Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Constitution 2.0

"The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Julius Caesar (I,ii,140-141)
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Thomas Jefferson (The Declaration of Independence)

          The Constitution of the United States has been amended 27 times, the last of which, proposed in 1789, was not ratified until 1992.  The amendment dealt with congress being unable to raise its own pay until an election had intervened.  Many Americans are familiar with some of the other amendments, limitation of Presidential terms to two, prohibition, repeal of prohibition, universal suffrage, and of course, the first ten amendments (the bill of rights).


          Originalists like Antonin Scalia believe that the interpretation of the document should remain as though we all were living in the 18th century, when citizens and a militia used muskets with flintlocks, fighting savage Indians.


          Amending the constitution is a difficult and lengthy process.  It must first be passed by the Senate and the House and then be ratified by the states, taking years. Some amendments just die, not having been ratified, like the Equal Rights amendment.


          The document serving us admirably throughout our history is in need of some changes.  The intense debate over the second amendment and whether it is directed towards a militia or an individual’s right to bear arms has been a continuing subject for constitutional scholars and advocates for either side of the issue.


          In addition, the rules of the U.S. Senate need revision.  We are the only democracy in the world where the majority does not rule.  In the old days, the filibuster had actually to be performed to avoid a vote.  Now, only the threat of a filibuster prevents legislation from reaching the floor for a vote.  And to make matters worse, there need be 60 votes out of 100 to pass important legislation.   Two senators from a state representing 500,000 people have the same clout as two senators from a state with 35,000,000 people.


          Tracing the origin of our federal system is a history replete with slave and free states being admitted to the Union under a system of compromise and discord.  Now, we can no longer afford this absurd debate.  If Puerto Rico, for example, chooses to be admitted as the 51st state, there will be no issue whether its people, who are already US citizens, will be slave or free or count as 3/5ths of a person for representational purposes.


          The point of the matter is that a good bit of the constitution is anachronistic..  Except that we are laboring mightily to work our government under its weight.


          It needs a rewrite.  


          Most of it is still awfully good and should be included in the 2.0 version.  And the rewrite should include the bill of rights.  The second amendment should be reinterpreted or re written so the blockheads at the NRA and the Supreme Court can understand it.



          Unfortunately, powerful lobbyists govern and intimidate Senators from the job they must do--pass legislation for the sake of all Americans--not for the sake of the NRA, which for the most part, represents gun manufacturers.   Why, for the sake of goodness, need there be 300 million guns in circulation, many of them assault type military rifles designed for maximum killing of other humans?  A good plan would be for the government to buy back guns, as the Australians did, who saw an 90% drop in gun violence soon after the buyback.


          The U.S. Senate, it seems , is populated by  set of pusillanimous cowards, who care more about being re-elected than doing what is the greater good.


          How, then can we possibly rewrite the constitution? 


          Retaining a bicameral legislature would not be harmful to this country.  There could still be an upper and lower chamber, but the workings of them need to be governed by a majority vote, not a system designed to ensure gridlock.  In this past election, for example, gerrymandered districts allowed representatives who were not elected by a majority of the popular vote to control the House of Representatives.


          This is tantamount to disenfranchisement of voters who, in a recent poll, stated by 90% that they were in favor of background checks for gun buyers.


          We need to have the courage to tell our representatives what we really want, and not allow our voices to be submerged by the slick machinery of those who would subvert our liberty for their own financial gain disguised by concern for the ability of Americans who think they need rapid fire weapons to protect themselves.


          When we lose our voice and our representatives do not represent us, it is our duty to change them, to speak out, to make our wishes known.   Our senators and congressmen are supposed to be working for us, but the evidence is that they are not.


          Some alteration is in order.