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  • Writer's pictureTatiana Chen

Beyond the Preamble: Where the Glorious US Constitution Failed

“We the people of the United States,” starts the The US Constitution, a testament to the enduring power of democracy and the heart of the nation. But just like any old relic, it’s time we admit that for all its brilliance, it should adapt to the ever-evolving context of our society. An economic, political and military powerhouse that has taken great influence and dependency of other countries is relying on a piece of paper with ink as its foundation of the federal government? New developments and the rising importance of acknowledging the country’s history of racism challenge the laws that prime US politics.

The historical context of the US Constitution is a blurry indication of what it was written on the basis of, raising debate on whether it is infused with racism and religious ideals. Of the seven Founding Fathers, five of them either owned slaves or got married into families that did: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. While the Constitution does clearly state that “all men are equal” in the preamble, that does not excuse the personal hypocrisy of the writers, and instead indicates a contradiction of morals. It wasn’t until 1865 that the 13th Amendment passed, making slavery illegal. Although things such as the ⅗ Compromise and the Fugitive Act, that forced fugitive slaves to be returned even if they were in a state that abolished it were removed, many people believe that the Constitution is still inherently racist because of the avoidance of removing clauses that lack an explicit mentioning of any racially motivated discrimination. The recent discussion of systemic racism in the US traces back to the founding of the United States itself: Federalism, the distribution of power between the federal and state governments leaves a lot of room for disparities and disproportionate representation of black communities. Education, law enforcement, and finances are areas that only state governments have the right to control, which leads to inheriting policies made decades ago.

As for religion, it is known that the majority of the Founding Fathers were Christian or Deist, questioning the foundation of the US’ religious freedom ideals. There being no mention of religion in the document, people argue that it still holds religious connotation from the use of phrases such as “creator” and “year of our lord”, acknowledging a higher power such as a God or higher figure. Article VI states that it prohibits religious tests to hold office, but does require public officials to end their oaths with “so help me God.”

Written in 1787, the historical context of the Constitution lacks the inclusion of internationalization and globalization, a highly relevant topic to the United States since it is one of the biggest economic powerhouses in the world; the inclusion of these topics would strengthen the basis of the US government and its centralized power. It is difficult to change the Constitution’s amendments because of the strict requirement of having ¾ of the state legislatures to pass anything. In 236 years, the Constitution has only been amended 27 times and each of them being the addition of explicit statements of peoples rights and principles to use as a legal safeguard in the criminal justice system. These changes are another reason for people to include globalization in the Constitution to reinforce the United State’s international influence and ensure legal clarity and the distribution of their policies on international relations.

The Constitution establishes a federalist system where power is distributed between the federal and state governments that comes from the compromises before the founding of the United States. Despite it being an admired system and the entire basis of the name “United States of America”, there are many fragmentations which are constantly being portrayed through the violations of the Constitution by the government itself. Presidents such as Roosevelt, Obama, and Trump have violated the system by overstepping or invalidating the power of the federal government over the state governments. For Donald Trump specifically, he was faced with two impeachment trials that used his violations against the Constitution as reasoning to remove him from power. If the United States adopted a system that facilitated the centralization of the government’s power to the federal government without confiscating the power of state governments, adapting the US to current events would not be faced with impeachment and sudden changes in ruling. After all, one of the political philosophies the US follows is that a government should be replaced or taken over if faced with tyranny. However, arguing that the US government being restricted to a system that fails to be adaptable is defined as “tyranny” is a bit of a reach. This takes us in a loop of whether or not the Constitution should just change to become more suitable for the US today, or reinforce its current state and emphasize its power.

The US is a country that is known for its international population and inclusivity of all, however, it brought a lot of political division between polarized views of what it means to be a Republican and Democrat. What is often seen in politics is republican followers refusing to adapt to laws that promote religious, racial, and sexual inclusivity to defend their interpretation of republican beliefs, changing the image the US had to the rest of the world. Foreign perceptions are now based on the violence and hostility of political beliefs rather than having an equal balance of adapting to inclusivity and preserving traditional American culture. Barack Obama for example, promoted the inclusion of gay marriage as a legal right in 2015 by making all 50 states abide to the new law. However, that was a violation of the Constitution as he intervened with marriage laws that are subject to a state government’s decision, and not the federal government. Many used this against Obama as a Democrat and the Democratic Party as a political party that has recently been focusing on diversity and equity of minority groups. If these Constitutional violations were not occurred, many states would have been left with laws that criminalized gay marriage which would have completely changed the demographics of the states and how the US is perceived.

The United States of America holds so much history and understanding of governmental systems and political influence which is a clear indication that Constitutional reform is possible. Although the US takes pride in being the oldest government standing, such a big economic and political influence shouldn’t get ahead of themselves considering how its government has been functioning today: political divide was acceptable until the polarization of Liberal and Conservative views in the US has taught the world what ignorance is. These ideas can be eliminated through a new set of rules that can bring both political parties to consensus and a government that can represent what the country stands for: freedom, diversity, and justice.

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