Salon: We Really Need To Change The Constitution

I know, you’re thinking “Salon: a whole bunch of far left nutbaggery”. And the article certainly includes quite a bit. Interestingly, the more I read, the more nuggets of rationality I found. Of course, that’s the point: getting conservatives to bob their head in agreement

This is our new Constitution: How we fix gun rights, the Supreme Court, inequality — and foster true democracy
Freedom, fairness, equality: Here is how we get there, while fixing problems caused by gun nuts, right-wing judges
Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg

We talk a lot about inequality these days. Wal-Mart heirs. Plutocrats. Occupy Wall Street. Minimum wage. The 47 percent. Liberals are prone to feeling a strong sense of responsibility for others whom they do not know personally, tending to see good in the potential of innovative social programs. Conservatives are more comfortable emphasizing individual responsibility and religious charity over government-sponsored social programs. But in either case, the American identity is bound up with the idea that the health of the republic flows from a sense of fairness. Our Constitution guarantees it. Or does it?

The Constitution does guarantee it. The politicians, the bureaucrats, and people don’t.

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It is critical that twenty-first-century American conservatives agree to one slippery principle, however, if anything good is to take place. And that is this: Individual liberty is not won by “getting government off our backs”; it is gained through good government. Eisenhower Republicans in the conservative 1950s agreed with this notion and responded to empirical evidence. The social safety net was not ideological anathema (socialism) then. We should all accept that in securing liberty, the individual is not free from all constraint, or immune to government. In terms the founders provided us, we are meant to be protected only from corrupt or despotic government. Taxation in itself is not corruption. But when government acts counter to the majority’s welfare (as by delivering outsize economic power and opportunity into the hands of the few) it is corrupt. Fortunately, it is a reversible condition.

Really think about that. I had a kneejerk reaction to the part about “getting government off our backs; it is gained through good government”. As a classical liberal, my position is that the government that governs least governs best. That there are times when government is necessary, times when they should legislate. And the paragraph is correct that we are not always free from constraint. But, we are not just protected from corrupt or despotic government: we are supposed to be protected from over-bearing and/or intrusive government. From a federal government that simply wants to get involved in everything, in violation of the the Bill Of Rights, particularly the 9th and 10th.

We also should not think of just the “majority’s welfare”: we should be thinking of the welfare of all Americans. Though, of course, the point is government enriching a small number of people. Like with Obama’s Stimulus legislation.

We’ll skip past the partisan whining about guns, which goes on for quite a while, and income inequality, which fails to note the damage Democrat/Liberal/Progressive policies have done, and capitalism (because it’s not fair or something), and get to the proposed changes


-With 100 percent public financing of national elections, the compulsion to fundraise for re-election is removed, allowing for more actual governing.
-Members of the House of Representatives (understood, since 1789, as “the People’s House”) would be chosen every third year, not every other year; they would be ineligible for reelection after twelve total years in Congress. Members of the Senate would still be elected for a six-year term, but would be ineligible to run for re-election after two terms.
-One could move from the House to the Senate, or vice-versa, even after twelve years in the one body. But to minimize the obvious underside of the lobbying business, all who have served in Congress are to be prohibited for five years after leaving office from obtaining financial compensation from any corporation, any industry or interest, that their actions while in Congress directly benefited.
-Filibuster procedure could be modified as follows: In the case of an objection to proceeding to debate a measure, or to voting on an amendment or final bill, the three-fifths cloture motion required to overcome the objection is only to be applied by a national political party once per session of Congress. Otherwise, agreement of a simple majority of members will be sufficient to proceed to debate or to bring a bill to a vote. During a filibuster, a minimum of fifteen members must remain on the floor at all times.
-Election Day becomes “Election Days” — three, to be precise, beginning on the weekend, so that more working people can get to the polls who are not casting their ballots by mail or other established means.

I agree with everything but the filibuster part. While it might be distatesful, it gives the minority party rights, something Democrats agree with when they’re the minority. Furthermore, I would repeal the 17th Amendment, putting the election of Senators back in the hands of the State General Assemblies. Rather than adding quite a bit, I’ll refer you to this article on the subject.

Moving on, we see notions such a six year Presidential term, with no direct re-election possibility, changing the electoral college system, 10 year terms for Supreme Court justices, and then we more into mostly hardcore leftist ideals


With the disappearance of those no-longer-meaningful clauses and amendments meant for governing an earlier American society, a new article re-clarifying the rights of citizens should be introduced. Here is where the promise of educational equality, clean energy initiatives, tax guidelines to render the super-wealthy super-patriotic and similarly urgent statements of principle (i.e., corporations are not people) belong. In accordance with Federal Poverty Guidelines, no wage earner who works full-time should be paid at a rate that leaves him or her in poverty. In pursuit of clean energy, the federal government should prioritize clean power plants, safe chemical facilities, and should enact laws, responsive to scientific knowledge, that encourage greater energy efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, groundwater safety and waste storage and treatment solutions.

A democratic republic. Either we are or we aren’t. When officers in charge of business conglomerates act against the public’s interest and exert undue influence over politics, capitalism is not an expression of freedom: it is deceptive practice aimed at bolstering the power and benefit of a privileged minority. Free enterprise is not the same as corporate welfare or government-corporate collusion. Occupy Wall Street came about as an expression of this principle; it is the Constitution, though, that should do the job of diffusing power responsibly and keeping people with power honest.

“A democratic republic. Either we are or we aren’t”. The paragraphs conflate economic interests with governance. Our federal republic is set up for a government that is responsive to the people within certain boundaries. The 17th Amendment put vast amounts of power in the hands of the federal government, heavily diminishing the role and responsibility of state and local governments, where it belongs, where it can be vastly more responsive to We The People. The ideas contained within those paragraphs, and the ones that follow, would shift even more power to the Central Government, and, while it might be some form of democracy, the power would bring about more problems, more domineering government, more tyranny, more control of our lives in all facets by Government.

It would change the system to an authoritarian democracy. Remember, they had votes in Nazi Germany, Venezuela, Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and other nations with authoritarian governments.

Let us close, then, by repeating democracy’s first principle: Government exists to help as many as possible. What is the alternative? Corporate amorality? Unpoliced exploitative greed? A “survival of the fittest” libertarianism inviting heightened class tensions and violent reaction?

No, that is not the purpose of Government. Government in a democratic republic is there to bind us together, to perform certain functions that the private sector may be ill-equipped to handle (such as securing the border, national defense, setting monetary policy). It is not there to be Mom and Dad. Government can be there to act as a referee, making sure things remain fair amongst competing interests on established, neutral, and agreed upon, rules. Too often the rules Government passes favor one over the other. They should not punish success. There should be no favoritism.

Granted, the new Constitution of the progressive’s fantasy will not happen anytime soon. But perhaps we can start by directing our elected officials to take up the kinds of conversations people actually want to hear taking place in Washington. Remind them that their job is to improve the lives of the many.

In the progressive ideal, some people are helped while others are hurt. Much like with Obamacare. Winners and losers. The winners are whomever the current administration decides will be. Same with losers. This is government by will, by fiat, by feelings, by interest group, rather than by law.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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