Is there evidence of political realism in either the Constitution itself or in the procedures the founders took to write and ratify the document? How did the realism or lack of it strengthen or weaken the Constitution?
Political realism, much like the Constitution, has not gone without change. What was once considered to be a belief that “might is right” and that the “ends justify the means” no longer holds true. The modern political realist asserts that for a government to be effective a level of equilibrium must be maintained through transactional politics. Although the Constitution leaves a seemingly large amount open for interpretation, what it definitevely establishes is in line with political realism. The creation of a strong central government provides for protection of power, while the three branches serve as checks and balances to each other, thereby keeping order. And the document itself serves as what one could consider the greatest example of a tangible result of the compromising and working of men in the name of politics.
The importance of power is at the core of political realism, and it is shown heavily in the Constitution. The first article outlines the creation of a multi-pronged federal government that maintains the power to pay the country’s debt, regulate all commerce, declare war on other countries, etc. and best yet to do whatever “...shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution foregoing Powers…” This last part is noteworthy for it gives the federal, and only the federal government, the ability to maintain their power by doing what they see fit. Section 10 even adds emphasis by naming all the powers that the states don’t have. This centralization of power in the federal government also falls in line with the attitude of elitism and the protection of self-interest associated with political realism. In all reality the men who wrote the constitution were not representative of the population, and therefore wanted to protect their private rights from the masses. By funneling the majority of the power to the central government, these men were able to protect and exercise their power.
Power has proven to be prevalent in the constitution, but not letting power become unbalanced is shown to be important as well. The system of checks and balances that is outlined is evidence of the need for order, something that rings true in political realism. Political realism asserts that order should never be taken for granted and that notion is supported by the multiple articles that protect against corruption of one part of the government. The duties and rules defined in the document show a great deal of care in avoiding the sway of one branch over another. The powers are delegated in such a way that one branch can’t take all of the rest off the tracks, ensuring an equilibrium of sorts. For example, the judicial branch can keep the legislative branch in check by declaring one of their laws unconstitutional. This is balanced, however, the by fact that the Supreme Court justices are appointed by the executive branch.
Just as political realism values order, so too does it value cooperation and compromise as necessities to make political progress/action. As one can can easily see through James Madison’s notes, constructing this document was no walk in the park. There were fights over everything from the length of a senator’s term to the issue of slavery. However, these men were committed. They “...reasoned, cajoled, threatened, and bargained amongst themselves” until they created a document that was accepted by the people. This process has been labeled as “...a vivid demonstration of effective democratic political action..” and the Constitution reflects it.
The more I explore these possibilities, the more it becomes clear to me that the authors of the constitution were political realists. They knew that no perfect document could be constructed, and therefore “...demonstrate[d] a willingness to compromise their parochial interest in behalf of an ideal which took place before their eyes and under their ministrations.” They were able to outline a government that would serve their self-interests, exercise power, and yet remain fair and orderly. They believed in “the reality of trade-offs” and chose things accordingly, making the Constitution the best possible option they could create.