Quick Civics Lesson on the Constitution

A number of Presidential candidates and their supporters will often accuse the current administration of destroying the Constitution and promising to restore the Constitution if they are elected. It seems to me that perhaps while they carry around a copy in their suit pocket, under their flag pin, they either haven’t given it much more than a glance or they’re in denial about what some of it means. Frankly, I sometimes suspect that they’re only giving it lip service so that they can accuse others of disrespecting it and make themselves sound like they themselves wrote the thing.

As a public service, I’d like to offer a SUPER BRIEF review of of the U.S. Constitution here now. I majored in History in college and have taught 11th grade U.S. History and currently teach 8th grade Civics. But if for any reason you don’t trust me, or suspect bias, by all means please read over the entire Constitution itself; here’s a link you can click on right here.

Article One sets up the Legislative branch (Congress) which write law.
I’d like to highlight a couple of parts that members of Congress seem to mislead voters about during Presidential elections-

  • Section 8 paragraph 1 gives only Congress the power to raise or lower taxes- NOT the President
  • Sec.8 paragraph 2 give Congress (NOT the President) power to borrow money (ie raise the national debt).
  • Sec. 8 para. 4 gives the Federal government (NOT states, county sheriffs or local police departments) authority over naturalization and immigration.
  • Sec. 8 para.18 is sometimes called the “elastic clause” because it gives the Federal government the power to make whatever laws that are “necessary and proper” to carry out their duties. Fans of limited government sometimes have a hard time with this. People who HATE government usually just tend to ignore it.
  • Sec.9 Para.2 talks about the “Writ of Habeas Corpus” not being allowed to be suspended except in times of war- that’s supposed to mean that you can’t detain (hold someone’s person, habeas corpus) without charging them with a crime and providing the whole due process thing. A lot of people are concerned that ever since 9/11 and a law called the “Patriot Act,” this provision is frequently ignored.

Article Two sets up the Executive branch (President) who’s job it is to carry out (execute/enforce) laws & of course represent us to the rest of the world

Article Three sets up the Judicial branch, who’s role it is to make sure that laws are applied fairly & equally.

Articles Four through Seven pretty much lay out the general structure and function of the Federal government including a the separation of powers an a system of checks and balances so that none of the three branches become more powerful than the other two.

I promise I’m not speeding through to hide anything, I just promised you this would be “brief” and it’s already getting pretty long. Again, read it for yourself, click here for the U.S. Constitution. But I do want to highlight something that gives fits to people who hate the Federal government whether they’re Antifederalists, States Rights advocates, Corporatists who oppose regulation, Libertarians, Anarchists or Tea Party activists-

  • Article 6, Paragraph 2 is called the “Supremacy Clause” because it makes clear that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and while the whole point of Federalism is to share power with the states and local governments, ultimately any law or government action must align with the Constitution. This is important when we start talking about Constitutional rights provided by the Bill of Rights and other Constitutional Amendments.

Don’t let candidates tell you that they’re the ones who will follow the Constitution in one breath and then misquote, misinterpret, misapply, or violate it with an irresponsible policy or position in the very next breath. Since this has already gotten longer than I intended, I’ll save a discussion on those rights and amendments for another post. Please contribute to civil discussion or ask questions below, but don’t be a troll. I’m not here to fight, just to get people thinking. Thanks.




  1. Pingback: Quick Civics Lesson on 2nd Amendment | tedmallory
  2. Pingback: Quick Civics Lesson on Constitutional Rights (4th thru 26th) | tedmallory

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