Rule of Law

The Constitution in a Modern Context

Constitutionalism is a great idea, but it’s not a new one to Charles Krauthammer [“Constitutionalism,” op-ed, Jan. 7] or House Republicans. Rather, it is the genius of framers such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, and “We the People,” who established a constitutional republic more than 220 years ago.

Mr. Krauthammer’s attempt to claim the Constitution as his own is an offensive, if standard, trope of conservatives. But the difference between constitutional progressives and constitutional conservatives is not about whether to follow the Constitution, but about what the Constitution requires and allows, particularly when it comes to the powers of the federal government.

In that regard, the best moment of the reading of the Constitution on the House floor last week came when Tea Party firebrand Rep. Allen B. West (R-Fla.) was forced to read the Constitution’s “necessary and proper” clause, known by the framers as the “sweeping clause” for the powers it granted to the national government. Hopefully, after reading the document out loud, Mr. West and his fellow conservatives should have a better idea of what constitutionalism is all about.

Doug Kendall, Washington

The writer is president of the Constitutional Accountability Center.