View Poll Results: How should Constitutional questions be defined/interpreted?

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  • By what was written in the Constitution.

    1 12.50%
  • By what the writers meant when they wrote the Constitution.

    1 12.50%
  • Both, what they wrote and the deeper meaning based on other comments and writings.

    6 75.00%
  • Either/or, based on what my own bias says depending on which debate I'm in at the moment.

    0 0%
  • The lean of the Supreme Court at any given moment.

    0 0%
  • Other. (Please explain)

    0 0%
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Thread: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

  1. #1
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    How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    How should Constitutional questions be defined/interpreted?

    1) By what was written in the Constitution.
    2) By what the writers meant when they wrote the Constitution.
    3) Both, what they wrote and the deeper meaning based on other comments and writings.
    4) Either/or, based on what my own bias says depending on which debate I'm in at the moment.
    5) The lean of the Supreme Court at any given moment.
    6) Other. (Please explain)

    Example: The Establishment Clause / Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. They say, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...".

    Do we base interpretation based on what was written? What was written seems clear, yet we still have raging debates over it to this day, so maybe it's not so clear at all. Or, do we define it based on other comments and writings of the framers and include things like the "...wall of separation between church and state..." aspect as Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter in 1802. Note that the First Amendment doesn't actually say anything about separation, yet many believe that it is included in the intent of the Establishment Clause.

    This question could also be applied to most other Constitutional questions as well, i.e. what is a "militia", what is reasonable search and seizure, and so on. I just chose this one for example purposes.

    How do YOU believe the Constitution should be defined and interpreted?
    Last edited by radcen; 09-14-14 at 12:39 PM.
    If you claim sexual harassment to be wrong, yet you defend anyone on your side for any reason,
    then you are a hypocrite and everything you say on the matter is just babble.

  2. #2
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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    There are too many "back door" methods used to grant additional federal government powers; for example, using the withholding of federal highway funds to enact national speed limit laws (not a consitutional federal power) that must be enforced at state expense or the withhholding of federal education funds (not a federal constitutional power) to force state/local schools to abide by federal wishes of all sorts.
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    People just interpret the constitution by what results they want and then choose a philosophy to suit that desire

    There really is no best way in any objective sense

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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    Quote Originally Posted by radcen View Post
    How should Constitutional questions be defined/interpreted?
    I don't know how to vote because, imo, at least three of your choices are applicable in regards to constitutional interpretation.

    1) By what was written in the Constitution. definitely this one.
    2) By what the writers meant when they wrote the Constitution. what the words meant at the time.
    3) Both, what they wrote and the deeper meaning based on other comments and writings. the Federalist papers are a good example which the Supreme Court has referred to numerous times.

    The University of Missouri-Kansas City offers these options, in which case I would be a combination of a Textualist and Intentionalist.

    Textualist: An originalist who gives primary weight to the text and structure of the Constitution. Textualists often are skeptical of the ability of judges to determine collective "intent."

    Intentionalist: An originalist who gives primary weight to the intentions of framers, members of proposing bodies, and ratifiers.

    Pragmatist: A non-originalist who gives substantial weight to judicial precedent or the consequences of alternative interpretations, so as to sometimes favor a decision "wrong" on originalist terms because it promotes stability or in some other way promotes the public good.

    Natural Law Theorist: A person who believes that higher moral law ought to trump inconsistent positive law.
    Theories of Constitutional Interpretation

  5. #5
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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    Quote Originally Posted by ttwtt78640 View Post
    There are too many "back door" methods used to grant additional federal government powers; for example, using the withholding of federal highway funds to enact national speed limit laws (not a consitutional federal power) that must be enforced at state expense or the withhholding of federal education funds (not a federal constitutional power) to force state/local schools to abide by federal wishes of all sorts.
    Agreed. This is why I think the 17th Amendment was a huge mistake. Direct popular election of Senators sounds good, but it took away the balance of power in Congress. The states have no say anymore, and as such Congress is ready to appeal to the people and grant them their poorly thought out desires and there's is no one to stand up and say, "No, the states shouldn't have to pay for this.".


    Quote Originally Posted by tacomancer View Post
    People just interpret the constitution by what results they want and then choose a philosophy to suit that desire
    Based on what I see many people do, here at DP and elsewhere, I believe this is true. Too many wiull cherry-pick whichever standard suits their own opinion.
    If you claim sexual harassment to be wrong, yet you defend anyone on your side for any reason,
    then you are a hypocrite and everything you say on the matter is just babble.

  6. #6
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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    We should stick with the written Constitution primarily, and where there is any question we should consider the Founder's intent based on their relevant other writings and documents of the time.


    All infringements on individual liberty should be considered on the basis of Strict Scrutiny.

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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    Anyone here actually major in Political science besides me?

    It might have been in the first class that the professor said:

    The Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means.

    Someone had perform that task, and if the principle of Separation of Powers is to have any reality then the interpreter should be the Supreme Court, else the legislative and executive branches would have too much power.

    It has been so since the Supreme court gave itself the power of judicial review in Marbury v Madison (1803)- 211 years ago. The legislative and executive branches have complied with this ruling (often while protesting loudly) since Day One.

    I hope it always remains so in deference to the principle of Separation of Powers. There are ways to get around a SC ruling, but they are difficult, as they should be if the judiciary is to a have truly independent power.

    We sure can't have a few thousand of so loudmouthed bellyachers ruling on constitutionality like we do here at Debate Politics!

  8. #8
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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    Quote Originally Posted by tacomancer View Post
    People just interpret the constitution by what results they want and then choose a philosophy to suit that desire

    There really is no best way in any objective sense
    That makes the constitution essentially meaningless and makes whatever is deemed to be "important" (popular at the moment) into a new federal power without need to amend the constitution. For example, it took constitutional amendment(s) to nationally ban/restore the recreational drug alcohol yet no such action to nationally ban many other recreational drugs.
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    Quote Originally Posted by ttwtt78640 View Post
    That makes the constitution essentially meaningless and makes whatever is deemed to be "important" (popular at the moment) into a new federal power without need to amend the constitution. For example, it took constitutional amendment(s) to nationally ban/restore the recreational drug alcohol yet no such action to nationally ban many other recreational drugs.
    Its what I see people doing here all the time

    On all sides
    Last edited by tacomancer; 09-14-14 at 01:42 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: How should Constitutional question be defined/interpreted?

    Quote Originally Posted by USViking View Post
    Anyone here actually major in Political science besides me?

    It might have been in the first class that the professor said:

    The Constitution means what the Supreme Court says it means.

    Someone had perform that task, and if the principle of Separation of Powers is to have any reality then the interpreter should be the Supreme Court, else the legislative and executive branches would have too much power.

    It has been so since the Supreme court gave itself the power of judicial review in Marbury v Madison (1803)- 211 years ago. The legislative and executive branches have complied with this ruling (often while protesting loudly) since Day One.

    I hope it always remains so in deference to the principle of Separation of Powers. There are ways to get around a SC ruling, but they are difficult, as they should be if the judiciary is to a have truly independent power.

    We sure can't have a few thousand of so loudmouthed bellyachers ruling on constitutionality like we do here at Debate Politics!
    That addresses only the separation of powers within the federal government itself but does little (or nothing) to preserve the power (constitutional rights?) of the citizens or of the states which are often said, by the federally appointed court alone, to lack "standing' to file suit in that (or any) federal court.
    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself.
    Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

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