Why is it so difficult to amend the American Constitution?

When it was confirmed in 1789, the American Constitution did not establish the government by the people. It has provided a way for people to change the constitution.


So what is it that makes the Constitution so hard to change ?

In short, its creators. The founders of the United States were trying to create a unified country from 13 different colonies, which needed assurance that their agreements couldn’t be easily undone. So here’s what they decided. For an amendment to even be proposed it must receive a two-thirds vote of approval in both houses of Congress or a request from two-thirds of state legislatures to call a national convention, and that’s just the first step. To actually change the constitution the amendment must be ratified by three-quarters of all states. To do this, each state can either have its legislature vote on the amendment or it can hold a separate ratification convention with delegates elected by voters. The result of such high thresholds is that today the American Constitution is quite static. Most other democracies pass amendments every couple of years. The US On the other hand hasn’t passed one since 1992. At this point you may wonder how any amendments managed to pass at all.

The first 10 known as the bill of rights include some of America’s most well known freedoms such as the freedom of speech, and the right to a fair trial. These were passed all at once to resolve some conflicts from the original Constitutional Convention. Years later, the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery as well as the fourteenth and fifteenth Amendment only passed after a bloody civil war. Ratifying amendments has also become harder as the country has grown larger and more diverse. The first ever proposed amendment a formula to assign congressional representatives was on the verge of ratification in the 1790s. However as more and more states join the union, the number needed to reach the three-quarter mark increased as well leaving it on the ratified to this day.

Today, there are many suggested amendments including outlawing the burning of the flag limiting Congressional terms or even repealing the Second Amendment. While many enjoy strong support their likelihood of passing is slim. Americans today are the most politically polarized since the Civil War making it nearly impossible to reach a broad consensus. In fact, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once calculated that due to America’s representative system of government it could take as little as 2% of the total population to block an amendment. Of course, the simplest solution would be to make the Constitution easier to amend by lowering the threshold required for proposal and ratification. That however, would require its own amendment. Instead, historical progress has mainly come from the U.S. Supreme Court, which has expanded its interpretation of existing constitutional laws to keep up with the times. Considering that Supreme Court justices are an elected and serve for life once appointed, this is far from the most democratic option. Interesting Lee the founders themselves may have foreseen this problem early on. In a letter to James Madison Thomas Jefferson, wrote that laws should expire every 19 years rather than having to be changed or repealed since every political process is full of obstacles that distort of the People. Although he believed that the basic principles of the constitution would endure, he stressed that the earth belongs to the living and not to the dead.

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