[Rob Natelson is the author of The Original Constitution: What It Really Said and Meant – an objective explanation of the Constitution as understood by the Founders.]
Unlike some both on the right and the left, I don’t think the reading of the Constitution in Congress was a purely symbolic or useless endeavor. It was quite evident that some of the readers were seeing the sections they read for the first time in a very long time, if ever. So it served an educational function for members of Congress.
The reading was educational for observant members of the public, too. The way some Members stumbled over the words—during an event they knew was going to be telecast, and for which they presumably had prepared—tended to show (1) how unfamiliar they were with the text and (2) how inarticulate and mentally-clumsy some of them appear when not regurgitating the “talking points” they have repeated a thousand times before. This also tends to explain why many in Congress tend to be so wordy: Not being particularly acute thinkers, they have to take a long time to get across a point that a clearer thinker could communicate in a sentence or two.
Political commentator and humorist H.L. Richardson once noted that after he was elected to office, the public tended to assume his IQ was 50 points higher than it actually was. In fact, most people elected to high office are just ambition-driven “people-persons” who happened to get very, very lucky. Many have trouble running their own lives, and they certainly have no special qualifications for running the lives of others.