Jeffrey Toobin for The New Yorker: OUR BROKEN CONSTITUTION

December 9th, 2013

The New Yorker
by Jeffrey Toobin
December 9, 2013

If there is a single point of consensus in this heated political moment, it’s that everyone loves the Constitution. “Conservative or liberal, we are all constitutionalists,” Barack Obama wrote, in “The Audacity of Hope.” Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, who emerged as a principal antagonist of the President’s during the government shutdown, has often said much the same thing. The Founding Fathers, Cruz said, “fought and bled for freedom and then crafted the most miraculous political document ever conceived, our Constitution.”

These homages are more than rhetorical tropes. Most politicians consider the validity of the Constitution off limits as a subject for debate. The Constitution, and the structure of government that it established, provides the backdrop, but never the subject, for every controversy. Obama, who taught constitutional law for more than a decade at the University of Chicago Law School, wrote, “The outlines of Madison’s constitutional architecture are so familiar that even schoolchildren can recite them: not only rule of law and representative government, not just a bill of rights, but also the separation of the national government into three coequal branches, a bicameral Congress, and a concept of federalism that preserved authority in state governments, all of it designed to diffuse power, check factions, balance interests, and prevent tyranny by either the few or the many.”

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