What Is a Constitutionalist?

Congress building
Constitutionalists espouse the principles of limited government and individual rights.

The United States of America is a country founded on the principles of freedom and equality. We have come a long way since our founders signed the constitution in 1787, but we must never forget what this country once was and what it can be again if we stay true to our founding principles. 

What is a constitutionalist?

A constitutionalist is someone who believes in the principles of limited government and individual rights. The term is often used to describe someone who wants to adhere strictly to the constitution. It can also be used more generally to describe someone who believes that government should be limited by constitutional law.

What is Constitutionalism? 

Constitutionalism is a political ideology that stresses the importance of individual rights and limited government. It’s often used as a synonym for democracy, but they are not quite the same thing. A constitutionalist can believe in democracy but may also think that some form of monarchy would best suit their country.

Constitutionalism is a distinctly American ideology. It’s a complex set of ideas that have the potential to lead to many controversies in government.

Constitutionalists value the constitution as our founders envisioned

If you’re a constitutionalist, you value the constitution as our founders envisioned. You believe in limited government and individual rights. You believe that the constitution is a living document that judges can interpret, but only within the meaning of its original intent.

Constitution preamble
Freedom and liberty are cherished by constitutionalists.

A constitutionalist wishes to see our nation return to its roots and restore the values of freedom and liberty on which our country was founded. If you’re a constitutionalist, you believe that the constitution is the highest law of the land, and it should be followed as written.

Constitutionalists are not anarchists or socialists. They don’t want to abolish government or redistribute wealth through social programs. Instead, they want to ensure that government only does what it’s supposed to do and nothing more.

Rights and limitations of government

The constitution is a document that sets forth rights and limitations on government, limits the scope of government power, and protects against undue encroachment by other branches. These limits are necessary to secure individual liberty in our society.

The first ten amendments to the constitution (the Bill of Rights) protect individuals from abuses by the federal government in areas such as:

  • speech, religion, and assembly
  • prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures
  • establishing due process protections for criminal defendants
  • guaranteeing citizens’ rights to keep and bear arms
  • forbidding quartering soldiers in private homes during times of peace without consent from those who live there
  • providing that no state may deprive any person of life without due process of law nor deny any person their liberty without due process of law.

Constitutionalists want to live in a free country

Freedom is an important part of the constitution because it gives people the right to choose their own path in life and make their own decisions. If someone tries to take away your freedom or your right as a human being, they’re doing something wrong, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want them telling you what to do!

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty.

God gave us these rights, so why shouldn’t everyone else have those same freedoms? That’s what makes America great, and everyone has equal access no matter who they are or where their family comes from.

Constitutionalists embrace the constitution and what it stands for

If you’re a constitutionalist, then you believe that our Founding Fathers wrote the constitution for us to be free. The constitution was written so that we could succeed. And it was also written so that each of us would have the ability to pursue happiness as we saw fit.

But this isn’t just about freedom and independence. It’s also about being able to make our own decisions, the kinds of decisions that affect only ourselves and do not harm others. In other words, it means having control over our own lives.

As constitutionalist Mark Levin states: “We don’t want society telling us what kind of clothes we can wear or what TV shows we can watch or how much water we should drink every day. Those are personal choices.”

Constitutionalists believe we should be free and have the ability to succeed

The founders of the United States were constitutionalists. They believed in freedom, and that person should be able to succeed, but they also believed that the government has a right to protect itself from foreign powers and domestic threats. In short, they wanted us to be free but not at the expense of our safety.

Mount Rushmore
The Founding Fathers were constitutionalists.

In today’s political climate, many people have become disillusioned with both major parties because they don’t believe their representatives are following through on their promises or upholding our founding principles as outlined in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution (the enumerated powers). 

These individuals refer to themselves as “constitutionalists” because they value our founding document and want this country to live up to its potential by putting it into practice once again.

The History of Constitutionalism

The origins of constitutionalism can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. The Greek city-state of Athens is often considered the birthplace of constitutionalism, with its famous Constitution of Athens, which was created in the 4th century BCE.

The Roman Republic also had a constitution known as the Twelve Tables, which was created in the 5th century BCE.

Roman Colloseum at dusk
The Roman Republic also had a constitution.

The concept of constitutionalism began to spread beyond Greece and Rome during the European Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The French philosopher Montesquieu is often credited with being one of the first to articulate the principles of constitutionalism in his work The Spirit of the Laws, published in 1748. 

The American Revolution in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789 were also influential in spreading the ideals of constitutionalism.

Constitutionalism continued to develop throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1867, Canada became one of the first countries to adopt a constitution when it enacted its Constitution Act. 

In the 20th century, many countries around the world transitioned from authoritarian regimes to constitutional democracies after World War II.

D-day reenactment
There was a growth in constitutional democracies following WWII.

The Key Principles of Constitutionalism

There are three key principles of constitutionalism: separation of powers, the rule of law, and representative democracy.

  • Separation of powers is the principle that the different branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) should be kept separate from each other to prevent abuse of power.
  • The rule of law is the principle that the government must operate within the bounds of the law and that individuals are subject to the same laws as everyone else.
  • Representative democracy is the principle that the people should elect representatives to govern on their behalf.

The Benefits of Constitutionalism

There are many benefits to constitutionalism, such as the following:

  • It ensures that the government is limited in its power and that the people have certain rights that cannot be taken away.
  • It protects against dictatorship and tyranny by ensuring that there are checks and balances on government power.
  • It allows for democracy and rule by law, as opposed to rule by force or arbitrary decision-making.
  • It promotes stability and order by setting out clear rules and procedures for the government to follow.

The Challenges of Constitutionalism

The challenges of constitutionalism are many and varied, but the concept of the constitutional rule of law has prevailed in many countries around the world. 

There are a number of challenges that constitutionalism faces around the world.

  • One of the most significant is the rise of populism and nationalism, which has led to a questioning of the value of constitutionalism and democracy.
  • Another challenge is the increasing power of executive branch institutions, which has led to a weakening of checks and balances and the rule of law.
  • Additionally, globalization has led to increased pressure on national sovereignty, and technological advances have made it easier for governments to surveil their citizens, raising concerns about privacy and civil liberties.

Despite these challenges, however, constitutional rule continues to be an important form of government worldwide. Many countries have written constitutions that set the boundaries of government power and protect individual rights and liberties.

And even in those countries without formal written constitutions, such as the United Kingdom (a constitutional monarchy without a codified constitutional text), there are still important formal and informal constraints on government power.

The Future of Constitutionalism

The future of constitutionalism is likely to be shaped by a number of factors, including the continued growth of globalization, the increasing power of supranational organizations, and the rise of new technologies. 

shipping containers
Globalization could shape constitutionalism in the future.

These trends are likely to challenge traditional conceptions of sovereignty and the nation-state and may lead to the development of new forms of constitutionalism.

However, sometimes the future of constitutionalism seems uncertain. The pressures of population growth and globalization will likely increase the demand for increased government power and centralization, which could undermine constitutionalism in some countries. 

At the same time, the spread of democracy has led many developing nations to adopt written constitutions that protect individual rights and freedoms. 

A country with a written constitution is more likely to have an independent judiciary that protects those rights. This can be an important check on the power of government officials, as exemplified by the authority of the United States Supreme Court.

Constitutionalism Around the World

The rise of populism and authoritarianism has led to a decline in the global status of constitutionalism. While the global financial crisis and 9/11 have given birth to several opportunities for populism to grow, they failed to make much of an impact in Europe. 

A more comprehensive understanding of constitutional government and the relationship between populism and constitutionalism is necessary to understand the complexities of constitutionalism and the changing political world. While this debate has a long way to go, we should remain vigilant and aware of its roots.

graffiti
The rise of authoritarianism is a threat to constitutionalism.

As we continue to develop a global model of living constitutionalism, it is important to recognize that there is no one path to the end. It is a complex web of practices and actors. There is no one complete world constitutional order, and it is important to recognize the messy forms of contestation. 

Further, we need to pay attention to the different types of actors that are trying to achieve the end goal. For instance, in the case of the United States, it is impossible to talk about one constitutionalism without considering the political context of another.

As the debate on constitutional limits continues, some countries have a more entrenched constitutional system. While this is problematic in many instances, the debate over whether or not to allow unwritten laws to exist in a nation has largely been settled with Marbury v. Madison.

In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that a country’s constitution must have limitations. Otherwise, it will become a de facto dictatorship.

We Should All Be Constitutionalists

Every day, you’re faced with a choice, are you a constitutionalist or not?

The answer is simple, but it’s not easy. If you want to be a constitutionalist, you must do the hard work of being one and make the right choices to stand up for what’s right in your life. 

And that means sometimes saying no when everyone else says yes. It also means:

  • standing up against bullies and bullies of government.
  • taking care of yourself first before taking care of anyone else.
  • living by your own rules instead of letting someone else tell you how to live or what rights are yours or how much money should be in your bank account at any given time (and these are just some examples).

American Constitutionalism

I hope this article has helped you to understand what a constitutionalist is and why we should all be constitutionalists. The constitution is the most important thing we have as Americans because it guarantees specific rights. We should all be proud of our country’s history and want to continue living in a free nation that gives us the opportunity to succeed.

One Response

  1. Great review on the Constitution ! I find this is a keeper for hoping going back to college and getting a degree in the Constitution Law ! Thanks !

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