The ideological origins of the
Constitution can be traced back to the birth of the revolution, where a group
of colonists would refute the taxes imposed on them by their English superiors,
this would lead to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, and follow
directly into the Revolutionary War. Since the inception of the United States of America, there has always been
a lingering question on what form of authority best suits this country, while
freedom was won at the expense of the Great British Empire, the colonies
struggled to devise a plan that would ensure that America would never become a
monarchy. While the popular opinion was for states to be purely independent
from one another, there was still a large group of people trying to create a
national government, distinctly different from the one Americans had just
defected from. As a result an Articles of Confederation came into play, this
would ensure that the smaller states would still have a fair amount of seats in
the House of Representatives, foreshadowing the great struggle between federal
and state power in America.

            During the mid 1800’s, the movement against slavery began
in America,
mostly in the northern states, but this would be the first stone casted towards
a giant ripple effect that would tear the country in half. The subject of
dispute was over slavery, while many northern states had a strong abolitionist
movement, headed by people like Frederick Douglass, the south voiced their
opinions on why they should be able to preserve the institution of slavery. As
the national opinion moved towards ending slavery, the southern states wouldn’t
allow this to pass easily, claiming their rights as a state as a means to keep
slavery alive. Because of the lack of federal power, the government had no way
to legally end slavery, there was no agreement at the time which would have
allowed the south’s wished to keep slavery to be nullified, this is one of the
first instances where the Constitution was deemed useless towards solving a
national crisis.

As a
civil war erupted, it was clear that the Constitution in its current state
isn’t powerful enough to unite all the states nor keep them in line. After the
south surrendered and the civil war ended, additions to the Constitution were
in place to make sure that a civil war over slavery would never happen again. A
new set of amendments were added, these 3 amendments would make sure that
slavery was abolished, and that anyone born in the United States was automatically an
equal citizen. Congress was also granted more power to act as a national
government that could overrule a state’s attempt to deny anyone their
liberties. The 14th amendment, the one which grants a person born in America
their liberties, would be the one that helped spark the civil rights movement,
while also giving a boost to minority rights, social equality, and individual
freedom in their battle against majority rules.

            The civil rights movement would span about 100 years,
from the end of the civil war, to the official creation of the civil rights
act, which made any sort of discrimination based off race illegal, meaning that
the southern states, where segregation was practiced, would have to be terminated.
Even though this act would come long after the addition of the 14th amendment,
it proves that the Constitution has evolved in a positive manner throughout its
existence, but even with all the progress that has been made, there are still
many issues that stem from the Constitution that negatively affect Americans
today. The rights and freedoms of minorities are still subject to the power of
the state, the Constitution even with all the additional amendments is still
not powerful enough to override every state law, so as a result there are
scenarios in which minority rights are practically waived by the powers they
reside under.

            Just look at the state of Kentucky, where convicted felons all lose
their right to vote, regardless if they fully serve their sentence and
reintegrate themselves into society. Tanna Fogel’s insight on this voting
disparity brings up a very serious question, is it ethical for state’s to waive
the voting rights for convicted felons? Historically, the Constitution has been
used to override unethical state laws, but in this instance the Constitution
has written itself into a corner, only contributing to the injustice instead of
trying to prevent it. Morally, it is wrong to deny people their rights after
they have served their debt to society, and when Kentucky, a state with a
population of less than 5 million, is preventing 250,000 people from voting,
and this loophole is how a state can set social equality back 50 years.

The
Voting Act was deemed a right in the 1960’s but still people like Tanna Fogel
are unable to reclaim their right to vote because when the 14th amendment was
drafted, it included a clause which allowed states to bar anyone convicted of a
crime from voting upon discretion, meaning most felons will have their right to
vote taken away and the state doesn’t have to answer to anyone for it. This
practice isn’t exclusive to the state of Kentucky either, there are 12 states
which practically ban felons from voting for the rest of their life, which adds
up to 5.5 million people, clearly the voting demographic is heavily swayed by
this practice, and this is certainly something that needs to be fixed or edited
in the Constitution due to how it prohibits individual freedom and social
equality. If states can still navigate their way around federal power, and
create laws that are against individual freedom and restrict the rights of
minorities, how can we say that America
is a free country?

The Constitution isn’t a
perfect document, while it has evolved dramatically over the course of its
existence, there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially when it
comes to state voting laws, but for the most part it has helped the United States
become a better country. The truth is that there will always be a struggle
between the states and the federal government, whether it be about laws,
resources, or political preference, each side will always look for a way to
gain the upper hand on one another. For the most part neither side is right now
wrong, but for the select instances Americans should be thankful that there is
a Constitution which can override state power, and eradicate hateful bodies of
power like the South in the Civil War and later during the Civil Rights
Movement. Hopefully in the near future the laws regarding felons voting rights
is fixed and corrected in the Constitution, which should happen, because if the
Constitution isn’t evolving with the time it is too easy for the states to
exploit.

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