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Study Notes

Unit 4 Essay Advice: "Evaluate the claim that the Constitution is designed to be flexible"

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This Study Note lists many of the key terms you would need to understand and use if you answered this question in the exam, and also 10 super examples to help you gain the highest possible marks.

Firstly, make sure you can explain each of the terms below:

  • US Constitution
  • Elastic Clause
  • Tenth Amendment
  • Amendment Process
  • Bill of Rights
  • Judicial Review
  • Executive Power vested in a President
  • Ratification
  • Legislative Power
  • Judicial Power
  • Vague nature of the document
  • New State Provision
  • Amendments
  • Interpretation
  • Anachronism
  • 'A Living Document’

Contemporary Examples

The Constitution is designed to be flexible

  1. Rights are found in the Constitution that are not explicitly referenced in the document itself. A recent example being the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the court case Obergefell v Hodges 2015
  2. The Constitution allows the executive branch to be flexible and establish cabinet departments that it sees as necessary. The Department for Homeland Security was created in 2002 in response to 9/11
  3. Further rights found in the Constitution have been found in a number of court cases such as a woman’s right to an abortion in the Supreme Court Case Roe v Wade 1973

The Constitution is not designed to be flexible

  1. The Amendment process to the constitution is difficult so many attempts to amend have failed or end up being stuck before states including the Wolf PAC amendment which would ban Super PACs
  2. Some amendments are still in force that have been claimed as anachronisms including the Second Amendment which promises the right to bear arms. It makes it difficult to legislate against school shooting such as Sandy Hook.
  3. The setting out of term limits and equal legislative power ensures that gridlock is inevitable in the US. 2013 was the most unproductive year in Congress’ history.

Historical Examples

The Constitution is designed to be flexible

  1. The Constitution has allowed government to be modernised such as the introduction of direct election to the Senate by constitutional amendment in 1913.
  2. The Constitution gives Congress the right to ordain and establish inferior courts that it deems necessary, this is evident in the establishment of the US Commerce Court in 1910 or the US Court for China in 1906

The Constitution is not designed to be flexible

  1. Some parts of the original Constitution have not been ratified yet including the Congressional Apportionment Amendment which was first proposed in 1787.
  2. Some amendments are still pending before states such as the Child Labour Amendment from 1924. It has been ratified by a majority of state governments but not three quarters.

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