One of the biggest reasons that people from many other countries have a hard time understanding why Americans do what they do and the reason the constitution is so very important is that they don’t fully understand what a constitutional republic is and what the basic idea is behind it. Indeed, a lot of people, including a substantial number of people in the US, are under the mistaken idea that the US is a democracy. The United States isn’t and never has been a democracy.
To understand the basis of a constitutional republic, it is necessary to understand the difference between that and a true democracy. The main difference is where the power is. In a democracy, people are elected to office and once they get in office, their power is nearly absolute, though they usually have checks and balances in place. The governmental leaders have the power and the citizenry are subservient.
In the US, a constitutional republic, the foundation of the government is based on a document, the constitution. The purpose of the constitution isn’t to say what the citizens are allowed to do and what they aren’t allowed to do. The constitution is specifically designed to state what the government can and cannot do.
In other words, it is similar to a democracy but reversed. The power specifically lies with the citizens. Although people are elected to high positions, such as President, Congressmen, and Senators, they are actually the ones who are subservient. In fact, there are constitutional provisions for removing someone from elected governmental office if they violate the constitution or if the people decide that the leader isn’t fulfilling their role.
The constitution is of tremendous importance because of all of this. It is designed to limit the power of the government so that the people remain as the power base. In fact, the sole purpose of the Supreme Court in the US is to make rulings on cases based upon the Constitution.
There is even a provision for changing or amending the constitution. It is lengthy, it requires the approval of the Congress and Senate, and it must then be ratified by two-thirds of the states, in order for an amendment to be put into place. However, it has been done in the past.
For example, the 18th amendment to the US Constitution prohibited the manufacture, transport, sale, or drinking of alcoholic beverages. It was passed in 1919 and went into effect after 2/3 of the states ratified it. It was a tremendously bad idea and was repealed in 1933, which also required 2/3 of the states to agree.
The constitution is extremely important for maintaining the power of the people and changes to it are a serious matter. This is one reason the 2nd Amendment hasn’t and shouldn’t be changed, and it is a major reason it probably won’t be anytime soon. This amendment prohibits the government from infringing on the rights of citizens to keep and bear firearms. In fact, some locations, notably California, are in direct violation of the constitution because the state government has taken it upon themselves to infringe on the rights of the citizens to keep and bear firearms. It is likely that the blatant violation of the constitution will be resolved in the near future, and the resolution probably won’t be taken very well by the state government in California, et. al.
The entire point is that the constitution is the basis of a constitutional republic and the purpose of the constitution is to limit the power of the government in regard to the citizens.