The Constitution,, and You

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Tom Wolf

Seeing as this is the first post for a website dedicated to the Constitution – its past, its present, and, most importantly, its future(s) –  and seeing further as the team will likely use the word “Constitution” (at least) 2,020 times between now and 2020, it’s only appropriate that I attempt to define “the Constitution.” Or at least offer one way of looking at the Constitution that justifies what we’re up to here. A weighty subject, for a blog post no less. No doubt. But indulge me.

Consider the life of the Constitution in a collection of sentences that verge on statements of the obvious: The Framers drafted the Constitution. Legislators, almost from the time the ink dried on that document, amended it. These same legislators and their successors have created, expanded, revised, and repealed laws to give effect to their understanding of contents of the Constitution. Judges have interpreted the Constitution to mean certain things and not others… and then reiterated, refined, revised, and reversed those decisions. Members of the executive branch, from Presidents to Attorney Generals to your local police officers, have enforced those rights/liberties/duties/obligations to the extent that they have deemed proper. Scholars and analysts have written to recommend courses of action, to criticize courses of action, and to hash-out the meaning(s) of the Constitution. Teachers have trained generations of lawyers, policymakers, leaders, and citizens. People have organized to urge legislators, judges, and executives to act; they have organized to urge legislators, judges, and executives to stay their hands.

The Constitution is the sum total of these actions (and more), actions undertaken not by thousands, but by tens of millions of people, each working at his/her own scale and in his/her own particular niche.  And if history is any indication of the future, we can take this observation one step further: the Constitution has been, is, and will be nothing more than the sum total of our strivings, the aggregate of what we think, say, and do… and what we don’t.

If I’m at all right, then the most pressing question for all of us is: How will the Constitution change? But, if change is the result of people acting (in the broadest possible sense), then I guess the real question is: How will YOU change the Constitution?

We here at are here to help you figure these things out, although we’re probably likely to raise more questions than we answer. Please forgive us; we are, after all, students still learning the mysterious ways of The Law and our reach may often exceed our grasp. Better to reach, however, than to sit idly by.

In our blog posts, we’ll kick around ideas, many of them based on the essays in Jack Balkin and Reva Siegel’s The Constitution in 2020. You should let us know what you think by dropping comments to our posts and e-mailing us. But there’s so much more to do. You can organize a reading group for your classmates or co-workers. You can recommend articles, essays, and books for other progressive-minded students, scholars, and practitioners to read. Think of it as a giant collaborative project, the collective building of the progressive future of the Constitution.

    Really, though, this site and the activities extending from it are just the tip of the progressive constitutional iceberg. You should think big…

… and act bigger. The frightening aspect of constitutional change – change – is also its liberating aspect. You, along with everyone else, hold the Constitution in your hands. Where will the Constitution be in 2012? In 2020? Depends on how you define it, beginning today.