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bossob's avatar

Is the U.S. Constitution really clearcut?

Asked by bossob (3512 points ) December 24th, 2012

Proponents of certain causes like to proclaim that the Constitution clearly supports their position. If that’s the case, if the intent of the Founding Fathers is so obvious, precise, and clear, why are there so many 5–4 Supreme Court decisions? Why can’t the experts agree?

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9 Answers

Self_Consuming_Cannibal's avatar

The constitution was written about 236 years ago. Maybe when it was written it was clearcut. But times have changed and shit needs to be updated from time to time, just like the second amendment. Guns need to banned in the US. Everytime I turn on the news a school (elementary, college, or high school) is being shot up or now a firefighter is getting killed on Christmas Eve all of which would have a lesser of chance of happening if guns weren’t legal in the US.

jerv's avatar

The Constitution is a legal document; a law.

If the law were so clearcut, the entire Judicial branch would be unnecessary.

Therefore, it follows that the existence of lawyers who specialize in Constitutional Law is evidence that the Constitution is not clearcut.

iphigeneia's avatar

One of the first things we learned in law school is nothing is ever clearcut. It’s one of the consequences of expressing things verbally.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

Yes. Beautifully and comprehensively so.

Don’t see it that way? Not everyone is cut out to be a Constitutionalist.

Malleable document? Why don’t you just go live somewhere with a different or no constitution?

filmfann's avatar

As I mentioned in another post, the 2nd Amendment is intentionally vague.
The Constitution was never meant to be rock solid. The Framers wanted it to be a document that could grow and change as conditions change.

lightsourcetrickster's avatar

Never mind the 2nd Amendment. Not many people may like what I say immediately following this sentence but it’s true and it’s not deniable. The problem the US has now more than ever is the same problem that the UK has and that is….dum dum DUUUUM, immigrants (not that immigrants are er…“dum” – the “b” deliberately missing). Not just those that hop over the border to work at Walmart or Home Depot (if you’ll pardon the possibly racist but definitely stereotypical look at it) but those that wear turbans, read the Q’uran, blah blah…that’s not all of them obviously, but these people come into a country that had laws – rules and regulations for want of another way of putting it – that were clearly drawn up for the people that started life there, not the people that lived in Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia, or any other country for that matter for the best part of their young adult lives just to decide “Oh let’s totter off to the States and have a blast”.
Crashsequence2012 may consider the Constitution to be clear as a bell, but when you chuck in all manner of modern social values and norms and cultural differences/religious beliefs, and goodness knows what else from this day and age, there are doubtless aspects of the Constitution that become something of a debatable issue.
In order to think that it is clearcut then a black and white way of looking at things is required. It either makes sense, or it does not. Whereas the law is all about logic and facts and “This is the way it must be not the way it should be” and often fails to take into account various aspects of human existence, it is that same human existence that causes some people to find issue with the Constitution. To that extent it is a “malleable document”.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Our Constitution is NOT ‘clear cut’ – it needs to change, it needs to be malleable. Quite a lot has changed (in our society) since the Constitution was written & if our Constitution does not respond to these changes….. we may find ourselves writing a new Constitution. I think we need to change the one we already have.

Jeruba's avatar

Given that one of the principal functions of the U.S. Supreme Court is to pass judgment on the issues of constitutionality in a case, it is literally about interpreting the Constitution. It’s been understood from the beginning that interpretation would be required. (I’m agreeing with @jerv here.)

Nothing written in words is immune to ambiguity, implication, connotation, context-dependency, and shades of meaning, as @iphigeneia says. In fact, in my opinion it is the imprecision of words in combination with one another that not only allows them to function but gives them their beauty. Only mathematical language is clear-cut. Sometimes a point of law can hang on the presence or absence of a comma.

mattbrowne's avatar

Natural language is never clearcut. It changes over time and between regions and is full of ambiguities. So, no.

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