The Constitution is interpreted and amended according to the needs of the times and because early leaders established a reverence for the Constitution that makes it an indispensable part of America's political heritage. Leaders advocate laws by imbuing passages of the Constitution with new meaning. Despite constant metamorphoses, the political norm is always to defend policy proposals by resorting to the Constitution.
The Constitution's style and structure facilitate new interpretations. It is a relatively sparse document, much shorter than those of many other nations. The written details surrounding the roles of the executive and judicial branches are especially vague and lacking in detail. Thus, modern political realities, not enshrined instructions, determine most of the specific workings of government.
The judicial branch also has a hand in keeping the Constitution vibrant. The principle of judicial review allows the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution in deciding whether public policy is constitutional or unconstitutional. This practice has often led to the court finding rights and functions of government far beyond what the actual written text specifies. These trends combine to keep the Constitution relevant.
Another important factor for the Constitution's longevity is the immense reverence Americans have for it. The Constitution itself requires all federal officers to take an oath to uphold it. From the onset, political leaders honored this allegiance and debated political questions on the matter of constitutionality. In modern America, citizens still view the Constitution as something sacrosanct and inviolable. Opposing parties do not claim that the Constitution is wrong, but that their opponent's interpretation of the Constitution is wrong.Learn More
The Constitution is difficult to amend because it requires a supermajority of either members of Congress or a supermajority of state legislatures to propose a new amendment for ratification. Even after acquiring the requisite two-thirds of either group to propose the amendment, it then has to be ratified by 75 percent of the states, either by their legislatures or state Constitutional conventions.Full Answer >
Under Article Five, the Constitution can be amended in two ways: through a two-thirds majority vote in Congress or by a two-thirds vote of a national convention at the request of at least two-thirds of the states. To become operative, three-quarters of the states, or state ratifying conventions, must ratify.Full Answer >
The only crime defined in the Constitution of the United States is treason. The reason why treason is defined is that, under English common law, crimes were defined by courts based on what they believed violated justice. Without proper definition, anyone could be sentenced for treason on a court's whim.Full Answer >
The Supremacy Clause states that the Constitution, the laws of the United States and all treaties under the authority of the United States are deemed the supreme law of the land, meaning it overrides state constitutions and laws. It is the second clause of Article VI of the Constitution.Full Answer >