Post by Sam Braverman, Harris Poll Project Researcher
On a recent Harris Poll Americans were asked what type of Supreme Court justice they would most prefer. In response, half of U.S. adults said someone who keeps their personal opinions of “right” and “wrong” to themselves, and makes decisions strictly based on the letter of the law and the Constitution (51%). While it’s nice to hear that Americans believe so strongly in the Constitution, this response also somewhat amused me.
The U.S. Constitution is widely regarded as one of the most famous and enduring documents in United States, and possibly world, history. Written in 1787 and updated with the first ten amendments, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, in 1791, the Constitution has informed U.S. law, the rights of American citizens, and the creation of other governments around the world for more than 200 years. The reason that the Constitution has proven to be not only successful, but also enduring is as simple as it was forward-thinking.
The fathers of the U.S. Constitution were insightful enough to know that they didn’t have all the answers. They understood that in order to create a document that could be widely applied and lasting, it would have to be flexible, where the spirit is apparent, but the specifics are left up to interpretation.
It is this fixed need for interpretation that makes the Constitution applicable today, which simultaneously makes the answer of 51% of American adults, interesting and possibly amusing. Luckily, the Constitution also provides for freedom of speech, or the open exchange of ideas, whereby compromise and consensus might be reached. That is, at least, according to my interpretation.
What do you think?