitution as originally written still works for the 21st century. This is a critical issue in light of modern constitutional crises such as government shut down, frequent wars, Watergate scandal, wall street bailout, interments without due process, indiscriminate drone attacks, federal debt, and many others.
There is no doubt the Constitution remains relevant and in the words of former supreme court justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, the Constitution means everything to the country. The genius of the founding fathers is that they created a constitutional republic but they themselves did not expect for the original text to remain intact forever. Thomas Jefferson even suggested that the Constitution be rewritten every generation. The program cites Iceland’s current attempt, not to refurbished their Constitution, but to create a brand new one with the input of its citizens. This is worth noting because it is due to the recent banking crisis blamed on cozy relationship between the banks and politicians. Sounds familiar?
It is argued that changes could be brought about in other ways such as popular protests and demonstrations, executive orders, and congress passing laws and funding popular programs. The framework calls for check and balance by creating 3 independent branches of government – the Executive , Legislative, and Judicial – all working for the good of the people. This division makes changes slow and measured because the main concern of the founding fathers is to prevent government tyranny, not necessarily efficiency and consistency.
The three branches are expected to work together and citizens expect their president and members of congress and justice to represent their interests and constitutional rights. The framework is now under stress and in danger of collapse because of the emergence of 2 highly polarized political parties whose loyalty is to the “funders” of their reelection, not to the individual voters they represent. Candidates seek offices as lucrative and prestigious careers not as public servants. Voters are pigeonholed as either conservative or liberal and manipulated accordingly. State officials unabashedly redistrict local areas into enclaves of political hegemony to alter election results even if neighborhood representation is compromised.
While there is merit in making changes difficult by the division of power, the gridlock created by a polarized electorate and exclusive 2-party system make substantial changes practically impossible. Worse yet, changes made are for the benefit of influential groups and organizations and not for the individual the Constitution is designed to serve and protect.
The Constitution is a living document and the question remains: to change or not to change? The world has changed, the country has changed, and people must again exert their rightful influence and demand change.