A 225-year-old document brought together a panel of University of Wisconsin political science professors yesterday, as they commemorated Constitution Day with a dialogue on constitutional issues in present-day politics.
Hosted by the American Democracy Forum, which was launched under the UW Political Science department two years ago, the panel was held in affiliation with the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History.
This year was UW’s first constitutional day function, ADF Director and UW Political Science Professor John Zumbrunnen said, adding that it was in result of a new JMC program funding and pushing such events.
According to Zumbrunnen, the Sept. 17th panel marked the day on which the 39 founding fathers formed and signed the constitution of the United States.
The goal of the event, Zumbrunnen said, was to not only raise awareness of the day, but to also reiterate the ongoing importance of the document in today’s politics.
“What I hope people get out of it is for people to recognize the ongoing relevance of the constitution in shaping how our political life works,” Zumbrennen said. “To pause and think about the constitution, the circumstances under which it was created, the reasons it was written how it was and how this document that is over 200 years old still matters today.”
The dialogue consisted of four UW political science professors: David Canon, Kenneth Mayer, Katherine Cramer Walsh and Zumbrennen. It covered each professor’s specialty in relation to the constitution.
Zumbrennen, who said he loved the diversity of the panel, found the variation from the theory behind elections, to campaign finance, and redistricting to good citizenry shaped what the conversation about the constitution should be like.
Walsh ended her contribution not only wishing everybody a happy Constitution Day, but also a happy active citizenship day to all, noting that the constitution’s lack of focus on a citizen’s duties should be of importance.
The panel also addressed the voter ID law, in response to a student’s question on the matter, concluding that the country is going in a backwards direction by restricting the vote.
“We are seeing for the first time in a generation a move towards another direction, restricting the vote,” Canon said, after Walsh previously listed the amendments to the constitution which worked to widen the vote.
Mayer added to the voter ID debate, saying that the widespread fear of in-person voter fraud is false as it “just doesn’t happen.”
Zumbrennen said he was thrilled by the turnout for the event, finding UW students to be politically active and furthermore interested in the bigger questions, as raised in the panel.
“What I find about students on this campus, in general, is that they are politically engaged and they are, for the most part, quite willing to think about these big issues,” Zumbrennen said. “If you ask the average UW student to go with you on this intellectual adventure of thinking about the constitution and why it matters, most are game for coming along.”