Battered, Bruised, and…Resilient? The U.S. Constitution’s Very Good Year

Given the overt, in-its-face and over-the-ramparts challenges the Constitution of the United States faced from January 6 onwards, any pundits envisioning a positive year for it would likely have been jeered right off their microphone or desk chair.

But perhaps we should look at this through an entirely different lens. Or perhaps, given the events of recent months, we might finally be able to do so.

It’s not that the Constitution wasn’t put under severe stress and strain in 2022 (and for several years before that, actually). After all, it doesn’t get much more overt than a full-scale, violent assault on the U.S Capitol with the intent to overturn our most sacred ritual of free and fair elections.

More overt still: a direct call last week from the recently deposed president to simply do away with the Constitution and all other “rules, regulations and articles” that might prevent him from being reinstalled in office. Here it is, in all its bald-faced fantasy and bravado:



One can search a long way back through U.S. history and come up empty with an equivalent, direct challenge to the Constitution from any prominent political figure, much less an ex-president.

But I have come to think it’s a mistake to conclude from these ongoing assaults upon our most precious and time-honored principles that the Constitution is in extraordinary peril.

I thought so as recently as a few months ago, but I have been sensing a change.

Two reasons for that, I think.

One is that the Constitution—as a living, breathing and relevant document in a more or less freewheeling and thus, almost by definition, rancorous democracy—is always in peril, always in need of our vigilance and devotion.

If we have learned nothing else from these tumultuous years, it is certainly that.

Democracy swings on a pendulum, subject to changing circumstances and the motivations of those who seek to subvert or dismantle it outright. (Every political system does, for that matter—all of them being human enterprises…)

And unlike Edgar Allen Poe’s famous pendulum tale, if we value our way of life, we had better not find ourselves strapped down and helpless in the pit, or even as disinterested bystanders out shopping or thumbing through celebrity magazines when the inevitable attempted encroachment comes from very interested parties looking to do us and our values harm.



The second reason lies in the results of the mid-term elections and the equally remarkable string (more than 60 and counting…) of judicial decisions, often from Trump-appointed judges, over two years now that have dismissed out of hand his claims of electoral fraud. More recently, his multiple efforts to derail the Justice Department and other agencies investigating his handling of classified documents, the 2020 election aftermath, his business practices, etc. etc. have also proven fruitless.

We should not underestimate the striking, across-the-board nature of these losses, starting on the electoral side in the spring with ex-senator David Perdue, Trump’s handpicked choice for Georgia governor. He was crushed (73.7% to 21.8%) by Trump’s arch-enemy Brian Kemp, who had refused to lend him a hand in overturning the presidential election.

All the other high-profile competitive races save one (J.D. Vance’s senate victory in Ohio) saw Trump-backed, election-denying candidates go down in flames: Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Dan Cox in Maryland, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, Tudor Dixon in Michigan, Kari Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona, Adam Laxalt in Nevada.

It was the nation’s fractured, hyper-partisan climate that became a near obsession for George Washington as his second term wound down…

Add that to the almost unprecedented minimal loss of seats in the House of Representatives by Democrats who were gifted with opponents squarely in the Trump-beholden election denial camp, and a clear pattern emerges. A decisive number of Republicans and independent voters said no to crazy, no to Q-Anon, no to Nazi sympathizers at an ex-president’s dinner table, no to secretary of state candidates who would not commit to accepting election results.

The result was to swing the election in favor of Democrats who seemed, well, normal.

Maybe those Democrats did not favor certain policies near and dear to those voters’ hearts, but the voters also knew that:

They would not burn the whole electoral house down.

They would not look on approvingly as armed insurrectionists scaled the Capitol walls in body armor, with ropes in hand  should they have the good fortune of cornering Mike Pence or Nancy Pelosi.

They would not go wholesale around the bend and beholden to a cult figure who is a demonstrably mentally ill narcissist, and whose relentless bleating of grievances about being wronged every single time he could not bully his way to decimating his opponents has finally, apparently, worn too thin for most voters to stomach.

No small matter, that.


One more point: none of us should ignore or forget the decidedly non-gauzy, fractious and combative tenor of our democracy at its very founding.

And that not all that much, if anything, has changed in the time since.

Politics in democracies may indeed entail a collective struggle for “a more perfect union,” but it is also a struggle for individual or group advantage in every area of life. And in a country as large and diverse as the United States was even at its founding, competing interests to secure that advantage were as much a threat to civil society then as we fear they are today.

It was the nation’s torn, hyper-partisan climate that became a near obsession for George Washington as his second term wound down, his voluntary retirement loomed, and he asked James Madison to help him craft a heart-felt farewell address to his country.

In it, he warned, with great worry that he also expressed in his personal correspondence of the time and in the years that followed, that the party system just then coming into vogue was dividing the nation into separate and bitter camps.

An excerpt:

”The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty.”

If that observation on the downside of political enmity gives you the queasy feeling that our first president had a dark foreboding of the kind of person who would  eventually become our 45th president, you have a lot of company across this country of ours:

“seek security and repose in the absolute power of the individual…turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty…”

Washington knew this because he had seen it in his own life, in his own time, in the torn, imperfect hearts of his fellow man navigating as best—and sometimes as worst—they could in trying times.

It was not new then, it is hardly new now. We too have seen it as a nation. And it seems to have sobered us enough to take note, and far more importantly, to take action.

Not that these recent actions will suffice in the long run. Nothing suffices for the long run without being renewed.

Politics is a slog in the (hopefully) long game of life, but getting it right—never perfect, because perfect is impossible—makes that life much less of a slog, and even paves the way for the joys attainable by freedom, which are considerable, and worth tending to in every time and country.



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3 comments to Battered, Bruised, and…Resilient? The U.S. Constitution’s Very Good Year

  • jeffrey cohen  says:

    I agree, Andrew. There’s no such thing as a one sided coin so there’s got to be a positive side to all that Voldemort has heaped upon us. Nonetheless, we should take the extra step of incarcerating him and give our founding docs a rest.

    Thanks, Andrew…..may I share far and wide?

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Stresses and strains build character, and resilience—in people, countries, trees, whatever. Of course, sometimes all those break, too, but not here, so far! The Constitution stands as one bulwark, but it wouldn’t amount to much with a corrupt judiciary. Problematic as the Supreme Court has been, they, along with a sizable contingent of Trump-appointed lower court judges, have refused to be his puppets. It’s heartening, but of course it enrages him—such disloyalty!

      Yes, thanks, please do share. It’s a public site, and encouraged!

  • Jay Helman  says:

    Having survived the horrors of The Civil War, the resiliency of The Constitution has long been of full display. The division of and fissures of that great conflict, however, have festered and fulminated barely under the surface for over a century and have recently resurfaced to pose the vey serious threat that we now face. I agree that the midterm losses of far-right candidates and the sensible stance of lower court judiciaries signals hope for the continued resiliency of our rule of law. We face a new test as the Jan 6 Committee has submitted its referrals to DOJ. I pray that Merrick Garland and his advisors have the courage to do what is right and move forward to demonstrate that no person or people are above the law.

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