One of the useful things about growing up in a country with a quasi-defined constitution (the UK, as opposed to the US) is the observation that constitutions are always, ultimately, just a series of norms that someone thought important enough to write down
Once you get that, you appreciate a bit more deeply two important things that I think routinely get tossed out the window in US-centric discussions about constitutions and norms
The first is that not all norms have equal weight. Some are foundational to the basic structure of society, and some really are just cementing something that was important at the time, but while it's doing its operating as normal, nobody really notices or cares about it.
You see this a lot in the US Constitution. Mostly nobody really cares about 3A, but that's because the US government has no need or interest in quartering soldiers in your home in peacetime without your consent, with or without an amendment prohibiting it.
Or a better example: society can function perfectly fine with congressmen having pay that changes during their term of office, or a president having a third term. Whereas, say, 1A or 4A are much more integral to society's core functioning, even if they all exist in the same doc
The second is that social norms can come from surprisingly different places -- even in the US -- but the criticality of their operation to the functioning of society is surprisingly unrelated to the document they come from.
A lot of critical social norms come directly from the Bill of Rights, and everyone knows those ones. But lots come from statutes, some come from long-standing EOs. Others come from SCOTUS. But some are really just "that's how it's worked for as long as anyone remembers"
A good example of that last one is the impartiality of prosecutions from political intervention. That's a critical social norm. But while critical to the functioning of the modern justice system, it's not backed by anything textually very strong; as 2016-2020 kind of lay bare.
Or another example is the power to wage war, originally explicitly given to Congress in Article I Section 8 Clause 11, but which has, in effect, totally atrophied to the Executive Branch without anyone writing anything down. A functional constitutional change by normative atrophy
It can often make for fun hypotheticals where some of the unwritten norms suddenly break in weird circumstances and consider the mayhem of how society would rectify it back to something that resembles the social contract that most people expect society to operate under
One that always amuses me is the ceremony of executive power transfer after a UK election where the losing PM tenders their resignation to the Queen, followed by the next PM being invited to form a government
There's this brief window of time where there is no PM and no government. Analytically, all executive power resides in the Queen. And what if she just said in those 20 minutes, "you know what, screw the next PM, I am in charge now"
It's an amusing hypothetical because of the sheer mayhem it would cause, out of the blue due to a weird loophole the social contract that the election that just happened is not doing its job dawning on everyone as they realize this is just a norm, and how would you resolve that
But how it would resolve would be simple: the social contract would prevail. The norm of elections having effect is far stronger and more important than the ceremonial role of the monarch in the transition, so although it would be chaos, no serious doubt how it would resolve.
But this is also why it's disingenuous for people to talk of norms as if they are less important than constitutions. Sometimes they are not. And sometimes the norm is both more important and, in other cases, more likely to prevail.
(at least in the long run)
It's also why this administration is usually seen by its detractors as so abberant: its that it gleefully abandons many socially critical norms, hiding behind the claim that the norm isn't textually backed, or not practically enforceable if it is.
Some of those norms are really just decorum rules that matter in a mostly superficial sense. Like the president shouldn't, as a practical dignity-of-the-office thing, retweet a cat account calling for farts to trend on Twitter.
But many are much more foundational to the republic, even if they are equally unenforceable outside of the ballot box, like "don't ask for foreign interference" and "don't intentionally undermine confidence in the election system itself by saying you might not accept the result"
So if you're wondering why there's so much social unrest and arguments for breaking long-standing norms like keeping to 9 justices, it's because to a lot of people, the extent of norm-breaking in this admin means the old rules of the social contract are themselves breaking down.
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