Constitution of the United States

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What role does the Constitution play in our society today?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Constitution provides the fundamental architecture of the US Government. As such, it lies at the very center of the country's political traditions. However, at the same time, US political culture and society has changed dramatically since the Constitution was first written. Technology has advanced since the late eighteenth century, with the advent of industrialization and, more recently, the digital age. Demographics have been transformed as well, from a primarily rural society to a far more urbanized one, with populations more densely concentrated in urban and suburban areas.

The result of these changes has seen a dramatic increase in centralized power, particularly within the Executive Branch. The Federal Government (and the Presidency) is far more powerful than it was in the early Republic. At the same time, moral norms have been transformed as well. Even so, however, the core understanding of US democracy as a government for the people, founded in the understanding and respect for peoples' rights, has remained a continuous thread across this long scope of US political history.

The Constitution is key in navigating these various political disputes, both concerning the protection or limiting of political rights as well as in the government's exercise of its political power. The Constitution is the political document that gives the US government its very legitimacy, and in these political disputes, the Constitution itself tends to be the final arbiter.

However, at the same time, it is worth noting that there are different traditions toward reading the Constitution and applying its principles to contemporary issues. (Thus, in these kinds of political disputes, both sides within a dispute would, in many cases, invoke the Constitution as supporting its position. This dates back to the very earliest history of the United States, where you can observe both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson invoking the Constitution to argue for and against the creation of a National Bank).

In almost all cases, however, the Constitution itself remains of critical importance.

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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Constitution plays a very important role in our society today. The Constitution was written after the first plan of government, the Articles of Confederation, proved to be too weak. The Constitution was written to develop a stronger plan of government and to correct some of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.

Since the Constitution is our plan of government, everything we do is guided by that document. The Constitution explains how our government works, when elections are to be held, and lists some of the rights we have. The Constitution explains what each branch of government can do, and how each branch can control the other branches. When Congress passes a law, it must be legal according to the terms of the Constitution. When the courts decide a case, they must apply the principles established in the Constitution to help them make a decision. The President must abide by the Constitution as well as protect, preserve, and defend it.

The Constitution is very important in our lives today as it impacts everything that we do.

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thetall eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The constitution is an instrument of control, as it helps a government to control the governed and assists the government to control itself. It helps in setting boundaries for the judiciary, legislature and the executive by separating powers of the three arms of government. The constitution plays a major role in safeguarding human rights as contained in the Bill of Rights. The constitution promotes social justice and equality and ensures the government remains accountable. In summary the role of the constitution can be stated as follows:

  • Create a national government made up of the three arms namely; the executive, judiciary and legislature with controls to prevent despotism by any single arm.
  • Provide the framework of separation of powers between the states’ governments and the national government.
  • Protect citizens’ liberties as contained but not limited to the “Bill of Rights”.
pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Constitution plays a number of roles in our society today.  Let us look at two of the most important.

First, the Constitution serves as the “rule book” for our government.  It specifies what government can and cannot do.  We have seen this very recently in the Supreme Court case over whether “Obamacare” was justifiable under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. 

Second, the Constitution serves as a set of ideals that our society should live by.  People on all sides of political debates try to use constitutional ideals to defend their side of an argument.  For example, the Tea Party uses the idea of limited government to promote a reduction in the size of government while gay rights activists use the idea of equal protection and personal freedom to push for their goals.

The Constitution, then, is used both as a legal document and as a set of ideals in our society today.

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