DNC Philadelphia: Independence Hall And Enduring Constitutional Arguments

Independence Hall, the centerpiece of historic Philadelphia, standing on Chestnut between 5th and 6th Streets, serves as a testament to our nation’s enduring independence and federal constitution.

When the DNC arrives in Philadelphia in late July, a new politicized generation of voters and a novel political reality will stand in the footsteps of our nation's founding fathers and the first Congress of the United States.

The Hall is where both the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were debated and signed.

The building’s political elixir is palpable as one contemplates the significance of the events and arguments that were contained in those walls more than 225 years ago. Some of the most perennial pressure points in American politics were built into the Constitution and hotly debated during summer 1787.

The issue of states’ rights was was central to the debates. As the Constitutional Convention sought to expand on the Articles of Confederation and create a stronger union, one of the most consequential questions was how to divide power between the states and the federal government.

While the final document reflects the compromises between state and federal power, Article VI gave federal law supremacy over that of the states. The relationship between federal and state power has been integral to constitutional debates over the past two centuries.

Even in 2016, questions of states’ rights and the power of the federal executive are at the forefront of political disagreement.

The state of Texas, in the case U.S. v Texas, just recently argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, contends that Texas has standing to sue President Obama over his executive actions offering deferred-action status to millions of illegal immigrants.

Texas claims that the actions go beyond the limits of federal executive power afforded by the Constitution. It argues that the executive is telling certain illegal aliens they will be safe from deportation and therefore forcing states to comply with the policy.

In essence, Texas argues that President Obama is overreaching his mandate -- mirroring the exact unease that many anti-federalists had about the executive branch.

Whether one agrees with the orders or not, one truth is clear: The founders of our Constitution made it possible and admirable to contest the validity of arguments and decisions by the highest offices in the nation.

Democratic delegates will choose their candidate this summer amid the enduring political history awake in the streets of Philadelphia.

This piece is the first in a series dedicated to highlighting Philadelphia and its vast array of historical and educational monuments and locales. With the Democratic National Convention arriving here July 25, delegates, the media and political enthusiasts will have a host of historic venues to explore.

As Shakespeare noted: "The past is prologue."

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