I heard Eric Bolling on the FoxNews program “The Five” (which I love, btw) make an off-handed remark that a lot of conservatives make from time to time concerning the Constitution of the United States. What he said was that the Constitution is not a living document; it’s right there in black and white.
While he was correct when he said that it is in “black and white,” he was wrong when he made the blanket statement that it is not a living document. I understand what I think he was trying to say, which is that the continual re-defining and expanding of the Constitution outside the actual text is what proponents of that approach think of when they call it a “living document,” and to do that is wrong in Constitutionalist’s eyes. Constitutionalists believe that if it is not written and spelled out in the text, then it is unconstitutional. Period.
Agree or disagree with those that take either approach, I just wanted to clarify what I feel is incorrect about Mr. Bolling’s statement.
The Constitution of the United States is, in actuality, a living document, but not in the way Mr. Bolling is arguing against. Here’s why:
The Constitution, over 200 years old now, is not set in stone like the Ten Commandments; it is written in ink, by man, and includes a process—however circuitous and mind-bogglingly difficult it might be—for making changes to it, should those that are governed by it desire it. Without the consent of the States—and hence, the People—the Constitution is, as Mr. Bolling would have it, a fixed document.
However, as the Constitution allows for itself to be amended and, in theory, improved upon, it is a living document,* though not in the way Mr. Bolling is arguing against.
Most importantly, however, the Constitution is—without argument—a living document in the most important way possible: We, the People, live according to its guidelines and protections, and it draws its power from We, the People, in order to provide protections for the rights We guaranteed for ourselves within it. The government does not guarantee the People rights; the People guaranteed themselves those rights when they originally drafted the Constitution. As long as the American people live, so too does the Constitution live and breathe. The government is simply a tool designed to protect those rights.
What I believe Mr. Bolling was arguing is that when the government that is supposed to act in accordance with the Constitution instead acts in a way contrary to the fixed document, then the document itself will, in fact, become a dead thing.
This is not important, however, as the physical document is simply a manifestation of the People’s will. As long as the People decide that the Constitution matters then America will survive. Once this country reaches the point where more people feel that the Constitution no longer accurately governs America than believe in the wisdom which created the Document, then the Constitution will truly be dead, and America a dead nation.
Of course, I could be wrong about what Bolling meant. It’s not like I chat with the guy all the time.
*See Joe Pesci’s description of this aspect of the Constitution in the 1994 film With Honors, viewable HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBU_VjN2Jjw