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Read the Whole Constitution Statement
The Arc of Our Constitution’s Progress
Americans should commit to the words and principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution -- the whole Constitution, including the Amendments ratified over the past 225 years.
Through the Declaration, our Revolutionary War heroes proclaimed a vision for a nation based on liberty and equality. Through the Constitution, “We the People” created the most enduring government charter in world history. Moving beyond the failed Articles of Confederation, the Constitution created a strong national government empowered, in the words of the Preamble, to “establish justice, . . . provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”
Building on the achievements of the Founding generation, successive generations of Americans have poured blood, sweat and treasure into efforts to form a “more perfect union” through constitutional Amendments. These Amendments have improved our Constitution by ending slavery, enshrining guarantees of equality and citizenship, expanding the right to vote, and ensuring that the national government has the power and resources necessary to protect the nation, address national challenges and secure civil rights.
Our Constitution today recognizes “We the People” as the source of political power and legitimacy and broadly protects the right to vote, promoting a vibrant and robust democracy. It grants our federal government enumerated but broad powers that allow it to address nation-wide problems, protect individual rights, and ensure our security and national defense. It establishes a federalist system that encourages innovation at the state and local levels. It grants citizenship to every child born in the United States and it enshrines a basic set of rights and liberties including free speech, free exercise of religion, equal protection and due process of law. To protect these rights and liberties, the Constitution provides broad access to courts and empowers judges to secure constitutional rights against infringement.
These principles laid out in the Declaration and the Constitution are under attack. Over the past decade, many have asserted that we cannot uphold our civil liberties while keeping our country safe. In Citizens United v. FEC, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court ruled that corporations, which are never mentioned in the Constitution, have the right to spend unlimited amounts to influence the outcome of elections and drown out the voices of We the People in our electoral process. There have been calls for repeal of Amendments, including the 14th Amendment, the 16th Amendment, and the 17th Amendment, that make our Constitution better and this country great. Similarly, members of the 112th Congress have contested the constitutionality of landmark federal statutes such as the Civil Rights Act and the Social Security Act and refused to accept the Supreme Court’s judgment that these laws are constitutional. Some have even failed to heed the lessons of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement and are advocating a return to ideas of secession and nullification.
Americans calling themselves “constitutional conservatives” are advocating a march backward toward a time when the Constitution was a less inspiring, democratic, and egalitarian document. By contrast, constitutional progressives believe we must embrace both the wisdom of the Framers and the lessons of the last 225 years reflected in Amendments to the Constitution that make America the “more perfect union” it is today.
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