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.
“The 18th century framers fully understood the need for secular governance.”
While common concern about the abuses on monarchy allowed the framers to get together, it was messy.
I doubt we have adequately common concerns about the rights of non-citizens, the rights of the soon to be born, the right to opt out of societal norms (regarding bullying, programs for common welfare, minimizing externalities), and the right to own dangerous stuff. Getting to a constitution today would be messier yet.
The black quotes are from
I find it ironic that is was from a source in a trump state, but it was nicely concise.
In the 18th century neither women nor blacks had the right to vote. People like Trump would consider those the good old days.
You know where I’m going to come from:
How about the right to vote to be represented by a union as your exclusive labor bargaining agent? It just occurred to me, right now, that most or all of the rights you list — are rights not to be infringed on by the government. Maybe the reason that union vote suppression is not immediately recognized for the devastating economic and political deprivation that it is is that it is not perpetrated by the government.
People are so used to living with union suppression (in this country) that they think the gauntlet they try unsuccessfully to run — was a setup brought down from the mountain top by Moses.
It all boils down to who’s got the power. Easy way to reverse the moribund economic and political condition of the majority in this country — a simple federal labor law:
Our current union setup mechanism could be seen as violating freedom of association because it sets up an organizing requirement that cannot work — against the determined opposition of management. But the courts cannot throw the current setup out because that would leave no mechanism at all.
Irreversible mess in the Supremes. I am not sure there is any solution.
current union setup mechanism could be seen as violating freedom of association because it sets up”should unions be the domain of need or the domain of greed? should we allow unions to be controlled by organized crime, and Mobsters or should we allow unions to exist only of, for, and by the people over 60 years old, and handicapped veterans? ethnic folks and other people in need? consumers come to mind, and perhaps those who are living on less than the median disposable income. do you see how the unfortunate have to pay more for their subsistence when the state is under Solidarität control in Poland?living deep within detail, the devil you don’t alive and well!Look before leap!
while i may agree with ken about some of what “ought” to be basic rights, i can’t agree that any of them are “obvious”, and i wonder what source he proposes to appeal to to determine “our” rights. the sad fact of the human condition is that we have NO rights other than those we give ourselves or give each other.
i would be first to argue that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, but i wouldn’t expect other people to agree with me. of course claiming god given rights is a good way to get at least some people to agree…
but assuming you know what those rights are is a bit dangerous to yourself and others.
and in that spirit i will shut up about which of your god given rights conflict with someone else’s god given rights.
and the fallacy, to put it kindly, of claiming that the constitutional clause against an ESTABLISHMENT of religion is a bar to promoting religious ideas into law.
speaking as “anybody” i suspect a contradiction lies between your “easy way..” and your “it all boils down to who has the power.”
i have followed yuor idea of sector wide unions for several years now. i think i agree with you, but you (and I) are getting nowhere.
why don’t you start a union yourself? not targeted at a particular business or industry, and with no dues…just a voluntary association of people very interested in worker rights and fair pay (a living wage), and able to deeply research the issues involved. Done right (think Walter Reuther) you could build this into an effective nationwide (all trades) “real” union with power to make changes. OR think in terms of creating a “corporation” whose business it is to supply labor to other businesses. done honestly this could protect workers, and since it’s a “business” itself, it could escape much of the legal and political obstacles put in the way of “unionizing.”
Ken Melvin, I think we’re tracking on similar waves. BTW how come there is no bio information on Angry Bear for you?
I have read your posting “Dearly Beloved” and your most recent “Rather Than” including all of the comments which are also interesting. As you say, “Were the original framers alive today, they would frame a much different constitution,” and I would add; probably find our majority SCOTUS of “originalists” somewhat amusing.
One only has to look back 30 years and project forward to know that you can’t govern today’s world with a 1990 mentality. You say and I agree, “we are being abused by those who take advantage of the flaws of the 18th century constitution.” Constitutional changes are necessary yet nearly impossible in today’s world. While your proposed changes are much more numerous than mine, I do tend to agree with nearly all of them.
Where I get hung up mentally is how do we initiate a change process that is so desperately needed and the big one WHO decides what the changes should be. I have called for a “National Commission On Congressional Rules, whose purpose shall be to review, revise, amend and establish baseline rules of proceedings for the U.S. House and Senate to fulfill the requirements of Article I, Section 5. The Commission shall establish rules of proceedings designed to establish rational, unbiased decision making and to encourage true bipartisanship in fulfilling the Congressional responsibilities in developing legislation, conducting Executive branch oversight and exercising its review and approval functions. Congress shall enact enabling legislation for the establishment of the Commission.”
It is my belief that the Framers erred in granting Congress, carte blanche, the right to develop their “Rules of its Proceedings” (Art I, Sec 5). Congressional rules should work for the country and not the political parties. If bipartisanship is a good thing (as most people agree) then it should be required and not a hope or dream. I’ve suggested a 10-member bipartisan commission of prominent US citizens similar to that in the 9-11 Commission legislation.
I would invite you to check out a recent post of mine entitled, “New Rules To “Discourage and Restrain.” [https://tinyurl.com/ybnfn6xa]. Also see “Americanship v. Political Powership” [https://tinyurl.com/y9quxghm] and “Testimonials” [https://tinyurl.com/ycq4xz22] for examples of bipartisan, shared power arrangements.
Have you looked at Michigan as of late or even over the last 20 years? Bipartisanship, what does such mean today in Michigan when one party has pretty much owned the state legislature majority over the last 20 or so years through various means? The state crumbles while legislative leaders from one party go to Washington D. C. to drink champagne.
US House Representative Timothy Walberg must have passed through plutonium on his way to the US House while traversing from the Michigan House of Representatives. His manner is a complete reversal of what was displayed in Michigan enough so, he makes Upton look like a saint. Testimonials certainly displays a different Walberg of another color.
I agree the Congress needs a “fixin” and until citizens demand such from their legislators, it shall not happen. I do comment out here frequently as a participant.
You can keep the 2nd one. The links appear to be active in that one.
You are welcome.
Please do not mind the dust, AB is being rearranged so as to give commenters greater capability and to make comments more obvious (nesting, etc.). Long time coming.
I do not believe “Dan” has asked Ken for “Bio-info (reading ahead).”
Thanks for the comments and the links. Good work, please persist.
How indeed? It isn’t just a couple of us on our own; there are a few academics of consequence beginning to raise the alarm. To my thinking, in re the EC and undemocratic Senate, it is becoming impossible to go forward with the current structure; therefore they must be fixed. And, while at it, especially, clean up the rules of the Senate; agree on a bi-partisan commission.
Please excuse my intrusion.
The EC is a telling side show to the reality of representation by population in the House. In the EC, no state has less than 3 EC votes to cast as the Senate was the equalizer in providing the least represented state with additional EC votes.
In 1929 when the Reapportionment Act was enacted, the numbers in the House were locked to 435. It is here the issue lies. One solution would be to add Representatives and EC delegates based upon the population of the least populated state. Another is too arbitrarily set a different numeric. Why would you do this? The Congressional Districts are too big in population as they are today and allow a Representative to ignore a large portion of the district’s population to appease the party of choice which more-than-likely Gerrymandered the district.
More later, I have to run.
In re bio, you can access my stuff here by clicking on my name in the contributor’s block or by typing it into the search block atop the page; different results.
I noted you have background in environmental, ever write about it? If so, I like to read it. If you are interested, check out my ‘Meanwhile Climate Change’ and ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ pieces.
We would accept such commentary at AB also.
Couple others on the Electoral College
David Blight from Yale
You say you agree, “Congress needs a ‘fixin’ and until citizens demand such from their legislators, it shall not happen.”
I agree and struggle with the thought of: “How do we make that happen?” Your comment applies to so many issues (big & small) and I think therein lies the problem. The “citizens” are too scattered and not focused.
I like to think that if we could “fix” the legislative process (Congress) a lot of the other “big & small” issues would fall into place. E.G. we can’t fix climate change without first fixing Congress; we can’t fix gun control until we fix Congress (90% of population supports some gun control); and on and on.
Congress is broken (could write a book). Congress is not capable of making rational decisions. AND, THE BIGGY: Congress is not capable of fixing itself. It tries periodically (there’s a current effort Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress) but it mostly results in rearranging the deck chairs. Party power rules and procedures are never addressed.
In our closely politically divided country we cannot keep ignoring major issues, conducting sham executive oversight, or trying to develop unsustainable, one-party solutions to complex problems that will be overturned with the next change of political power — It’s insane! Solutions exist. Legislators must be forced into real bipartisanship [Insanity Defined, https://tinyurl.com/vnwpfoo] . But, as you say it will not happen until citizens demand it!
WHAT CITIZENS? Without a serious, nationwide intervention led by experienced, rational, objective, bipartisan individuals, organizations and universities our democracy will be lost (Democracy On The Brink). We are exceedingly close to the ultimate failure of the great American experiment. The Intervention Movement must be on the order of developing An Agenda For Constitutional or Institutional Reform.
There are hundreds of organizations; thousands of staffers; and billions in financial resources already committed to related matters that could be united and focused on such an effort. It takes leadership, concern and commitment; but it is possible. I would suggest starting here: https://tinyurl.com/y5qb35ge.
BUT, all of these groups and resources need to be coordinated and focused on the big issue of real Congressional Reform. It’s time. We must stop talking about Constitutional Crises and start implementing Constitutional Solutions. (New Rules To “Discourage and Restrain”).
Late to answering this. We have had a Christmas and New Years, a Covid epidemic going on, a rush on the capitol by those who think they know better, a president trying to remain in power by subverting the count of EC ballots and riding on the backs of the former. Dan has a disorder, I have been under siege for the 3rd time in my life time, and Eric had Covid. We are still here!
Reapportion the House to what it should be to represent by population far less than the average 700.000/rep and do so even if you use Wyoming as the number of people per rep. It should be lower than such by half. At which point; District Gerrymandering can be controlled as it is harder to Gerrymander less populated districts, a rep can not ignore half of its constituents, larger states with greater populations are properly represented as planned by the founders, etc. The issues with the Senate are political. McConnell has to go as no one Senator should be able to stop every bill or candidate the opposition presents. The senators are no longer the gentlemen Aaron Burr thought they could be and were. It is time for more formal rules/regs in the Senate in which to govern by. Rules of procedure which can not be broken and doing so would result in censure or being expelled.
We are too silly to write a new constitution. Silly is appropriate. Just look to the last week. Who would have thought such would happen. Now trump is being nicey, nicey and Repubs have to decide whether to can his ass or not. He deserves to be punished except the cowards will not do it and the clan of sycophants’ will whine they have been maligned.
Ken Melvin: I will check out your posts ‘Meanwhile Climate Change’ and ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ pieces. Send me an email and I will give you some of my background. Seems off topic to post it here. Also, still don’t see any bio info on you. Please share. J.P. McJefferson aka jeffdauphin [at] gmail.com.
looks like i can’t read it without subscribing. and since ken doesn’t believe in summarizing what he wants us to read, i’ll never know how the constitution makes us look divided.
The way to shore up American democracy is to shore up American democracy—that is, to strengthen liberal institutions, in ways that are unglamorously specific and discouragingly minute. The task here is not so much to peer into our souls as to reduce the enormous democratic deficits under which the country labors, most notably an electoral landscape in which farmland tilts to power while city blocks are flattened. This means remedying manipulative redistricting while reforming the Electoral College and the Senate. Some of these things won’t be achievable, but all are worth pursuing—with the knowledge that, even if every box on our wonkish wish list were checked, no set-it-and-forget-it solution to democratic fragility would stand revealed. The only way to stave off another Trump is to recognize that it always happens. The temptation of anti-democratic cult politics is forever with us, and so is the work of fending it off.
Jennifer rubin@ WP
First, let’s get some perspective. Yes, a shift of a mere 39,000 votes in a few close swing states in 2016 would have made Hillary Clinton president. And yes, an even slimmer shift of about 33,000 votes would have kept President Trump in office this year. But a shift of 269 votes in Florida in 2000 would have given the election to Al Gore. Were we more divided then?
More generally, we can see that it is the electoral college that transforms President-elect Joe Biden’s margin of 7 million votes into a multistate nail-biter. But forget the electoral college for a moment: Democrats have won the popular vote in the past four consecutive elections with margins ranging from 2.9 million (Clinton in 2016) to 10 million (Obama in 2008). And Al Gore, by the way, won by more than half a million votes nationally. One “solution” to the deep division problem, then, would be to junk the electoral college.
A similar lack of majority rule gives Republicans control of the Senate, despite having support from a minority of the population. The disproportionate power of lightly populated states turns significant majority rule by Democrats into persistent minority rule by Republicans. Gerrymandering offers many Republicans a similar artificial advantage in their House seats.
the answer is not to play around with the electoral college expecting a miracle cure and true democracy. the answer is for the Democrats to deliver what the people need.
the 70 million people who voted for Trump will win any election, electoral colege or not, if the “progressives” refuse to vote for the lesser evil.
one thing you can always rely on is the people chasing some fantasy.
don’t know if you noticed that Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama, and Biden managed to win with the existing electoral college. for that matter, so did Abraham Lincoln.
i guess i could have mentioned Rosevelt and Truman as well. And Ike, though an R, was not a bad President. for that matter neither was Nixon,,,as Presidents go. we have only ourselves to blame for Bush, Bush2, and Trump.
You might look across the water and see if you can see any problems in countries that don’t have an eletoral college to blame it on.