Remedial Practical Civics 100, Lesson 2
I’ll begin by telling you something your parents should have told when your were two years old:
Sometimes you can’t have what you want, no matter how much you want it; no matter how many of your friends also want it.
This being Civics 100, I’ll be addressing unconstitutional laws.
-sigh- “u-n-c-o-n-s-t-i-t-u-t-i-o-n-a-l” As in, “not allowed by the US Constitution.” It was one of your reading assignments. No, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is the Declaration of Independence, which you also should have read. You volunteered for this class.
[Billy, what are you doing with a bucket of ice in my class? Get that out of here.
“Ice Bucket Challenge…”? All right, get the bucket out of here and bring me a paper tomorrow explaining whether or not the Challenge is a chain letter…
Look. It. Up. “c-h-a-i-n, l-e-t-t-e-r”
…whether or not it’s a chain letter, and how accepting the bucket challenge financially benefits ALS groups. It’ll count towards your Economics grade.
How many words? As many as it takes to demonstrate some comprehension of the subjects.
-glares at class- Anyone else looking for extra credit?]
Who can define “democracy” Billy?
The American system of government where the people vote and decide on stuff.
Wrong. Fortunately, that’s what this class is meant to get straight in your heads. If you’d said “a generic system of government,” you’d have been right…
[Billy, stop crying. You’re 17 years old, not two. Get used to being told when you’re wrong.]
Anyway. Billy, definition is generic. There are several variants and modifications of “democracy.” The Athenians, who originated the formal implementation of the idea, limited the vote to eligible citizens, and denied the vote to large classes of people, including foreigners, women, people under the age of 20, and anyone who didn’t own land. That’s the original, pure-quill democracy. Like it?
America uses a variant. Our current system of government was designed as a constitutional republic.
Starting with “republic:” That means we elect representatives to vote on things for us, instead of having a direct vote by the eligible citizens. And yes, we also limit eligibility; you have to be 18 years-old, and not a felon. You have to be a citizen. In the past, blacks and women were excluded, but we fixed that.
Anyone want an extra credit project on whether direct vote state “initiatives” or “propositions” meet the Constitutional requirement that states provide a republican form of government? No? Maybe later.
“Constitutional” is the part you kids seem to be having trouble with lately. Yes, I’m talking about the way CNN and the mainstream media are manipulating you into supporting gun control laws that violate the Second Amendment.
“Con-sti-tu-tion-al, Re-pub-lic.” That means we vote — through or elected representatives — within the framework of the constitution that established the national government…
John? Good question! The Articles of Confederation created an alliance — a “confederation” of fully independent states. With the Constitutional Convention, a new federation of states under one government was formed. One may easily argue that the Fourth of July, 1776, is not our nation’s birthday. One can also argue that the Constitutional Convention was an illegal coup under the then-effective Articles. Anyone want to do a paper on that?
Stripped to basics: the Constitution is the states agreeing to federation, and assigning certain powers and duties to the shiny new central government. That’s what the feds get to do. And no more. The Constitution is a contract between ratifying states. And remember that when people throw the term “social contract” at you.
I say, “no more,” because we have the original Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was a contract amendment, likewise agreed to by the contract signatories — the states. Smart folks realized that simply assigning the central government powers and duties wasn’t enough, because said government might decide to grab a little more power, claiming to require it to perform assigned duties.
So these smart people amended the contract to specifically limit the government, to prevent them doing just that.
[No, miss. “Separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution, Samantha…
Don’t call me “miss.” I’m a boy. And my name is Fabio.
Samantha, you’ve got what look to be 38 Double-D tits, and it’s unlikely there’s a penis in your panties. Show me a chromosome test with a normal XY allosome pair, or I’ll continue to call you a girl.
I identify as a boy.
Refusal to accept reality is one generalized definition of insanity; that’s why gender dysphoria is listed in the DSM as a psychiatric disorder. You’re excused from the class, with an “incomplete.” If you can’t figure out whether or not you have a penis, you aren’t going to be capable of understanding Constitutional reality. Bye.]
To address Miss Samantha’s claim, “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution; the phrase comes from a Jefferson letter. Regrettably, even those smart people didn’t think even the federal government would be freaking stupid enough to meddle in religion, so they didn’t hit that as explicitly as they might’ve.
It did occur to them to forbid the government doing things like restricting free speech, recognizing religions (which is the unfortunately vague part), restricting private ownership of weapons, violating privacy, and much more.
[No, Dexter. The Second Amendment is not a collective state right. Look up HELLER and MCDONALD. Nor does it allow limits based on vague public safety. Special assignment, son: turn in a paper next Monday. Define “infringe.” and since I see it coming, the common usage of “regulate” in 18th century America (hint: look up “Regulator clock”). Further, examine the separate uses of the words “people” and “person” versus “state.” Specifically explain each usage — or lack thereof — in the first, second, fourth, fifth, ninth, and tenth amendments. Show and understanding, in particular, of the separate usage of both in the Tenth Amendment.
Why, yes. As a matter of fact I do have a prepared list of extra credit assignments. I’m used to these foolish arguments popping up from the uninformed.]
Show of hands: Who read the Constitution? Hmm, could’ve been worse.
Who read the Bill of Rights? No? Then you didn’t read the Constitution. That’s part of the states’ contract.
[Who reads fine print all the time, Emma? You, I hope. Otherwise you’re liable to sell your immortal soul next time you buy an app for your smart phone. Yes, it happened. Look that up, too.]
So… You want to ban “assault weapons.” You can’t. Not constitutionally. Vote in all the referendums you like. Hassle your state reps. But in the constitutional framework, that is excluded from what government is allowed to screw up.
[Thanks, David. I knew someone would bring up “states rights.” But I noticed you were one who didn’t read the whole Constitution. States do retain rights, see Amendments 9 and 10. But the Second Amendment — ratified by the states — delegated the protection of a preexisting right to keep and bear arms… weapons, even “assault weapons — to the central government. States specifically gave up the right to restrict their citizens’ right to weaponry.]
OK, who wants to tell me the Constitution is a “living document” subject to reinterpretation as society evolves? No?
Good. You’re beginning to catch on.
Imagine you bought a car. You owe $500 a month for five years. Three years in, the contract holder tells you that you have to pay $800 a month because times change and his expenses have gone up.
Five years in, he tells you you can’t have your unencumbered car title, because sales have been off, and he needs you to keep paying for a few more years to maintain his profit margin.
Of course, that isn’t fair. Or legal. It violates the written contract. Same with you constitutionally-challenged children trying to rewrite the laws to take away the lawful property of millions of innocent people. Guns, I mean.
Now your car dealer could have come to you to renegotiate a contract, and maybe you’d be stupid enough to sign the new deal screwing you over with no benefit to yourself. More likely, you’d demand something in return, or no deal. Maybe free quarterly preventative maintenance.
Likewise, the Constitution has a provision for “renegotiation:” Article 5. The thing most of you didn’t read.
So you want to ban guns. All you have to do is get at least two-thirds of both the House and Senate to go along with it. (Review lecture 1 for how to get a bill passed.) Then you have to get the legislators of at least three-quarters of all states (See lecture 1 again), to pass it.
The other legal way to do this is to get three-quarters of the state legislatures (Lecture 1, yet again) to go along with a Constitutional Convention. That’s tricky because a Constitutional Convention isn’t limited to addressing the one thing — like firearms bans — that you want. Everything is on the table. Abortion, raising the voting age to 55, mandatory five years of minimum wage military service for 18 year-olds, reinstituting outright slavery. Everything. Anything. No matter how despicable or distasteful even to you.
Ready to take your chances?
Yes, that means the changes you want are hard. It’s supposed to be hard. The fine folks who drafted the Constitution thought they’d done a decent job. The states got something they could agree to. Job done.
But they realized that it wasn’t perfect unto the end of time. So they incorporated a process for future changes. But, again, they made it difficult because they’d done their best…
[What’s that, Soon? Slavery? How terrible the Constitution was? I thought you raised you hand about reading the thing.
One, slavery is evil. Two, the majority of participants at the Constitutional Convention thought so, too. Three, enough delegates wouldn’t go along with the whole thing if it flat outlawed slavery (as many wished). So they reached a compromise.
Read Article 1, Section 9. They settled on phasing slavery out in a fashion that allowed those dependent on the institution time to cover their asses. Slavery was going to end. They saw it as inevitable. Later, in the 19th century, technological advancements were going to make slavery not only evil, but economically destructive to the slavers.
Who wants extra credit for a paper on the causes of the American Civil War of Northern Aggression, or whatever you want to call it, versus those Union demands that were dropped in an attempt to avoid war? You’ll have to examine the cotton gin versus economics of keeping slave workers.
Suddenly, a constitution written by rich, white guys who planned the abolition of slavery doesn’t look so bad, does it? Maybe they were smarter than class-skipping children who eat Pods.]
[Look. It. Up. Use that phone for something other than Snapchat.]
We’ve wandered. I’ve explained that we are not an unlimited, direct democracy where the ignorant can vote themselves bread and circuses… [Look it up; Juvenal… not “juvenile.”]. The Constitution is meant to protect all rights, no matter how much you want to violate them. You have to work within the system, overthrow it, or ignore it. Choose your poison.
In the end, slavery was banned through a constitutional process, not withstanding an intervening war in which slavery was nothing more but a subject for propaganda on both sides. The constitutionality of secession, and suppression of secession, is a topic for a seminar in itself.
You want to “ban” gun violence. Will you work within the system, overthrow it, or ignore it?
And what will your opposition choose, depending on your choices?