By Jack M. Balkin
Political constitutions, hammered out by way of imperfect humans during periods of severe political controversy, are consistently compromises with injustice. What makes the U.S. structure valid, argues this bold booklet, is Americans’ enduring religion that the Constitution’s delivers can sometime be redeemed, and the constitutional process be made “a extra ideal union.”
A best constitutional theorist, Balkin argues eloquently that the yankee constitutional venture relies in religion, desire, and a story of shared redemption. Our trust that the structure will bring us from evil exhibits within the tales we inform each other approximately the place our state got here from and the place it truly is headed, and within the approach we use those ancient touchstones to justify our fervent (and antagonistic) political creeds. simply because american citizens have believed in a narrative of constitutional redemption, we have now assumed the correct to choose for ourselves what the structure capacity, and feature labored to cajole others to set it at the correct direction. accordingly, constitutional rules have frequently shifted dramatically over the years. they're, in reality, frequently political compromises in disguise.
What will any such structure develop into? we won't recognize. yet our trust within the legitimacy of the structure calls for a bounce of faith—a gamble at the final vindication of a political venture that has already survived many follies and near-catastrophes, and whose future continues to be over the horizon.
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Additional info for Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World
Why is the promise made in the Declaration of Independence our promise, and why is the burden of redemption our burden? This brings me to my third and final point. The narrative argument is a claim about Americans as a people. Narrative arguments are appeals to collective memory—a stock of stories that bind people together and make them a people. Nations, peoples, and collectivities of all kinds see themselves as existing over time and across generations because they understand themselves in terms of stories about who they are and how they came to be.
14 All of this suggests that as soon as we begin to specify constitutional essentials, the notion of what every “reasonable” person believes becomes quite controversial. Another approach would be to define the contract for legitimacy with the text of the Constitution. Whatever is in the text is in the contract. But the text of the Constitution really does not tell us enough about what it permits, requires, or forbids. It does not provide enough information about the nature of the deal to justify everyone’s reasonable assent to state coercion.
But of course, I left some things out and emphasized others. I offered my interpretation of the facts, and asked you to agree with my interpretation. That is how one argues with stories. The constitutional theory I have offered in the last few pages is selfconsciously organized around a national narrative of redemption. According to this story our system of government has a point, a trajectory: It works toward the realization in history of the promises made in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World by Jack M. Balkin