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Top 7 Criticisms of the U.S. Constitution (and Intended Solutions)

Author:

Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.

The US Constitution is still useful.

The US Constitution is still useful.

Debates About the Constitution

The supreme law of America is the Constitution. Ratified in 1787, the document is fundamental to an effective political union between the states and federal government in a constitutional presidential republic. Furthermore, the national government is separated into three parts which normally function peacefully together. Those branches of the national government are:

  • Congress is the law making body. Congress is composed of two parts: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  • The president and his cabinet form the Executive branch.
  • The judiciary branch is led by the Supreme Court.

The Constitution’s creators, the Founding Fathers, gave each branch checks and balances to safeguard citizens while neutralizing excessive power. Occasionally, the constitutional system seems to be unbalanced. Questions arise: Should we have term limits? Do we need a Constitution?

For these reasons, I’ve taught social studies’ classes because Americans must understand how their government works. I’ve indicated the most common problems people have cited with the Constitution along with ramifications for the American political system in this article.

Congress meets in Washington D.C. in the Capitol Building.

Congress meets in Washington D.C. in the Capitol Building.

1. America Needs a Monarchy

Opponents of the Constitution frequently state America should establish a monarchy. However, Americans rejected royal rule during the American Revolution of 1783. In general, every legal citizen has the right to run for elected offices because “All men are created equal,” expressed in the Declaration of Independence of 1776. Moreover, Article I of the Constitution indicates federal employees cannot accept gifts from foreign countries, and the U.S. government cannot establish titles of nobility. This section of the Constitution is referred to as the Foreign Emoluments Clause.

2. America doesn't need a Constitution.

Some democratic nations lack constitutions. Critics point out unrest in these countries remains at acceptable levels. Since Americans share similar concepts about elections, the justice system, and passing legislation, a constitution is irrelevant in this view. Yet, countries without written laws have unique challenges.

Essentially, parties can change acceptable political norms and legal procedures with minimum input. In colonial America, people were often sent to jail without any legal recourse. The Founding Fathers avoided this issue by having a written text for all to read and reach reasonable conclusions. Basically, a person cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process. This Clause appears twice in the Constitution, found in the 5th and 14th Amendments. History has shown the Constitution is reliable for tackling legal issues.

3. The Constitution Is Illegal

Another criticism of the Constitution pertains to legitimacy. Created by the Continental Congress, the Articles of Confederation was the first governing document of America. States acted as independent countries because there wasn’t a strong federal government. At the convention in Philadelphia in 1787, representatives met to revise the Articles of Confederation. Attempts at revision proved futile, causing the representatives to abandon the articles to write a better text for government, the Constitution. While the Articles of Confederation were not unifying, the mechanism for amending the Constitution allow the population to address deficits in our national government, strengthening the document’s validity. Ironically, the Constitution cannot be declared illegal by conventions, the federal government, or state governments.

4. The U.S. Constitution Is Old

The United States’ Constitution is the oldest codified functioning constitution on Earth. But Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), thought the Constitution should be revised each generation. Indeed, studies show the average life span of a constitution is about two decades with rushed drafting and desire for immediate political change cited as reasons for frequent turnover. In addition, many nations with a written body of law may not support democratic traditions or institutions. In other words, age of a constitution is less important than the will of the people to apply the principles therein.

The Supreme Court decides if a law is Constitutional.

The Supreme Court decides if a law is Constitutional.

5. The Supreme Court Is Politicized

An argument states the Supreme Court is too politicized. Justices are appointed by the president, pending Senate confirmation. Supreme Court Justices usually serve for life without experiencing a reduction in salary. A lifelong term safeguards justices from political pressures. Truly, conservatives and liberals alike have been stunned throughout the republic’s history by rulings made by Supreme Court justices. In essence, the process is political, but the long-term consequences are not predictable.

6. The Constitution Favors the Wealthy

The American Revolution was led by a tiny group of wealthy men, including the Founding Fathers. Critics argue the Constitution is designed to protect a rich minority, which means it is not applicable to others. However, scholars note after the American Civil War (1861-1865), the concept of minority expanded to mean any group in substantially smaller numbers than the majority. In fact, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were passed between 1865 and 1870, guaranteeing enslaved people freedom and the right to vote. Also, in 1920, women began to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. More examples showing the Constitution is relevant for every American follow:

  • 4th Amendment: This amendment safeguards privacy from unreasonable seizure of property and searches by the government. Warrants require probable cause to be issued; arrests must be specific.
  • 5th and 6th Amendment: A person has the right to remain silent and seek legal counsel. In 1966, the Supreme Court ruled legal rights cannot be exercised if a person is unaware of them.
  • 14th Amendment: All citizens have equal protections under the law.

7. States and the Federal Government Constantly Bicker

Critics point out conflict between states and the federal government are rampant due to the Constitution's structure. But movements can begin through grassroots efforts (Black Lives matter) or work from the national government downward (Great Society Programs). In other words, democratic changes seldom originate in a single manner, which was part of the intent of the document. Incidentally, states cannot leave the Union arbitrarily or pass a law superseding a federal one. In spite of different interpretations of the 10th Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled succession unconstitutional in 1869.

The Constitution defines power sharing between states and the federal government.

The Constitution defines power sharing between states and the federal government.

The Future of the U.S. Constitution

In conclusion, the Constitution of the United States is admirable and flexible. The Founding Fathers indicated the document is meant to help form a “more perfect Union” stated in the Preamble. Furthermore, they recognized the Constitution may require updating. Therefore, constitutional conventions can take place, allowing amendments to start in the states or Congress. Finally, we can recognize imperfect men wrote a solid guiding tool for government. Examples of changes the nation has seen since the honorable document was ratified are:

Changes to the Federal Government and the Constitution Over the Years

  • Amendments: The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments. These amendments were added to the text after members of the first Constitutional convention had concerns, including: freedom of religion, speech, and the press. The Constitution has been amended 27 times.
  • Number of Supreme Court Justices: The court has had as many as ten justices, but the number currently stands at nine as of 1869. Although the Constitution does not describe the organization of the judiciary branch, Congress and the justices on the highest court developed a federal body of law and the national judiciary system over the centuries.
  • Prohibition: In 1919, the 18th Amendment ended alcohol sales in America. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed it. The Commerce Clause in Article I of the Constitution was sparingly used until the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, and it gradually gained support.
  • Term-limitations: For most of America’s history, presidents could serve as many terms as possible if they could win elections. In 1951, the 22nd Amendment was ratified to limit presidents to serving two four-year terms after Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president, died in office during his fourth term.
  • The Electoral College: The Electoral College is important for presidential elections. In July of 2020, the Supreme Court ruled electors must vote as directed by their state.
The U.S. Constitution is kept at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Constitution is kept at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

References

Barton, D. (2011). Original intent: The courts, the Constitution & religion. Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press.

Beeman, R. R. (2010). Plain, honest men: The making of the American Constitution. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Wood, G. S. (1993). The creation of the American republic, 1776-1787. New York: W.W. Norton.

Poll

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Comments

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on November 07, 2020:

Today, the United States of America finalized the result for the 2020 election of the president. Joe Biden will fill the job. Kamala Harris will be the first woman, and the first person of color, to be the vice-president. Although the out-going president, Donald Trump, is swearing election fraud occurred, no evidence exists to validate such a claim. In January 2021, Joe Biden begins his term, and the nation will be addressing major issues: a devastating pandemic, economic woes, and racial inequity. However, throughout the election process, the media emphasized the need to count the votes, as specified in the Constitution. When Biden received a substantial winning number of electoral votes, 270 by law, the race was over. Thanks for visiting.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 31, 2020:

Congress is a bicameral legislature arrangement with 535 voting members. The Senate in Congress is frequently noted as being one of the most undemocratic parts of the national government, with each state sending two senators regardless of population or size. However, the Founding Fathers balanced this with the House of Representatives in Congress. The Speaker of the House is the third person in line to lead the executive branch if something should happen to the president and vice-president. The numbers of representatives in the House are based on population of a state, and changes will be coming with a shift in demographics of the country. The Constitution allows Americans to make adjustments as the nation expands. Thanks for reading.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 28, 2020:

The language of the Constitution is considered arcane by some, but such a problem is minimum when we consider the Founding Fathers probably spoke heavily accented British English. In any case, we still read novels from around the same time. Published about fifty years later in a classic story, we cannot imagine Christmas without Tiny Tim or Scrooge? Going back in time before the Constitution: the King James Bible is still a best seller. Thanks for visiting.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 27, 2020:

Although Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, they can be removed through impeachment, like other federally elected individuals, including the president. No one is above the law in America. I’m glad you stopped by.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 27, 2020:

By 2050, the demographics of America will shift: 70% of Americans will live in urban areas. This means a substantial number of senators will come from mostly rural states. The Constitution takes this shift into account, allowing the number of representatives in the lower house of Congress to change based on population. The Constitution is definitely versatile. I appreciate the visit.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 27, 2020:

There are several ways local laws can be examined by the courts regarding the Constitution. This includes: violation of the equal protections and/or due process clauses, the rule is unconstitutional based on state and federal law, and violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Under the 11th Amendment, in most instances, state governments are immune from prosecution in federal courts. However, the time period required to challenge a law takes into consideration many factors. This article was focused on criticisms of the Constitution. Thanks for reading.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 24, 2020:

Indeed, some of the Founding Fathers owned slaves. Many of them would not allow their wives to participate in government. Others may have dreaded Native Americans and people of Hispanic descent. But they composed a document capable of being larger than their biases. The ability to amend the Constitution is definitely one of its strongest features along with protecting the rights of citizens. I think that’s the marvelous outcome of the Constitution. Even if people can't address their own prejudices, the law should favor all. I appreciate your visit.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 24, 2020:

The will of the people to support democratic traditions is paramount to the success of a constitution. For example, Japan and North Korea both have constitutions. Japan has built democratic institutions which are supported while the other nation has not. Citizens of the U.S. have respectfully supported our Constitution, and this is a major factor in why it is still respected. I appreciate the visit.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on October 24, 2020:

George Washington, the first president of the United States, believed a democracy must have informed citizens to be successful. The National Constitution Center is offering free classes online about the Constitution until May of 2021. I think It’s important Americans learn about our cherished governing document. Thanks for visiting.