More on the Constitution Day Address

Here is one portion of FDR’s 1937 Constitution Day Address that deserves attention:

The surest protection of the individual and of minorities is that fundamental tolerance and feeling for fair play which the Bill of Rights assumes. But tolerance and fair play would disappear here as it has in some other lands if the great mass of people were denied confidence in their justice, their security and their self-respect. 

This passage reflects a very British understanding of a Constitution (in other words, norms are more important than text). When thinking about the current state of our politics, though, tolerance and fair play are in short supply. This is a serious problem, more so than a defect in institutions or doctrine. A Supreme Court decision, for example, holding that excess partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional treats the symptom rather than the cause. I am not sure how to restore these sentiments, though reaching out to those who lack confidence in their justice, security, and self-respect might be a good start.

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