The first two articles of the US Constitution place control in the hands of two classified groups: the legislature and the president. The people chosen to fulfill those roles are elected by a third, greater power: the people. Although they all carry influence and power, there is a gradation of importance between these groups, especially the ones within the government. Yet I must wonder, how prominent is this gradation?
We are first introduced to the importance of each group in similar passages in Articles I and II. Regarding representatives, the Constitution states, “No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States,” (Article I, Section 2) whereas for the president, “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.” (Article II, Section 1) The annotation of that first quotation states that unlike representatives, senators must be 30 years old, and 9 years a citizen. (p. 2) From this information, we can conclude that from least to most important, we can rank the jobs: representatives, senators, president. Although this is not surprising, it is important to establish the hierarchical aspects within the constitution when discussing the division of power.
On the other hand, reading the Constitution has debunked some of those same ideas that the president is the leader—the one who is completely in charge— and that everyone else has a minor role below him. Realistically, the president’s principal jobs are approving bills (Article I, Section 7), commanding the Militia (Article II, Section 2), making treaties (Article II, Section 2), appointing other government officials, and (not to be an elastic clause) other roles not specifically stated. The legislature’s duties are much more extensive, hence the fact that Article I is much longer than Article II. This had led me to realize that having the “executive Power” is not what it seems. Now, I am not minimizing the role, because I fully comprehend that being the president involves a great deal of work that is not mentioned in the Constitution. What I am saying, however, is that in terms of laws and regulation of the US, the nation is not as reliant on this figurehead than I previously thought.
The House has a (more) democratic system involving direct representation: when there are more people within a state, there are more representatives (Article I, Section 2). The senate resembles a republic, in the sense that each state has two elected senators, regardless of the size of the state (Article I, Section 3), meaning that it does not represent the people to scale. We like to call the United States a democracy, and yet the Constitution is a, if not the primary historical document used. The combination of these republican systems along with the non-existent mention of democracy in the Constitution shows that perhaps we have been using the word to express what we want for the nation, not what we have.
When entering Office, the president must take the oath, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (Article II, Section 1) So, in essence, they are seeking to defend the constitution, not the people. Consider what this oath protected before the amendments. To oversimplify, it would be white males. Even presently, the president is referred to as, “he” throughout the Constitution, reaffirming the belief that white men were the only beings considered “people”. If the president’s role us to uphold the Constitution, will change ever occur? Amendments change the Constitution, but to what extent?
The first two Articles of the Constitution explain the current division of power in the United States, according to a group of white men in 1787. Since then, 27 amendments have been made to this document that the US has deemed a necessary part of their government. And who knows, maybe it is essential. Maybe it will continue being the primary historical document they use in the leadership of their nation. However, I must ask, will there ever be a point where we have make so many amendments that we realize the Constitution is outdated? Is it still the best system for an evolving nation such at this one?