Rather than the Constitution granting us our rights, it should protect our inalienable rights.
One might ask how is it that the constitution grants citizens the right to own a gun, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, privacy in their own home, …, all, notably, rights the colonists might not have had under a monarchy, but does not grant: every citizen the right to vote, personhood to all, women the freedom of choice? Much of the 18th century model constitution addressed the issues of that time, in the context of that time. The framers thought in terms of monarchies, class and race distinctions, male dominance, …; of the 18th century. A constitution more suited to the 21st century would move beyond class, gender, and race.
The 18th century constitution sought to protect us from the abuses of a monarchy. Today, we are being abused by those who take advantage of the flaws of the 18th century constitution. We are being tyrannized by a minority lead by mean, small-minded, white men using the strictures and inadequacies of the 18th century model. We now have a supreme court majority bent on bringing religion into government and ensuring that persons of wealth retain power. This court, in concert with the wealthy, would gleefully impose 18th century values on us, all in the name of our 18th century constitution.
If the United States of America were to undertake to write a constitution for these times, one that could serve far into the future, they would no doubt begin by keeping the time-proven best parts of the old one ratified in 1788, by getting rid of all its obviously bad parts; then make the additions and changes needed to address the realities of the 21st century and as far beyond as they could see.
The 18th century framers sought to bring forth the wisdom of the ages as well as the best thinking of the times, the then concurrent, not too shabby, Age of Enlightenment. Today, such framers would have a quite different perspective from which to start. Were the original framers alive today, they would frame a much different constitution.
In the 18th century version of the Constitution, certain rights were deemed inalienable and were codified to be so in its Amendments; expansion of these rights required the ratification of another Amendment. What if, instead, it had, by a listing, placed restrictions on what could be declared alienable, on what could be declared illegal; made it difficult to add laws, to take away rights? Something along the lines of: No restrictions on personal rights/liberties other than on those individual rights or liberties that might impose on the rights or liberties of others. Alienable rights for all would include such as: murder, thievery, harassment, threatening, bullying, depriving someone of their rights, and disturbance of someone’s peace. All rights are inalienable except those on the list. Additions to the listing would, of course, require an amendment.*
The 18th century framers were dealing with 13 independent colonies; many of them chartered for specific reasons; each of whom, more or less, saw themselves as a nation-state. Today we have 37 more states, none of whom were ever colonies, and only a couple of whom could even lay dubious claim to ever having been a nation-state. As a consequence of the 18th century constitution, Delaware, with her less than one-million population, claims statehood rights equal to California’s, with her forty-million population. Are the small populations of VT, WY, ND, DE, …, really so much more equivalent those of CA, TX, FL, IL, …? What of these larger states’ citizen’s right to equal and fair representation? The constitution shouldn’t be about the order of statehood, the acres of land in a state, …, the population of cows, …; it should be about ensuring equal representation for all the people in all the states. A 21st century constitution would not accord the same number of Senators to DE, VT, ND, …, KY, as it does to CA, TX, FL, IL, …. Would make it highly unlikely that someone from a state with low population, the likes of, say, Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, could tyrannize the Nation. The Senate of our 18th century constitution was wisely premised on historical precedence aplenty, was perhaps well enough suited for then, but, it is woefully inadequate for these times, for the current United States of America.
How is it that citizens of the United States are subject to different state laws in re voting, marriage, property, guns, felons, peonage, …, education, healthcare, legal rights, criminal laws, …? Surely all are citizens of the United States and each a resident of an individual state. What does 18th century colonial America have to do with today? With tomorrow? It is time to move into the the 21st century and to prepare for the future. Rather states being quasi nation-states, states should be administrative districts, each having the same laws. Surely the 18th century framers didn’t mean to give the states the right to take away the rights of their residents. If so, this needs to be undone post haste. Better to view the individual states as administrative districts with administrative duties such as: enforcing national laws common to all within their district, looking to the welfare and safety of its residents, responding to emergencies, ensuring its residents easy access to the ballot, …. Even state taxes should meet a national standard.
A 21st century constitution needn’t address monarchies and nobility. A 21st century constitution should eliminate all class distinctions; should ensure one-person-one-vote for all; should incorporate new technologies for voting, vote counting, representation, and communication; should address such things as social media; and, it should make every effort to allow for, and accommodate, future changes in technology.
The Electoral College, always an abomination, will only lead to more and more failures; become more illegitimate. With our modern capacity for communication, etc., to retain it any longer, is unconscionable. The other problems with the 18th century constitution, like the inequality inherent the current Senate, states’ rights, …, are not going away; they will only get worse. Today, the problems endemic the 18th century constitution are being utilized by mean, small-minded, white men to tyrannize the Nation. They are being, and will be ever more be, used by political hacks placed on the US Supreme Court by wealthy persons to ensure that persons of wealth retain power, as in the 18th Century. They are being, or soon will be, used by these political hacks to incorporate religion into governance. To be clear, these Justices, no doubt, believe in their reasoning. Because: They who would lie to others, must first lie unto themselves.
The 18th century framers fully understood the need for secular governance. Today, as we become a more and more multicultural nation, this is even more relevant. Effecting multicultural democracy is difficult at best; impossible with sectarian influence on government. Today, we are yet in the early stages of trying to make democracy work in an ever more multicultural America. The white supremacy backlash reaction we are seeing is by people not wanting to accept the America of today, let alone the one of the future. Rather than enhancing the role of religion, an enlightened government, especially an enlightened Supreme Court, would understand the necessity for secular governance. From a constitution with its genesis in the Age of enlightenment to a court with a majority of political hacks and religious zealots; six of its nine Justices who self-identify as originalists.
*In re the 2nd Amendment: Surely, under the 18th century constitution, the question is: Should everyone have a right to own a weapon? And, if so, what type(s) of weapon(s) should they be allowed to have. Under a 21st century constitution, the answer is yes. Yes, they have that right to own a weapon as long as they do not use such a weapon to threaten, harass, intimidate, bully, deprive someone of their rights in any way, or to disturb anyone’s peace.
Other pieces at Angry Bear wherein I’ve spoken to these issues: America’s Most Odious, Equivalence, Dearly Beloved, Are capitalism and democracy compatible?, Electoral Map, Redux et Redux, and Why Democracy.