What Does the Constitution Do?

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Three Essential Roles of the Constitution

The Constitution of the United States enshrines the supreme law of the land of the United States of America. This founding document, provides a framework for federal and states government to work within.

The US Constitution fulfills three essential roles:

  1. It offers a checks and balances system, so no one element has absolute power and control.
  2. It further divides the power between the federal and state governments.
  3. It also provides citizens with protection for their rights and liberties.

The Three Branches of Government

The United States Constitution divides the government into three separate branches, each with specific duties and areas of control. Under the system of checks and balances, each branch holds the others accountable. They include the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

This separation of powers ensures that there is accountability. When the constitution was written, it was based on democracy. The legislative branch is Congress, the executive branch is the President and his cabinet, and the judicial branch is the court system and the Supreme Court. This guarantees that none of the entities can take complete control and become a tyranny. 

Federal and State Government 

The laws of the United States are complex at times as well as confusing. This is due to Federal government regulations and state regulations. Federal law is the same for all citizens of the United States, while state law, only pertains to when someone is in that particular state.

Photo of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.
Federal law applies to all citizens of the United States.

Laws often vary from state to state, even neighboring states. Citizens need to understand the laws where they reside. It is also a good idea to know where you plan to travel. The division between Federal and state government is known as Federalism.

The Federal government does have power over the states, but the concept is to let the states govern themselves. When that can’t be done, the Federal government can step in. For example, when a legal issue is appealed at a state level, it may need to be looked at in a federal court.

States can set their laws within reason. However, their laws can’t conflict with those set at the Federal level. States are limited in their abilities with interstate commerce and tax issues. This is because Congress regulates those to ensure states can’t discriminate against citizens of a different state.

Protection of Rights and Liberties for Citizens

While the United States Constitution offers a framework for all, it also protects citizens from the national government. It limits what the government can do and protects the rights and liberties of citizens. The majority of these protections fall under the Bill of Rights.

New Jersey National Guard member
The 2nd Amendment protects the right to bear arms.

 

That includes the first 10 amendments of the constitution:

Permanent Protection

The protection offered by the constitution can’t be taken away. It ensures security for the citizens of the United States at all times. The written constitution is designed so that no one entity has complete governmental power. There is always another entity with the ability to oversee and override. This helps keep all accountable and in compliance with the constitution.

There are areas of the United States Constitution, though, that are broad. They can be open to interpretation, and that can create some debate. New issues and concepts also come to light as society changes with time. There would be no way for the constitution’s writers to foresee all of them.

The constitution serves as a framework for unity, rules, and democracy to work. It promotes equality for all regardless of color or economic status. Amendments can be introduced to the constitution if they are approved by both of the houses of Congress with a 2/3 majority vote.

The constitution is intentionally flexible and general. It offers a concrete set of core values to help guide any proposed changes or interpretations. The goal is to offer citizens of the United States safety, to protect their rights, and to ensure any one entity doesn’t control the government at any time. 

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