Celebrate, defend Constitution

There should have been fireworks shows, parades and other celebrations throughout the United States last week. But for the most part, the occasion passed unnoticed.

It was Constitution Day, normally observed on Sept. 17 but moved this year because it was a Saturday.

Every year, we Americans celebrate Independence Day with much fanfare. July 4 certainly is a notable date in our history, but in many respects, Constitution Day is more important. The late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., understood that well enough to spur congressional action making the date a federal holiday.

Byrd carried a copy of the Constitution in his pocket at all times. He really thought about the document.

How many of us have done the same? One poll found only about one-fourth of Americans have ever read the Constitution. That’s a shame because it is the very foundation of our liberty and, in some ways, our prosperity.

Byrd recognized the very greatest threat to our freedom is those who point to shortcomings in the Constitution and insist that we need to view it as a very flawed set of rules we in modern America should improve.

It is not. Byrd, what political scientists refer to as a “constructionist,” saw the Constitution for what it is: a virtually perfect blueprint for our government.

Liberals point to the many personal shortcomings among those who wrote and signed the Constitution in 1787. They also cite massive changes in technology, our society, etc., since then. The Constitution’s writers could not have foreseen the America of 2016, they point out. For that reason, it is up to us to make the document more relevant to our times, they claim.

That is rubbish of the type often used throughout the world by those who seek more power for themselves and for government in general.

Here’s why: Our nation’s founders, the people who wrote the Constitution in Philadelphia — then ratified it in statehouses throughout the new nation — adopted a basic code of conduct for government that was exceedingly broad in many respects. For example, they meant for the First Amendment to ensure a vigorous, free press was able to keep Americans on guard against threats to our liberties.

But the founders also understood the country and the world would change in ways they could not predict. So they included a mechanism to amend the Constitution in response to such needs for updating.

They made the process difficult to ensure it did not fall prey to the transitory demands of political correctness. They wanted to prevent the tyranny of small majorities.

Only two methods can be used to initiate an amendment to the Constitution: A convention of the states can call for it, though that has never happened. Or, a change can be proposed by a vote of both two-thirds of U.S. senators and two-thirds of House of Representatives members. Then, three-fourths of state legislatures (38 at present) must approve the alteration.

Cumbersome? Difficult to achieve? Yes, but the founders meant that to be the case. If an amendment really is a good idea, it should have no trouble meeting the requirement.

Many liberals, knowing it would be difficult for them to water down constitutional guarantees through the amendment process, choose to do that another way, by packing the Supreme Court with like-minded justices. Because the high court is the ultimate arbiter of what the Constitution requires, that allows the liberals to mold the document to their own desires. If just five of the nine justices can be convinced they know better than the nation’s founders — or than the supermajorities in Congress and of legislatures needed for an amendment — the Constitution can become something our ancestors in 1787 would not have recognized.

That very thing has happened. It will continue to occur if some, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, have their way.

And that is why we should be both celebrating the Constitution and vowing to defend it with our votes. It really is a “living document” — but subject to being crippled or killed if voters fail to defend it.

Mike Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.