Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., took to the House floor yesterday to point out one of many uncomfortable realities that Constitution originalists like to gloss over: the original document had some pretty deep flaws and intrinsic contradictions. In a tea party-inspired stunt, the House GOP kicked off the 112th Congress by having members read the full text of the Constitution. But they chose not to read the original version, along with the 27 Amendments that altered it. Rather, they redacted the ugly parts about counting blacks as three-fifths of a person. Jackson objected and said he and others were concerned,
… when we were informed, for example, that the three-fifths clause would not be mentioned and that other elements of the Constitution which justify why some of us fight for programs in the Congress will not be written [sic] in the redacted version. It is of consequence to who we are.
Of consequence indeed. Later, Jackson’s office elaborated in a written statement:
There is a broad body of law and interpretation that has developed from 1787 until the adoption of the last Amendment in 1992 that has turned our Constitution into a living document, paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of millions of Americans from the Revolutionary War, through the Civil War to even our current conflicts.
“The new Republican majority and their redacted Constitutional reading gives little deference to the long history of improving the Constitution and only seeks an interpretation of our Constitution based on the now, not the historic, broad body of law and struggle that it has taken to get there. It leaves out the need to continue to refine the Constitution so that we have a more perfect union.
Dom Apollon, who is research director of our publisher the Applied Research Center, digs into Jackon’s latter point in a Colorlines essay today. Check it out here.