Re-examining the Constitution

September 7, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 31
Are major changes needed?
By Kenneth Jost


The Declaration of Independence and Constitution are preserved at the National Archives in Washington (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
The Declaration of Independence and Constitution are preserved at the National Archives in Washington. As the Constitution's 225th anniversary approaches, Americans appear more divided about the nation's founding document than they were 25 years ago. (Getty Images/Alex Wong)

The 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution finds Americans in a less celebratory mood than they were during the Bicentennial a quarter-century ago. The Constitution's intricate system of checks and balances and separation of powers is sometimes blamed for the political gridlock in Washington. Some of the basic structural features are also viewed as outmoded, such as the Electoral College, equal representation for each state in the Senate and life tenure for Supreme Court justices. And many conservatives and libertarians, including the Tea Party movement, complain that the federal government has taken on powers beyond what the Constitution was intended to allow. Simmering discontent on both the left and the right has led to efforts to force Congress to call a convention to propose constitutional amendments. Public opinion polls indicate, however, that most Americans view the Constitution favorably.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Constitution and Separation of Powers
Sep. 07, 2012  Re-examining the Constitution
Jan. 29, 1988  Treaty Ratification
Mar. 27, 1987  Bicentennial of the Constitution
Jan. 31, 1986  Constitution Debate Renewed
Mar. 16, 1979  Calls for Constitutional Conventions
Jul. 04, 1976  Appraising the American Revolution
Sep. 12, 1973  Separation of Powers
Jul. 12, 1972  Treaty Ratification
Apr. 19, 1967  Foreign Policy Making and the Congress
Mar. 05, 1947  Contempt of Congress
May 10, 1945  The Tariff Power
Jul. 01, 1943  Executive Agreements
Jun. 01, 1943  Advice and Consent of the Senate
May 24, 1943  Modernization of Congress
Jan. 18, 1943  The Treaty Power
Aug. 24, 1942  Congress and the Conduct of War
May 09, 1940  Congressional Powers of Inquiry
Nov. 09, 1939  Participation by Congress in Control of Foreign Policy
Apr. 21, 1937  Revision of the Constitution
Feb. 24, 1936  Advance Opinions on Constitutional Questions
Oct. 04, 1935  Federal Powers Under the Commerce Clause
Jun. 19, 1935  The President, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court
Sep. 10, 1928  The Senate and the Multilateral Treaty
Dec. 16, 1926  The Senate's Power of Investigation
Oct. 03, 1924  Pending Proposals to Amend the Constitution
U.S. Constitution