Sunday is July 4, the 245th anniversary of the day the Continental Congress approved the final version of the Declaration of Independence — although history buffs know the main vote happened two days earlier.
Earlier this month, a task force within the National Archives, which is responsible for stewarding our nation’s original founding documents like the Declaration, released a report declaring its own rotunda, where the documents are displayed, to be structurally racist. It called for “trigger warnings” around the displays as well as “reimagining” the rotunda to “dialogue” about the “mythologization” of the founding.
Many Americans are rightfully indignant at seeing their country and its founding principles belittled and ostracized in ways big and small like this. Some are also wondering where it came from. Why such a sudden and dramatic rejection of basic American ideals? Can’t we all agree on the Declaration of Independence?
This rejection of the American founding didn’t come out of nowhere — it’s been brewing and building for over a century. Leftists who engage in this kind of faultfinding do have a constitution to which they proclaim fidelity, and which they believe should rule America. It’s just not the original Constitution.
Out of Many, One? Or Out of One, Many?
The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788. The revolutionary, inspirational, but still imperfect document has since been amended 27 times, including one amendment (the 21st) that repealed an earlier one (the 18th).
Despite its changes, conservatives still look to the 1788 document as the Constitution with a capital C. Its amendments have accented, not replaced, it. It is not simply “step one” in an endless process of revamping. It’s more like a completed house that gets its plumbing redone or its carpet replaced as needed, than an empty skeleton of lumber that still needs to be filled in.
In contrast, that latter visual is what Yale Law professor Jack Balkin submits in his theory of “framework originalism” — the idea that the Constitution is simply a “framework” that “Americans must fill out over time through constitutional construction.” This highly malleable, relativist view of the Constitution
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