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Given the resurgent popularity of the Constitution in many conservative political circles as of late, ideological opponents have taken to looking for weaknesses in position and policy that are susceptible to attack. One of the more tiresome and ignorant retorts deals with the desire by some proponents of the Constitution to amend it.
The argument goes something like this: how can a person who claims that the Constitution is inspired and so important simultaneously advocate that it be changed without appearing hypocritical?
This question betrays a deep misunderstanding not only of the position of supporting a constitutional amendment, but of the Constitution itself. Included within this revered (but long since discarded) document is the ability and authority to change it—something that has been already done 27 times. To support the Constitution, then, implies different things to different people. Does a constitutional supporter advocate only for the version free of any amendments, or the one that includes the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments), or the one as it stands today, or some other iteration of the document?
Many advocates of the Constitution will, like myself, have qualifiers for amendments—both those already passed and those proposed. Some amendments have augmented the principles enshrined in the Constitution, such as giving women the power to vote, outlawing slavery, and each and every one of the amendments included in the Bill of Rights. On the other hand, some amendments have run wholly contrary to these principles, including and especially the 16th amendment (which provided for a direct income tax) and the 17th amendment (which destroyed federalism).
Taken in this way, one’s principled support for the Constitution is just that: support for principles. Thus, in addition to advocating for some amendments which would strengthen the Constitution according to the principles of liberty, limited government, and state sovereignty it was founded upon, a constitutional supporter might also propose repealing some of its alterations that have forced it to stray from that standard.
It is not hypocritical to express support for the Constitution while suggesting ways it can be modified to be better. The framers of this important document recognized the need for it to adapt where desired, and thus provided for this possibility in Article V which details the process by which it may be amended. Ironically, then, it is those who want to improve the document while adhering to its restraints that show the most respect and support for the Constitution.
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