In the wake of Dobbs and many times before, we’ve seen plenty of leftist politicians, talking heads, and blue checkmarks simply refusing to accept legal outcomes they don’t like. But a new poll suggests an alarming number of voters may too, signaling either ignorance or antagonism toward our Constitution’s governance.
Nearly 4 in 10 Americans do not even consider the Supreme Court legitimate, according to a poll from the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University. This sizable portion of those surveyed reflects how constitutionally illiterate many Americans have become, failing to comprehend both the systems of government it set in place and the rights it guarantees.
Perhaps a small portion of those who think the Supreme Court is illegitimate think so for constitutional reasons — for example, our entire administrative state is arguably an unconstitutional outsourcing of lawmaking authority, but the court decides to turn the other cheek to it. Most likely, however, most people decrying the court’s legitimacy do so because they disagree with its conclusions.
This widespread indifference to the powers and limitations the Constitution includes is made further evident by reactions to the Supreme Court’s decisions in landmark cases over the past few weeks.
Far-left sports journalist Keith Olbermann made a few headlines for his suggestion that the highest court in the land should be “dissolved” after it made a decision in Dobbs that he disagreed with.
But the recent Harvard poll indicates such bizarre reactions aren’t limited to the chattering classes, nor is such painful constitutional illiteracy.
“Why do guns have more rights than women?” and similar asinine questions cropped up from some voters after the court struck down New York’s unconstitutionally restrictive gun laws and reversed Roe v. Wade shortly after. Such a question ignores the fact that gun ownership is enshrined in the Bill of Rights while the “right” to kill a child has no constitutional basis (and, further, ignores the fact that no one is trying to ban women). Other leftists know gun ownership is a constitutional right and merely don’t care, as evidenced by the fact that 1 in 5 Americans would like to repeal the Second Amendment.
America’s lack of respect or understanding when it comes to the Constitution is not limited to the Supreme Court or the Second Amendment. According to a poll from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center in 2017, Americans could not explain some of the fundamental rights granted by the Constitution, let alone basic functions of the U.S. government. More than one-third of participants could not name one right protected in the First Amendment. One-third of those surveyed could not name a single branch of government.
In a study by Pew Research Center in 2018, more than 50 percent of Americans said they feel the Constitution should be interpreted in the context of what it would mean in current times, not in the context of what is originally written. This dangerous viewpoint waters down the foundation the original document provides and makes way for majority opinion to be a bigger influence than law on institutions such as the Supreme Court.
Whether it be from simple ignorance or unwillingness to tolerate constitutional processes that don’t deliver their desired results, the growing number of Americans who are willing to cast off our constitutional methods of government as illegitimate should concern us all.
Elise McCue is an intern at The Federalist and student majoring in multimedia journalism and professional and technical writing. She also reports on the Southwest Virginia music scene for The Roanoke Times. You can follow her on twitter @elisemccue or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org