Strengths and Weaknesses of the “supreme Law of the Land”
How it works
The main purpose of the U.S. Constitution is stated in the Preamble. This introduction outlines the need for a line of defense, establishes the demand to promote the general welfare of the American public, and emphasizes the importance of the Union. The United States is governed by the Constitution’s fundamental principles, which help to maintain order amongst the people. Along with establishing the basis for legal authority, this document provides direction for each of the three branches of government and protects certain rights of the people.
As time passes, the strengths and weaknesses of the “supreme law of the land” have been deliberated and disputed.
A strength of the U.S. Constitution is its ability to be amended. The amendment process involves two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate approving of the amendment’s proposal. If it is approved, the amendment is sent to the states to be voted on. Three-fourths of the states must vote to ratify the proposed amendment in order for it to be implemented. This amendment process is an important strength of the Constitution because it allows us an opportunity to alter the document whenever we find that it does not fit with new circumstances (ex. the abolition of slavery after the Civil War with the thirteenth amendment).
An additional strength of the U.S. Constitution is the introduction of checks and balances, which are designed to ensure that no one branch of government becomes too powerful. The branches of government are each given the ability to limit powers of the others. This helps to maintain a balance of power between the three. For example, a bill can be introduced by Congress (legislative branch). After it is voted on, the bill is sent to the President (executive branch) where it is either approved or vetoed. Another example is a law being examined in the court system. Individuals in the judicial branch can argue whether a law, which was introduced by the legislative branch, is fair. This principle of government results in a practical, well-balanced system.
Another, and arguably the most crucial, strength of the U.S. Constitution is that it protects individual liberty. The establishment of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights has proved to stand the test of time, as it continues to preserve certain individual freedoms. These include the freedom of religion, speech, and the press; the right to bear arms; rights in civil cases; rights reserved to the people; and other personal liberties. Even today, the Bill of Rights is important and influential, providing protection against infringements on basic rights.
Along with its strong points, the U.S. Constitution does possess some shortcomings. One weakness is that it is often considered to be ambiguous. Many have maintained that the Constitution is intentionally vague in certain areas, making it difficult to interpret. There are different viewpoints to this debate: some individuals acknowledge that views will evolve as years pass while others would rather the Constitution be taken verbatim and in a literal sense. The document does not offer any methods of interpretation, so it is normally left to the Supreme Court to handle explanations.
Another weakness the Constitution could be criticized for is that it gives too much power to the federal government. It has been argued that the document does not offer enough constraint on federal power, and, as a result, the rights of the people are not adequately protected. The Constitution not only gives the federal government the ability to regulate trade between the states, but also the power to maintain a military and to collect taxes. By doing this, the Constitution reinforces the federal government where it was previously insufficient.
Additional weaknesses of the Constitution include its lack of guidance for managing political parties. In fact, there is no mention of or reference to political parties in the Constitution, which is attributed to the fact that political parties did not exist when the document was written. In this day and age, it is clear that political parties have a major place in U.S. government; however, when the Constitution was drafted over two centuries ago, they were nonexistent. The document, therefore, offers no direction for governing conflicting parties in politics.
If I were a framer, changes I would make to the Constitution include strengthening the tenth amendment. By highlighting and emphasizing this section, I would remind the federal government that powers not granted to them are reserved to the states. States’ rights have been weakened due to the federal government disregarding them; it is important that this does not persist. As the federal government becomes more powerful, it’s possible that states’ rights will be minimized.
As a framer, I would also propose term limits for Supreme Court justices. By replacing the lifetime tenure with one that is terminable, I would eliminate the obligation for the government to nominate much younger individuals than necessary. This would also help to bring new thinking to the judicial branch. Lifetime appointments for justices need to modified because they have often resulted in declined productivity in the Supreme Court.
Altogether, the U.S. Constitution remains of importance due to its fundamental principles that help to influence and govern our country. The document is also responsible for defining our democratic government, providing certain powers to the branches of government, and regulating any powers that are provided. It establishes our nation’s goals and objectives, which in turn help to form the beliefs it rests upon. While the Constitution is not flawless, it has stood the test of time while establishing the basic structure of our government.