“Hmm, a constitutional amendment against child labor? Seems a bit radical for my tastes.”
~Voters in the 1920s, apparently
The United States Constitution defines this nation more than any single document, and as a result it’s also a thing that a lot of people get really mad about sometimes, and that very few people have probably actually read all the way through. And really, what’s more American than getting pissed off about strongly defined positions you have based on nothing more than a few tidbits of information and a gut feeling?
That said, it is an incredibly historically significant document, probably the most impactful pieces of government writing since, um, what, the Magna Carta? We really don’t know or care about government writing that isn’t the US Constitution, which we assure you we have not even tried to read.
Now, the most important part of the Constitution is the fact that it’s not set in stone—it can be changed. You know, that whole Amendments thing? It’s easy to forget that we can actually do that—go into our founding document and say, “You know, we don’t like this anymore, let’s change that part,” because even though we have submitted over 11,000 proposed Amendments since the founding of the nation (seriously), very few ever come close to even become a real thing.
Sure, the ten year span from 1960 to 1971 saw a bunch of quick passing Amendments become a reality (The 23rd let’s Washington D.C. have Electoral College votes, the 24th has something to do with poll taxes and voting rights, the 25th solidifies presidential succession, and the 26th was arguably the most monumental, lowering the voting age to 18) but since then we’ve only had one Amendment come through, the 27th, which was originally proposed in 1789 and didn’t get ratified until 1992.
But since 1992? No amendments have really gotten close. Sometimes an Amendment will get vote on, but it’s almost always dead on arrival. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to get traction an any changes to the supreme law of our nation. For example, we almost got rid of the Electoral College in 1970. We were extremely close.
It passed Congress, and it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the only reason it didn’t pass into law because the Senate filibustered it, so it never came to vote. Which made us think—are there any Amendments that actually passed, but were never ratified by states? The answer is not only yes, it’s yes to six different Amendments. And four of them could still be passed today! Which seems weird, right?
Anyway, let’s simplify legislation in a way to make any lawyer worth their salt piss themselves out of pure rage, and talk about…