Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust by Jack M. Balkin

By Jack M. Balkin

Political constitutions, hammered out through imperfect humans during periods of excessive political controversy, are consistently compromises with injustice. What makes the U.S. structure valid, argues this bold publication, is Americans’ enduring religion that the Constitution’s grants can sometime be redeemed, and the constitutional procedure be made “a extra excellent union.”

A major constitutional theorist, Balkin argues eloquently that the yank constitutional undertaking relies in religion, desire, and a story of shared redemption. Our trust that the structure will convey us from evil exhibits within the tales we inform each other approximately the place our kingdom got here from and the place it's headed, and within the manner we use those historic touchstones to justify our fervent (and hostile) political creeds. simply because americans have believed in a narrative of constitutional redemption, we've got assumed the perfect to choose for ourselves what the structure potential, and feature labored to cajole others to set it at the correct course. for this reason, constitutional ideas have usually shifted dramatically through the years. they're, actually, frequently political compromises in disguise.

What will this type of structure turn into? we can't be aware of. yet our trust within the legitimacy of the structure calls for a jump of faith—a gamble at the final vindication of a political venture that has already survived many follies and near-catastrophes, and whose future continues to be over the horizon.

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Additional resources for Constitutional Redemption: Political Faith in an Unjust World

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What actually did happen (and is still in the process of happening) falls somewhere in between these two possibilities: a Civil War that took half a million lives, a new birth of freedom in the form of three constitutional amendments and early civil rights legislation, a bitterly resisted Reconstruction that was ultimately abandoned to White “Redeemer” governments, a slow descent into legally enforced apartheid, a gradual bestowal of basic civil rights and liberties to blacks, and a fitful and unsteady march of progress toward full citizenship that has left African Americans still largely segregated in housing and schools and with lower life expectancies, higher infant mortality rates, greater 47 L E G I T I M A C Y A N D FA I T H rates of incarceration, smaller average incomes, and fewer job opportunities than whites as a group.

These stories help us understand the situation we are currently facing and the ways we should respond to it. They give us roles to fill and obligations to fulfill. Narrative justifications are persuasive when they draw upon and make sense in terms of our narratively constituted identities. The stories we tell about ourselves are full of normative lessons: They explain who we are, where we came from, what we have done, what we have yet to do, what we stand for, what promises we made to ourselves, what we hope for, what we fear, what we said we must never let happen again, and what we said we must make happen again.

As I explain in Chapter 8, this project is perfectly consistent with each generation’s fidelity to the original meaning of the Constitutional text. The mistake of originalism as it has been conventionally understood is that it confuses the meaning of the text with how the adopters expected the text would be applied. It takes too seriously the concrete understandings of a past generation. It mistakes past compromises with injustice for the meaning of justice. It mistakes our fallen condition for our rightful condition.

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