Derek Donovan

Derek Donovan: Why are Americans allergic to amending the Constitution?

It doesn’t really matter whether you think interpretation of the U.S. Constitution should ebb and flow with history, or if you consider yourself an originalist in the mode of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who intends to channel the Founding Fathers’ intentions. Either way, it’s striking that while the pace of history seems to be accelerating every day, calls for constitutional amendments of any kind are rarely on the radar.

“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in an 1816 letter to historian Samuel Kercheval. “But I know also that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. … We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

We’re currently in something of a semi-historic amendment dry spell. The 27th was ratified in 1992 — a mere 203 years after James Madison introduced it.

Over half the Constitution’s tweaks came in its first 100 years. It’s hardly un-American to suggest it may be time for another look under the hood.

Derek Donovan, ddonovan@kcstar.com

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