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Federalist or States' Rights?


Post # 241, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary



It has been 235 years since the Federal Constitution was adopted. Is it time to look at it again?




When most of us were in school, we were required to study our Federal Constitution. Many readers of the document say it is visionary and inspirational. But, it can be difficult to understand for some due to the arcane language. Many say the Constitutional draft by itself would not have passed without the Bill of Rights amended into the base document. At the center of the dispute then, just as today, was Federalists versus States' Rights. The Bill of Rights mollified the States' Righters and the Amended Constitution passed.


Now we have the same kind of fight over interpretation of the Constitution between the 'right and left.' We all know that of the three branches of government, the one (and only) branch authorize to ultimately interpret the Constitution is the Federal Supreme Court. Members of the Court have come down on both sides of the right and left spectrum over the years, largely dependent on the philosophy of the President nominating them. Some believe a protection for those Presidential nominations is the confirmation process in the U.S. Senate. But again, the left and right come into play again, but this time in the U.S. Senate.


As a result, we have a new argument of whether some further refinement of either the Constitution or the process by which it is interrupted, is emerging. Some on the left say it is a living document that needs to reflect the changes in society. Some on the right say, no that it covers very broad principles that should not be easily changed, and laws could serve any changing needs.


Some forty years ago conservative lawyers began a "Originalist Movement" to lock down the Constitution against changes. With the rotation of Presidents from Democrat to Republican, the movement has resulted in a balance, which was recently pierced symbolically by the repeal of Roe vs Wade. Liberals today suggest the size of the Court needs to be increased to offset the conservative votes. Both sides are shifting the confirmation legislative process to downright militant hearings. The ignorance of the history behind the Constitution is beginning to drive mandatory civics education in American schools. The Bar Associations are being called on to provide more training and education for potential candidates to our courts. Both political parties are being asked to lower their swords and get out the history books.


Our Florida Legislature put on the November ballot a proposed state Constitutional Amendment to eliminate the Constitutional Revision Commission, which did serve every 10 years. The Governor supported this change. It means, if passed, only the Legislature and a public referendum will be the access to our state Constitution.


As with most crises, violence may force our leaders to sit down and review our country's most important document, as the framers of the Federal Constitution did on September 17, 1787. It has been 235 years.

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