The Good Booklet

February 25

The US Constitution is really short. Some people like to make a point by carrying it around in their pocket, and they can. It can be printed to be about the same size as a passport.

People like to make a lot of this important text. And many like to make a lot out of its smallness. They contrast this to the gargantuan size of current legislation. This is indeed an interesting contrast, but it may make the opposite point that they are trying to. Yes, current legislation is too long to read and understand and everything. They don’t ever say that legislation must be written shorter, mind you, they just like to imply that length=nefariousness, and let you draw negative conclusions. But legislation is long for a reason. Brevity is cute, but it leads to all manner of misinterpretation and dispute. Hello Constitution!

The Constitution is a great document, but as much for its existence as its exact contents. It was the signature document (not counting the Declaration) of the founding of American democracy. But the document itself got a few things, um, wrong. There is no getting around the fact that allocating two senators per state regardless of population is NOT DEMOCRACY, it was raw political compromise. Anything else? Oh, yeah, that little SLAVERY thing. Oops! But if you throw in the self-correcting Amendment process (which no longer functions) you have a more-or-less successful foundation of a self-governing nation.

But in recent years, the right has developed an odd fetishization of the document, in line with their weakness for inerrancy doctrine. This is because they think it mandates a colonial-sized government in 21st Century America.  It is the same kind of thing they do with the bible, which is why their hands are tied when they say they must condemn homosexuality. They are equally vehement in socially enforcing the biblical injunction: “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” (Leviticus 19:27)

They would like to sanctify the Constitution, right up there with the bible, but for the fact that it is, um, a secular political document. Or was! It’s just been upgraded!

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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Tom Toles · February 24