Consider constitutional redemption from the perspective of the government obligation to fill in potholes. Filling in potholes is an important government activity. People tend to regard government as legitimate when government fills in potholes and performs similar tasks effectively. Constitutions are designed so that government will be led by people who know how to fill in potholes or at least know who to call when a pothole needs filling in. The most important constitutional question in 2011, as Sandy Levinson never tires of reminding us, is whether the Constitution of the United States (or many state constitutions) provides a means of staffing the government and making rules that enables government to do a decent job filling in potholes.
The central problem constitutionalists must face is how can we get people who agree on the need to fill in potholes to cooperate when they disagree on same-sex marriage, affirmative action, prayer in public schools and other obsessions of American constitutional theory. Most constitutions rely on some combination of the following two strategies. The first is to come up with some compromise, deeply unsatisfying to everyone, which nevertheless enables people to believe they are better off cooperating and filling in the potholes, than standing on principle and confronting impassable streets. The second is for the constitution to combine vague generalities that each side can declare with some plausibility supports their position with a set of political procedures that prevent one side from imposing too much of their view on the other unless they have successful persuaded pretty much all relevant elites that they are correct.
Some times, the resulting constitutional politics permit us to talk about our differences over principle, with the winners being those who mobilize the most people. But sometimes we just have to live with each other. My spouse is not going to become a New York Giant football fan, my home office will always be a mess, the University of Maryland Law School (where I work) is not going to relocate to northern New England, the United States (where I live) is not going to place strong limits on how much money a person can make. Whether some ketubah, contract or constitution might be interpreted to require a different result is beside the point. Living with other people entails abandonment that redemption is likely to occur on your terms. The real constitutional question is whether we are better off living with the Tea Party or moving elsewhere (or following the sainted Abraham Lincoln, ordering troops to shoot those with whom we have a constitutional disagreement).
The constitution is redeemed in this view when our debates over all the constitutionally peripheral issues (slavery, fundamental human rights, basic dignity and equality of all human beings, etc.) do not interfere with government capacity to fill in potholes. By placing fundamental human rights at the core of constitutionalism, I think we reverse priorities. Constitutions are not about redeeming deep foundational principles. They are about potholes, the mundane things in our lives that we all agree government should do, and under a good constitution, government will do well.