Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson explained to conservative columnist George Will Sunday that the Constitution is not an “anti-evolutionary device.”
“There’s a retrospective cast naturally built into our politics, but what has happened today is a large number of Americans, this one included, believe that the somewhat promiscuous expansion of government power in recent years, raises questions about whether we still have a government of limited, delegated and enumerative powers,” Will told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour during a discussion about whether the Constitution was still valid.
“Wow, I think this retrospective cast that George Will refers to is absolutely right,” Dyson replied. “But there are some gaps, some holes, gulfs, abysses. You read the Constitution and the Congress but ‘Oops, I forgot the part about slavery.’ You talk about women and people of color who have been distorted, relegated to the margins and all together seen as marginalia. I think the Constitution is a powerful, living, vibrant document. I think it’s been hijacked by people with narrow, vicious and parochial visions.”
He continued: “I think the assertion that we, of all people, this generation is somehow vulnerable to rebuff the Constitution is like a regalian problem: You think that your generation is the greatest generation and the apotheosis of history finds its resting place point in you. Slow down. The point is the Constitution is it’s durable, it’s powerful. Because of its flexibility, black people and others are able to argue their way into an American identity in a vision for democracy that initially they were barred from, so I think that it’s powerful.”
“To say the Constitution is a living, evolving document as you did, is almost oxymoronic,” Will argued. “A constitution is supposed to freeze things. It is an anti-evolutionary device as Justice Scalia said. It is intended to put certain things beyond the reach of transient majorities.”
“That’s all great on paper, which is where it’s written,” Dyson shot back. “When it makes the transition from parchment to pavement, there again is the rub. The reality is when I talk about the document being living and vital, I’m talking about the interpretation of it. I’m talking about the meaning of it.”
Watch this video from ABC’s This Week, broadcast July 3, 2011.