How Can the U.S. Constitution Be Acknowledged in a Time of Political Polarization?

Experts Report: Chicago-Kent College of Law Associate Professor Carolyn Shapiro



By Olivia Dimmer
Chicago-Kent College of Law Associate Professor Carolyn Shapiro


One of the things I really hope people take away from this Constitution Day is the importance of having commitment to the fundamental principles of our democratic government.

One of the things that means is that when our side wins, we have to be gracious winners and when our sides loses we have to be gracious losers. That means things like extreme partisan gerrymandering and voter suppression are, in their own way, much more problematic then losing any particular policy dispute because they go to undermining the fundamental principles of the democracy.

One of the things that the Constitution is designed to prevent is tyranny. So that's why we have separation of powers at our federal government; that's also why we have both state governments and a federal government that have overlapping but not identical forms of power.

One of the principles behind separation of powers is that the different branches of the federal government will check each other. We've all heard about checks and balances.

What we're seeing right now, with extreme polarization, is that many of our elected officials appear to have more allegiance to the party than to their branch of government or to the oversight and checks and balances that they should be paying more attention to.