People spend endless hours writing and editing wedding vows. Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that it took 116 days for the Continental Congress to write the U.S. Constitution, aka national vows on how to form a more perfect union. And, with the U.S. divorce rate reported to be between 40-50%, it likely should come as no surprise either that our approval of modern sitting presidents — regardless of the party in power — also rarely reaches higher than a 45% according to Gallup. The moral: No matter who our spouse, or president, we can always find things to dislike. Sometimes we choose to work it out. Sometimes divorce is in order.
The Constitution starts much like wedding vows calling for “domestic Tranquility,” and the desire to secure “Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Yet even our first president was cautious about the country’s chances. “Washington,” writes John Avlon in his book Washington’s Farewell, “understood that utopian dreams often turn into nightmares.”
Related Post: What Would GeorgeWashington Do?
Much has been made of Trump’s historical low approval rating for a new president — falling in the low 30% range. However, even Plain Speaking Harry Truman, who ended his terms at a 45% approval rating and famous for his “buck stops here” statement once hit a low 22% approval rating, notably for Korea. Even then, America’s ‘utopian’ dreams of a unified, democratic Korea turned into a nightmare the current administration is still facing.
But, back to the Constitution — especially in a time with newly confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch purporting to be an Originalist, someone who believes the Constitution should be interpreted “as written” rather than as a “living document.”
Avalon notes that Washington wrote his own misgivings about the Constitution to Patrick Henry as:
I wish the Constitution which is offered had been made more perfect, but I sincerely believe it is the best that could be obtained at this time.”
Later writings continue to show that he believed in starting somewhere, and hoping that future generations could add wisdom rather than accept the document as infallible.
Like most weddings, our country and Constitution started out with the best of intentions. Like long, strong marriages, perhaps we now all need to learn to adapt, compromise, and grow together rather than grow apart. That might mean starting new political parties, spending time listening to alternate points of view, or supporting moderate efforts such as NoLabels.org. It doesn’t mean to stop fighting for what you believe is right, but it might mean sometimes fighting differently.
Fighting differently is what MoveOn.org is now adopting from the Indivisible Manifesto, based on the success of the Tea Party movement. Reintroducing the concept of compromise is what the new No Labels Caucus is trying to achieve in Congress.
When citing their vows, most brides and grooms are optimistic about their chances of beating the divorce odds, as well they should be. A 2016 report in Time found that divorce rates are continuing to drop and hit a 40-year low, with much of the new found marriage stamina attributed to the rise of women in the workforce and feminism. People are going into marriage when older, wiser and with their eyes wide open.
We don’t have to stay married to a particular party, jump into bed with any president, or stay true to any ideology unless it truly serves the greater good — the more perfect union. Here are three small steps you can take to explore this concept a bit more before jumping the broom to any one ideology.
- Listen or Read Helen Fisher and Krista Tippet’s discussion on Love, Sex and the Brain. Think about how strongly you might want to stay married to any romantic idea about how things should be including the state of this country.
- Read up on tricks to a long, happy marriage. Think about how we all could apply them to a long, happy “more perfect” union as individual citizens and a country of mutual obligations.
- Check out posts on Constitutional Originalism and see where you stand on interpretation versus textualism.
Perhaps our personal relationships show us the path of least resistance and best recourse for democratic progress. Take a step back and consider if a more mature path may lie in NOT being so blindly in love with our own Constitution as it was, or even is now, but instead being in strong like and deep respect for what it offers us for the longer term.