"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land." This is an excerpt from Article VI of our Constitution, unambiguously enumerating its purpose for every citizen within the U.S.
The Constitution reaches far beyond party lines or petty politics, as the Constitution is the foundation of American freedom, which the founders constructed nearly 250 years ago alongside the establishment of American democracy.
Since the nation’s founding, the final word of the Constitution as it was originally written was the supreme arbiter of legality, only changeable through the process of constitutional amendment. This is how it was in the America of the past. We now could be facing a much more different and darker future.
We are in an age where the Constitution is understood as outdated and antique, or the founders intended it be a living document capable of snap adjustments as the times evolve. This idea is a ridiculous one; the Constitution is monolithic and immutable, its words are law, and those who think otherwise have a flawed understanding of what the cornerstone of American democracy is built upon.
There are two distinct perspectives when analyzing the Constitution: the literalist perspective and progressive perspective. Beginning with the literalist view, according to Bruce Allen Murphy of the New York Times, "the Constitution was static, unchanging and enduring, and should only be changed by the voters through the amendment process."
This method is how the document should be viewed, else the foundation of American laws is unstable.
Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was one of the fiercest defenders for literalism as a constitutional philosophy. Scalia saw the dangers of evolving the Constitution firsthand by serving on the Supreme Court.
Scalia’s perspective, as reported by NPR, was formed by "the idea that it would be an enduring document, and that if there were going to be major changes in the way policies were implemented, that they would have to be done through the democratic process. And that you don't want to give judges too much power to make those kinds of decisions."
Supreme Court Justices operate with complete autonomy in regards to adjudication of American law. They are beholden to no one other than themselves in American government. Scalia argues the Constitution should, and must, serve as the basis of all Supreme Court decisions so they may stay grounded in traditional American values.
Justices interpreting law on the basis of the "spirit of the Constitution" as opposed to the enumerated text gives them free range to enforce their will to undermine the document without any form of legal backing or democratic vote, but solely on the opinion of nine judges.
The belief in the spirit of the Constitution is where the progressive perspective emerges.
Erwin Chermerinsky of The Guardian praises the progressive vision by claiming, "It does not try to deny the discretion of the justices … but instead says that discretion should be used to effectuate the underlying values of the constitution."
This fundamental belief is why progressivism in inherently dangerous. They put no value in the history or the rock-solid foundation the Constitution provides, but rather leave it to the opinion of each Justice to determine the constitutionality of a law.
Let me repeat myself, the progressive vision puts zero stock in the Constitution to determine the constitutionality of a law, as Article III directly enumerates is the job of the Supreme Court.
The reason progressives hold this absurd opinion is obvious: they are trying to support an agenda the Constitution is silent on, to expedite the implementation. Rather than endure the lengthy process of amending the constitution, the only legal way to change the document, mind you, they seek a lazy alternative and simply call their point of view "progressive."
Chermerinsky perfectly illustrates their intentions in saying "a progressive vision of constitutional law must seek to eliminate serious flaws in American democracy, such as the electoral college and racially discriminatory voting laws; champion criminal justice reform, including finally ending the death penalty and ensuring competent counsel for all criminal defendants; and fiercely defend privacy rights, including reproductive autonomy for women."
When it is a moral imperative to modernize how we read the Constitution to be more efficient to judge critical social issues, when coincidentally all these political issues happen to agree with traditional left-wing ideology, reason to be skeptical is obvious.
By its nature, the Constitution should reside above the political. Its content should transcend the partisan. When terms like “spirit of the Constitution,” and “living document,” are employed, they are meant to undermine this inherent truth.