Like the term “biblical,” this word is often used to confirm the goodness of some proposition and sometimes taken for granted as something others should accept without question.
It’s not hard to see in America conversation, however, the degree to which the word “constitutional” means very different things to different people. To conservative thinkers, the word refers to the “original intent” of the founding fathers - underscoring the ideas and beliefs that were prevalent in the late 18th century. The implications typically include a firm belief in property rights, freedom of contract, and the autonomy of state governments.
Progressive constitutional scholars, by contrast, often emphasize the need for a “living” or more flexible interpretation of the constitution. The implications typically include a greater expansion of civil rights, privacy protections and separation of church and state.
Anything representing the opposite of these words, of course, is labeled “unconstitutional” - which has become a word of great rhetorical power on all sides of the political spectrum.
Depending on the particular view taken on these words, very different conclusions arise about a host of issues. Much or most attention ends up going to those issues - with much less explicit examination of the different meanings of constitutional itself.
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
-What does the word constitutional mean to YOU? How does this compare to what you’ve heard the word means to others?