So is the U.S. Constitution a living document, written and designed to be flexible enough to be interpreted through the prism of the times—thereby remaining current⎯or is it a strict set of iron rules that we must use to psychoanalyze the minds of the Founding Fathers and divine their intent; a screed frozen in the mindset of the Eighteenth Century?
The tension between these views will persist for as long as the republic lasts, and is at the core of philosophical fights over Supreme Court Justice nominations.
Anyway, it’s easy to be a strict constructionist as long as you agree with the particular fragment under discussion. This Fourteenth Amendment battle is a case in point. It’s part of the Constitution. There’s a process to change it, but once you start fiddling with one thing, what’s to keep people from messin’ with the rest?
I can see it now: Since the Founding Fathers had flintlock muskets in mind at the time they wrote the Second Amendment, maybe it should only cover the right to bear a single-shot rifle that you painstakingly load from the muzzle, and that won’t work when it’s raining. No automatic weapons of any kind. Or, conversely, if you should manage to get your hands on a tactical nuclear weapon, who's to say you can't bear it if you want to?
Freedom of religion? Maybe the government should only be allowed to butt in and restrict it if we’re talking about building a Muslim mosque somewhere. In fact, a lot of people last week already thought that’s what it meant.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Not if you’re gay and want to get married. Besides, that isn’t even in the Constitution, although many Americans don’t know that.
I could go on and on.