Monday, January 26, 2009
Hello all! Last week, I did not post, as I was in Washington, DC for the Inauguration Festivities. It was something to behold. As a citizen, it was remarkable to reflect on this peaceful change of power. At the beginning of my Con Law I class, I tell my students that the Constitution - a "dusty old piece of paper" - warrants careful study because it is a living, breathing document. I usually cite various news stories and current events to bolster the point, but being there on the Mall with 4 million other people brings the Constitution to life in a way that no text or news story can. It's a poignant reminder of both tradition and change. Tradition, as each president has taken the same oath, and change, as each new administration has a unique opportunity to shape our nation. It likely sounds a bit trite, I'm sure, but I hope you feel the sincerity when I say that while I was out there, standing, waiting, it ocurred to me that it is the Constitution that makes it possible.
Well, that was my first thought, at least. As I continued to reflect, I found it even more remarkable that despite the fact that not everyone voted for our new president, there was never a doubt in the minds of those present that the transfer would be as smooth and orderly as the Constitution envisioned. So, while the Constitution sets forth the order of things, the second thought was that it is really the American that make the Constitution work. The Constitution says many things, but it never says that we as citizens must accept our political leadership. And yet we do. We do it time and time again, whether we are supporters of the new regime or members of the loyal opposition. I beleive this idea applies with equal force to the popular acceptance of judicial opinions. The third branch was given the least power, and yet remains a force to be reckoned with largely because the majority of the populace accepts even those decisions with which it disagrees. Of course, I am aware of the growing movement against "activist" judges, but the fact that no Supreme Court decision has engendered a wave of sustained "massive resistance" in the last fifty years gives me hope. Hope that whether we agree or disagree, as Americans, we value institutions over ideology, and we collectively hope that those institutions will endure, even when they frustrate us.