This week, the House read the U.S. Constitution (as amended) from the floor. I watched CSPAN today (here is a link to the video), and the reading included members from both parties. The reading of the Constitution caused some controversy. One particular interesting view came from Ezra Klein who asserted that
“It’s a gimmick. I mean, you can say two things about it. One, is that it has no binding power on anything. And two, the issue of the Constitution is not that people don’t read the text and think they’re following. The issue of the Constitution is that the text is confusing because it was written more than 100 years ago and what people believe it says differs from person to person and differs depending on what they want to get done.”
Here is the video of the exchange where that quote comes:
The question is not whether it is a gimmick (both parties did participate in the reading, so if it is a gimmick it is a gimmick shared by all), but if the Constitution really is not comprehensible, what governs the government? In other words, if the Constitution is so passe, why should we not simply institute a monarchy, or a despotism via coup or some other means? If the Constitution is mere parchment that is indecipherable, why do any of our institutions matter? If the Congress does not like a presidential veto, why not just enforce a bill as if it was signed by the president? Klein is confusing in terms of the place of the Constitution in our government it seems. It has the abstract effect of turning us into an armed camp. And the fact that he espouses a simple historicism means that even his own words are at some point indecipherable. If Klein is serious about the Constitution being outdated, then perhaps he also will admit that freedom of speech, assembly, and religion are also too old to understand.
On the other side of this debate, we have a vigorous defense of the Constitution’s relevance by Charles Kesler. Charles Krauthammer makes a very limited, or narrow, argument on the scope of constitutional matters here.