William B. Turner
A recent story relayed the deplorable news about widespread ignorance in the U.S. public about our Constitution. This is a sad and deeply regrettable fact.
Even worse, we now have a so called president who exhibits near total ignorance of the Constitution, despite having taken an oath to “support” it (Article VI, para. 3).
Whether you know it or like it or not, the United States Constitution defines the federal government and thus can have a significant impact on your life. It is why we have the Donald as president. The Constitution says nothing about any popular vote playing any role in choosing the president. It allows the electoral college to choose the president, dictates how many electoral votes each state shall have, and leaves to the states carte blanche to decide for themselves how to choose their electoral votes. That every state now does so by popular vote is purely historical accident. So, as we have now seen twice in twenty years, it is entirely possible to win the majority in the electoral college without winning the popular vote.
It’s not a very long document. Some of the English is a little bit funky. They use those weird things that look like elongated Fs for Ss in some places. It is, however, modern English. It’s not like reading Chaucer, or even Shakespeare. Any literate adult should have no problem understanding it.
As is always the case, having some historical information helps it make more sense. Also, we now have 228 years of interpretation by the Supreme Court elaborating on what it means an applying it to lots of specific cases. Justices of the Supreme Court argue with each other, sometimes quite vigorously, over the extent to which decisions do or do not conform to the original document, but the goal of the justices is always to come as close as humanly possible.
Also, we have amended the Constitution some twenty-seven times, most recently in 1992. Some of those amendments are kind of peculiar and arcane, but some are extremely important and have had a huge impact on our society.
So, let’s get to know your friend and mine, the United States Constitution, much better.
Here’s a link to the official version from the Naational Archives.