Q:

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution?

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Quick Answer

The United States Constitution provides the foundation for a strong central government with authority to regulate interstate disputes and commerce, enforce citizens' rights and defend from hostile forces. However, much of it is too vague to provide definitive interpretations. It can be amended, but the process is slow. Citizens vote for representatives directly but don't get a direct vote on policies. There is no way to address bipartisanship.

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What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution?
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Full Answer

The Constitution is the structure of fundamental political precedents, procedures and principles that the federal government has operated from since its creation in 1789. It delegates certain responsibilities to federal bodies and others to states. The Constitution divides federal powers between three main branches defined by the separation of powers doctrine and provides a system of checks and balances to prevent one branch from overpowering the others.

The original portions of the Constitution, which included the Bill of Rights when ratified, are very specific about certain topics but vague about most others. Because it is vague, the Constitution is a living document, one that can adapt to changes by adding amendments and through judicial interpretation. This can be either a boon or a hindrance. Amendments add clarity to existing constitutional structure or add rights or restrictions. The original Constitution claimed to favor individual liberty but provided no support for women or slaves. In many cases, existing laws were exploited to keep these groups firmly situated. The 13th Amendment, in 1865, abolished slavery; the 14th, in 1870, made slaves citizens, gave black males the right to vote and guaranteed everyone equal protection under the law; and the 19th, in 1920, gave women the right to vote. Adaptability is the Constitution's greatest strength, but change requires great effort and time.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    When was the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution?

    A:

    The Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 15, 1791. Virginia was the 10th state to ratify the Bill of Rights, which provided the majority needed for legal ratification.

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  • Q:

    How old is the Constitution?

    A:

    As of September 17, 2014, the United States Constitution is 227 years old. The Constitution was signed by 39 delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. Government under the Constitution officially began on March 4, 1789.

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  • Q:

    Why has the Constitution lasted so long?

    A:

    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.

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  • Q:

    What are "states' rights"?

    A:

    States' rights are the rights and powers reserved for individual states. Any rights not specifically reserved for the federal government are considered state rights or powers.

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