Assuming you took the easy route at least once in school, you’ve probably used Cliff’s notes. The US Constitution is a fairly long document that uses a combination of typical language from the 1700s with a dose of legalese thrown into the mix as well. So to help out the average 21st century American, please allow me to sum up the Constitution for you in a way that modern day layman can easily understand. So here goes:
We left Europe because we don’t like your monarchies and such. We think government is generally the root of all evil, and we’re going to do everything in our power to limit it as much as possible.
A group of people we’ll call “Congress” are going to make the laws.
Half of Congress will be the House of Representatives. They have to be at least 25 years old, been a citizen for 7 of them, and must live in the state they represent. They’ve got two years to get it right, or they’re out. They’ll represent no more than 30,000 people, and they’ll elect a speaker to oversee it all.
The other half we’ll call the Senate. There will be two senators per state. They’ve got six years to do their best before they can be sent packing, but they’ll be divided into three groups and we’ll vote for a third of them every two years. Since they get longer terms, we might as well require they be 30 years old and have been here for nine years.
I know we haven’t gotten to it yet, but there will be a Vice President’s position talked about later, and this person will be the president of the Senate. For some odd reason, he won’t vote unless there’s a tie.
The Senate will handle throwing out any bums we uncover along the way.
The Congress must meet at least once every year on the first Monday in December.
The Congress will govern themselves, punish their own members if need be, keep a journal in case something important happens and we need to remember what it was. Unless we think it’s some top secret stuff that we don’t want anyone to know about of course, then we’ll keep that on the down-low.
We’ll go ahead and pay these folks for their service.
The HoR (House of Representatives) will take care of taxes. Once they write something, they’ll send it to the Senate. If it gets their OK, it goes to the president, who we also haven’t mentioned yet but we promise we will, and he can either sign it or tell them to get bent. If he tells them to get bent, 2/3 of them may agree to tell him to get bent instead and that they’re passing it whether he likes it or not.
(Notice we always say he/him when referring to the president? We assume a woman will never get the vote, and this is just a subliminal power of suggestion type thing to keep it that way.)
Congress will be the United States’ accounting firm, currency printer, security guards, and any other things we think we need to address.
We’re going to severely limit our powers, we won’t go back on our word, and there will never be any kings or queens up in here.
Hey states, you don’t get to override this stuff—so don’t try it.
Remember that president we mentioned? Well now it’s official, we’ll have one. He’s got four years to do something awesome. If he does, you can let him do it for another four years. He has to be 35 years old, and he must be born here. Because this is a big country and Al Gore hasn’t invented the internet yet, we’ll do this convoluted system we’ll call the Electoral College. Al Gore will be mad that he didn’t invent the internet sooner, because this Electoral College will totally give him the shaft later.
This president will swear in front of everyone not to mess up. If he does, the Congress can, and will, impeach him.
The President will be the head cheese for our military. He’ll appoint judges to the Supreme Court, appoint ambassadors, and fill other vacancies as required.
Once a year, he’ll give a speech about how things are going. Presidents love giving speeches.
He better not commit a crime or he’s out.
Section 1 & 2
We’re going to have a Supreme Court made up of nine justices. They will decide whether any laws that states, cities, counties, etc. pass violate this document. Some of them will try to legislate from the bench, but we really frown upon that. They will not handle trials though. Those must be done in front of a jury. Once appointed, they are in until they choose to retire because we don’t want them making decisions based on what they think will get them reelected.
If someone is suspected of treason, we need at least two people to have witnessed it or they’ll have to confess.
The states have to trust and respect each other.
If someone commits a crime and flees the state, the state he flees to must send him back.
We decide when a new state is admitted to the union, and you can’t have a state within a state. So don’t try it.
If someone tries to invade a state, don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.
This document is set in stone unless 2/3 of us agree that we screwed up or left something out. In which case, we’ll unset it in stone while we make the necessary changes. Then those changes will be set in stone unless 2/3…and so on.
If we borrow money, trust us; we’ll pay it back.
The laws we pass are law of the land. Know your role, states!
We will swear that we’ll adhere to this stuff too since we’re going to make the president do it.
There are nine states currently and they all agree to this.
Bill Of Rights
I know we said we want to severely limit the size of government, but let’s set some ground rules.
Believe what you want, say what you want, and if the press wants to run with it, that’s fine. If you don’t like something, feel free to protest, just be cool about it and play nice.
We like guns. It’s only fair if you want one, you can have one too.
A soldier can’t squat on your land unless we’re at war, then he might do so if the law allows it.
We promise not to invade your privacy unless the courts determine it appears you may have done something wrong.
If we think you did something really repugnant, we’ll put together a grand jury for that.
If we try you for something, and you beat the rap, we can’t try you again for it.
We can’t take your life, liberty, or property unless you do something wrong. If we commandeer your property, you’ll be paid fair market value for it.
If we lock you up for a crime, you have the right to be tried pretty quickly so you don’t rot in purgatory. Twelve people we pick totally at random will decide if you did it or not (if you prefer). We’ll make sure you know what it is we think you did, and you are guaranteed to have someone who actually knows something about law helping you.
If you have a legal issue that’s worth less than $20, don’t bother us. We have more important things to do.
If you do get arrested and/or convicted, we promise to be fair about it.
Assume that you have the right to do whatever the heck you want unless we say otherwise as opposed to the notion that you don’t have the right unless we say it’s OK. It’s a “Free country” thing.
If we don’t write laws about something on our end, the states can if they deem necessary. It just can’t conflict with something in this document.
The Rest of the Amendments
We the federal government won’t interfere with the state governments unless they violate this document—then we’re going to have words.
Remember that Electoral College thing we talked about earlier? This is how it works. We’ll pick a handful of people from each state and see who they like. Then based off that, each state will pick their president of choice. Based on our best guess of how many people are in a particular state, a number of votes will be issued for that candidate per state. It’s kind of convoluted, we know, and once the internet comes, it’ll seem pretty silly. But we like tradition, and we may keep it around anyway.
Hey slave owners. Cut it out. You can’t do that here anymore. Only we can do that, and only if someone committed a crime first.
Don’t test us on this or we’ll do something as yet unnamed, but you probably won’t like it.
If you’re born here, you’re a citizen. No one can take that away from you.
In the HoR, you get a rationally proportionate number of reps per persons that live in your district. Sorry Indians, but you don’t count.
If you do anything that shows you’re an enemy of the state at any time, consider yourself persona non grata around here.
If we say we need money to protect us, just give it to us.
Congress will write some laws about all of this as necessary.
Anyone can vote, even former slaves.
Listen south, we know you have a problem with this, and we don’t care. It’s the law of the land now. Don’t test us! You’ve been warned.
Sorry, but we’ve got things to do. We’re going to need a few bucks from you whether you like it or not. We’ll base it off your income.
There were some issues with the whole senatorial thing. We needed to clean them up a bit.
The party has hereby been canceled—drop the booze.
If we catch you partying, you will be prosecuted
Women—sorry, we completely forgot about you. You can vote now too.
We apparently forgot to be specific about the dates. Presidents, your term ends on January 20th at noon. The rest of us congressmen end our term on January 3rd at noon.
The Congress has to meet at least once a year to earn their pay. They’ll do it on January 3rd starting at noon unless they have a golf tee time or something, then they can agree to a different day.
If the president dies before he takes office or we find he wasn’t legally qualified to be president in the first place, the veep is in.
If some people die in office, don’t worry. We’ll figure it out.
For no particular reason, we want to specify that 1 and 2 take effect on October 15th
If 75% of the states don’t agree with this, forget all of it.
Sorry about all that nonsense earlier in Amendment 18. Party back on!
Let’s be clear, you can party, but you can’t transport the party across state lines.
If the states don’t agree again, sorry, but party is back off.
OK, that president thing seems like it might be a little too powerful for our tastes. So once he’s done two terms, he’s out.
…that is unless ¾ of the states don’t agree
We’ve got new digs. We’re going to call it a district. It’s not really a state or even part of a state, just a district. We know it makes little sense, but don’t worry about it.
If you don’t pay your taxes, you can still vote. We’re not going to let all the rich people run over the poor. So broke or not, you can vote free of charge.
If the president dies or resigns, his BFF will take his place.
If his BFF dies or whatever, then the president can pick a new BFF to be vice president
If we kick the president out, his BFF takes over.
If any other reason comes about that we can’t seem to think of right now the results in the president not being president anymore, the vice president takes over.
You only have to be 18 to vote no matter what state you live in.
If we vote for a pay raise, it won’t take effect until after the election.
There you have it folks. The US Constitution simplified by Gary for modern times. I know I had some fun with this, but I made every attempt to actually be factual as well as humorous. I love our constitution, and encourage everyone to read it, understand it, and demand your representatives abide by it. We the people have the power with our votes to make a difference.