Opinion: Challenge Accepted: A Defense of the United States Constitution

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Mitchell Allred

NMSU’s department of Government located in Breland Hall.

I would like to begin by saying that Professor Rosendorf’s opinion on the Constitution has neither devalued his standing with me nor improved it. I view him as the same. However, in the spirit of his call to skepticism, I will challenge his article. There are many different angles and many different perspectives the article takes; because of this I will try to make a more cohesive list of his narratives, and then proceed one by one to defend the United States Constitution.  

I think that this remains his thesis even though it was from the prior article, “…the founding document’s many shortcomings, including direct and indirect support of slavery and segregationlacunae that have enabled racist and xenophobic immigration and naturalization policies; an inability to halt the increasingly unstoppable expansion of presidential powers; and modest at best, nonexistent at worst, protection against human rights abuses of vulnerable populations.” In addition to these views expressed in the article, the author makes the premise that the Electoral College is dangerous and a potential herald of the end of America.   

Now that I have most of his central themes and ideas in a succinct paragraph, I can begin to address some of his criticisms, while simultaneously offering a defense of the United States Constitution. Certainly, the United States Constitution was not perfect and is not perfect, but that’s why the preamble states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”. Ultimately. we the people can change the Constitution as we see fit. Which, we have seen fit if one does not include the bill of rights. The people have seen fit to amend the Constitution 17 times. While amendable, the Constitution is not a conscious document–it doesn’t change with societal norms, in the sense that one may agree or disagree with the constitution but, it is still the law of the land. Social trends come and go but the Constitution remains rigid, regardless of the administration or unilateral Executive action.  

There are certainly hurdles, but they are not insurmountable. While some take issue with the 13th amendment, it formally ended the practice of slavery as it was known at the time. In addition to this, there have been several other amendments such as the 15th amendment which protects all races from voter discrimination, unfortunately it didn’t go far enough but amendments followed that strengthen and protect people from voter discrimination, the 19th amendment which enabled women’s suffrage (federally), the 23rd amendment which enabled citizens of the District of Colombia to participate in the electoral college, a district with a population comparable to North Dakota, the 24th amendment which banned poll taxes, and the 26th amendment which lowered the minimum voting age to 18 this enabled young voters to participate in the electorate, working to enfranchise and make the United States more inclusive. This is not including the various legislative acts passed in the name of making the United States a fairer society. From the 1957 Civil Rights Act to the 2008 passage of GINA, and everything in between. The United States has continually evolved, and for the better. This evolution will continue in due course.  

I’m not exactly sure what is meant by xenophobic immigration and naturalization policies, I don’t believe the United States Constitution mentions much on the subject, except one needs to be 35 and a natural born citizen to be President, but for other offices in the United States one can become an American citizen and still run for office, after a set period of time. In fact, President Van Buren broke a glass ceiling, his primary language was not English.  Additionally, the United States according to Pew Research has the most immigrants compared to any other nation stateIt does make one wonder if the Constitution had vanished where would we look to replace it? On that note the United States Constitution has served as something of a template and inspiration for foreign countries. It also bears mentioning that the United States Constitution has allowed for the greatest economy in world history, and the greatest military might that our world has ever known. Think what one will of President Trump and his policies, but he does not embody the constitution, no president does or has because they all have some issue with the Constitution in some way. 

One cannot have a just conversation about the Constitution without mentioning the Supreme Court, Brown v. Board of Education and the subsequent rulings that caused Congress and the President to act accordingly. Yes, these rulings have not been enough, but the impact of these rulings would lead to decisive legislative acts and integration.  

Rather than solely offering philosophical beliefs I will throw some statistics out into the ether. Black incarceration from the mid-2000’s to current day has dropped by about 30 percent. This incarceration is dropping for other groups of people. Hispanic and White incarceration rates have dropped as well. As a friend of mine put it we are all just people, and there are further and greater examples of things generally getting better. Another example might be the matriculation of high school students, high school graduation rates have increased across the board regardless of race 

This is where I’d like to reflect on a statement on the op-ed that I’m countering the author states, “Just ask any African American”. There are several African American beliefs that span the ideological divide that support the United States Constitution, because we are all just people regardless of our race. Some examples include Collin Powell, Kay Cole James, Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, and many more. The list of progress in our society continues, which is good things should be improving, and they should be improving for everyone, that was the promise in the Declaration of Independence. Could there be changes to impact greater change, and at a faster rate? Yes, of course there always can be, and with due diligence and debate these problems will be addressed.  

An inability to halt Presidential powers, well in 2018 the incoming Congress and the President could not agree on immigration spending and policy; As a consequence, the longest halt of discretionary spending occurred in American History. I will concede that on issues of foreign policy, the President has been delegated more power, but in 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Act. Which can be used to stymie a President’s foreign policy approach. It’s not the Constitution’s fault that there has been a re-delegation of powers, and furthermore while there has been this delegation it does not make Congress an ineffectual body.  One may say the rules for Congressional overrides are too stringent, but it is becoming a more infrequent event. In fact, President Obama had a dramatically low number of Congressional overrides when compared with President Reagan or some other prior Presidents. This phenomenon can be chalked up to a lot of different factors, but the President cannot appoint Cabinet officials, nor Judges, or Justices without Senate oversight and approval. Another facet of the United States constitution that many don’t think about is federalism. The states still engage in a power struggle with the federal government. Whether it was Conservative states challenging the Affordable Care Act, or Liberal States challenging the Trump travel ban the power dynamic is still there. Yes, both were losing issues for the states, but it won’t always be that way. The Judiciary is a potent check on power, especially with Supreme Court cases that span the ideological spectrum, but they still chip away at federal power. A pertinent case that represents this is Clinton v. Jones, or alternatively, Trump v. Vance. These cases are an example of the court acting as an independent branch of government. As for protection of vulnerable peoples, I agree that more could be done. However, 46 states in the United States and the federal government per, the 1968 Civil Rights Act offer protection to vulnerable peoples.  

As much as I’d like to address all of the points, I can only do one more it seems, that last premise will be that the black population didn’t receive enfranchisement in voting rights until 1988.   However, according to the Library of Congress eligible Black voter registration increased from one fifth, to a promising six tenths from 1961 to 1969. There have been massive changes under both Democrat and Republican administrations, an example of a Republican would be President George H. W. Bush and the American’s with Disabilities Act and its provisions to protect individuals that could have faced discrimination due to their contraction of HIV, or alternatively the 1991 Civil Rights Act. There are potentially more recent examples, but in the sake of keeping things less partisan I will just leave it at that.  

In conclusion, why did I make this counter argument? Well, I wasn’t going to, I had thought about it, extensively actually. However, a student that will remain nameless talked me into it, and I stand with this individual and their beliefs. More importantly, though this individual is a good person just trying to do the right thing, and what’s more American than that?  

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References: 

Budiman, A. (2020, September 04). Key findings about U.S. immigrants. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/20/key-findings-about-u-s-immigrants/ 

Civil Rights Act of 1957. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2020, from https://www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/research/online-documents/civil-rights-act-1957 

The Civil Rights Act of 1991. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/civil-rights-act-1991 

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/genetic-information-nondiscrimination-act-2008 

Gramlich, J. (2020, August 06). Black imprisonment rate in the U.S. has fallen by a third since 2006. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/05/06/share-of-black-white-hispanic-americans-in-prison-2018-vs-2006/ 

Laws and Policies. (2020, June 29). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes/laws-and-policies 

Public Highschool Graduation Rates. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp 

Rosendorf, N. (2020, September 16). Opinion: Constitution Day Is a Sham Because the Constitution is a Failure. Retrieved September 19, 2020, from https://nmsuroundup.com/16218/showcase/opinion-constitution-day-is-a-sham-because-the-constitution-is-a-failure/ 

Search ADA.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.ada.gov/hiv/ 

U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: District of Columbia. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/DC 

U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: North Dakota. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ND 

The U.S. Constitution: Preamble. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/us 

Varveri, C. (2014, March 04). A US President used to speak English as a second language. Retrieved September 19, 2020, from https://www.uselessdaily.com/history/a-us-president-used-to-speak-english-as-a-second-language/ 

Vetoes, 1789 to Present. (2020, June 29). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.senate.gov/legislative/vetoes/vetoCounts.htm 

Voting Rights for African Americans:  The Right to Vote:  Elections:  Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress:  Library of Congress. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/elections/right-to-vote/voting-rights-for-african-americans/ 

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