An aside on "Christianists": why do they ignore or deny the words of Christ? As regular readers know, I do not ascribe to any religion and, as an agnostic, believe that one cannot know whether 'god' exists. I do, however, have a working knowledge of the teachings of JC - having been raised in the home of a Methodist minister, how could it be otherwise - and, to a lesser extent, knowledge of the teachings of non Judeo-Christian belief systems. As I have said before, one can believe the message without worshiping the messenger or subscribing to a set of religious rules. The Christianists (and all fundamental extremists) just don't get this....
Anyway, that is a topic for another post. I'm here today to expand on the possible topics for a new Constitutional Convention. First, let me restate the ideas that I put forth in the previous post:
- Re-establish the limitations on the Executive Branch (meaning, destroy the idea of a unitary executive).
- Reform and, hopefully, eliminate the Electoral College (vote totals are no longer carried via horse courier to Washington).
- Codify term limits (a total of three for Representatives and two for Senators, thereby eliminating the "professional politician"). Jefferson, Adams, and other Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, not careerists.
- Re-establish pre-existing Constitutional guarantees that have been usurped by the Current Occupant and his malAdministration.
- Alter the term of office of the President to no longer than four years and establish the concept of "no confidence" votes.
- Ban all private (personal and corporate) donations to political campaigns. One person, one vote - no extra clout for being wealthy.
- Require that media outlets provide free, equal, and limited time to all candidates during the campaign cycle.
- Reform the party system to eliminate the built in safeguards against the formation of viable additional parties. Democracy is not binary!
- Shorten the length of the election cycle. No candidate may express an intention to run for office more than one year before the election date, and may not file for office more than six months before the primary; primaries are to be held no more than two months before the general election.
Taking them one (or so) at a time, we have:
Re-establish the limitations on the Executive Branch (meaning, destroy the idea of a unitary executive).
This nation was created out of a rebellion against the excesses of a king. 231 years ago, the majority of the colonies in North America rebelled against their oppressive ruler, King George III of Great Britain. In their Declaration of Independence, they compiled a long list of grievances to explain this action.
Today, we, the inheritors of that rebellion, suffer under the oppression of another George III. First, there was George Washington, then George H. W. Bush, and now George W. Bush. It is time to once again take up the banner of rebellion.
Just as in the first American Revolution, this rebellion must be initiated by those most effected by the excesses of the "monarch". The most wide reaching effect of the current morally bankrupt malAdministration is the attempt to establish a "unitary executive". This is an unconstitutional idea nurtured by
Dick Cheney ever since his old boss Richard Nixon overstepped the bounds and was cut off at the knees (politically speaking).
I can't say that I know Cheney's mind on this matter, but I believe he wishes to establish this precedent in order to further increase the profit margin of his cronies - and himself. And without the interference of those pesky little Congresscritters, the executive branch can award no-bid contracts and create signing statements to further fill the overflowing coffers of Halliburton, Exxon/Mobile, etc., etc..
How is this any different from a king granting charters or bestowing nobility (with the concomitant overlordship of the serfs in the Duchy) to his preferred pals?
Hand in hand with this goes the following proposal:
Re-establish pre-existing Constitutional guarantees that have been usurped by the Current Occupant and his malAdministration.
Most of the desecration of the Constitution that has occurred during the reign of the new George III is directly related to the attempt to establish the doctrine of the unitary executive. Even the implementation of the "Patriot" Act (and has ever there been a more oxymoronic name?) by the compliant - and cowed - 107th Congress was a bowing to the wishes of the Executive Branch (and Cheney).
Nearly every single thing that has followed that questionable decision (and the list is way too long and depressing for me to go into) has been a slap in the face of, if not a downright illegal attempt to subvert, the Constitution - up to, and including, the recent syncophantic update of the FISA laws. If these corruptions of the Constitution are not rectified, it will mean the end of the nation that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, et. al established 231 years ago - even though the name, United States of America, will live on.
Reform and, hopefully, eliminate the Electoral College (vote totals are no longer carried via horse courier to Washington).
This one is, I believe, a no-brainer - especially in light of the Great 2000 Election Month Debacle. For those of you who may have forgotten, more people voted for Al Gore than for Dumbya. The Constitution, as it stands, grants the "several states" the ability to allocate electoral votes as they wish, and 48 of the 50 have gone with a "winner take all" system. This has had the effect of disenfranchising a huge minority of voters in those states.
As a personal example, my (blue) vote for President has never really counted - simply because I live in a red state. And it wouldn't count even if 49.999% of the population of North Carolina voted for the Democrat - the Republican candidate would still get all fifteen electoral votes.
There are those who criticize this idea because it would mean that the mega blocks of California (which, pet peeve, is not the "largest state" - that would be Alaska - but rather the most populous one) and New York electoral votes would no longer be cast for the Democrat. Tough shit, I say. If the majority of the country votes for a specific candidate, that candidate wins!
The reformation/elimination of the Electoral College also ties into this proposal:
Reform the party system to eliminate the built in safeguards against the formation of viable additional parties. Democracy is not binary!
As I said in this post, the two-party paradigm has got to go. The George Washington farewell address linked in that post is very informative with respect to the desire of the man who some people view as the Founding Father of the country.
If anyone objects to this idea, simply point them to Washington's own words.
The "money" quote from Washington's speech is:
However combinations or associations of the above description [of the rise of political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
An objection I foresee to the implementation of these two alterations to the political process would be that no candidate would ever receive a majority of votes in a Presidential election. My response is: So what? In today's political landscape, less than half of the potential voters even bother to go to the polls, so the President is elected by a portion of a portion of the population of the United States.
What would be more accurately representative of the desires of the nation as a whole would be a Parliamentary setup, such as Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, and India, etc. have. We could either go with the option of coalitions (as those nations do) in order to choose the next head of state, or simply say that a plurality "wins" the election. Personally, I would prefer the former to the latter.
Codify term limits (a total of three for Representatives and two for Senators, thereby eliminating the "professional politician"). Jefferson, Adams, and other Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, not careerists.
This idea would do as much, I believe, towards eliminating the corrupt nature of politics as any other one thing that could be done. By implementing draconian term limits, we would tend to get candidates that have the interests of the people as a whole - rather than the promotion of ideology or corporate profits, which is what we have today. In other words, we would have a Congress made up of servants of the country rather than servants of personal power or industry.
An obvious objection to this idea would come from people who have long serving Representatives or Senators. Again, a personal anecdote. You may remember Jesse Helms, who was a Senator from North Carolina for... well, it seemed like forever, but was "only" 30 years - and he's probably no longer a Senator only because he suffers from debilitating disease and chose not to run in 2002. During an argument with a dear friend of mine, who was a Helms supporter, I asked how said friend could continue to vote for a man who represented an ideology that was anathema to the friend's personal beliefs. The friend responded by saying, "Helms has influence that benefits the state."
Basically, my friend was willing to see other friends vilified and "othered" in exchange for pork barrel benefits. To quote the Bible, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)"
Alter the term of office of the President to no longer than four years and establish the concept of "no confidence" votes.
In the comment thread to my earlier post, sbgypsy said (I believe in response to this topic):
I agree with everything except term limits set in stone. If we'd had them then, FDR would never have been able to give us what he did. I think that recall ability - grassroots recall ability - would be sufficient, without term limits.
I suppose I didn't make myself clear in the statement (or else I'm misinterpreting her comment). I am not proposing limiting the President to one term, but saying that the length of each single term be redefined as no longer than four years. The inability of the current Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings against Dumbya is all the argument I need in favor of the concept of "no confidence" and, as she said, recall.
If, on the other hand, her comment is referring to term limits on congresscritters, I still stick with my belief that we need citizen legislators rather than professional politicians. As I said in a comment thread somewhere out there on the Interwebs, there is a plethora of good people in this country who would put the needs of the many over the wants of the few.
(If sbgypsy should return and wish to further discuss this, I would be more than happy to do so - as the (fictional representation of) Stephen Hopkins - Rhode Island delegate to the Second Continental Congress - said "I've never seen, heard, nor smelled an idea that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about" [from the movie 1776])
Ban all private (personal and corporate) donations to political campaigns. One person, one vote - no extra clout for being wealthy.
Require that media outlets provide free, equal, and limited time to all candidates during the campaign cycle.
Shorten the length of the election cycle. No candidate may express an intention to run for office more than one year before the election date, and may not file for office more than six months before the primary; primaries are to be held no more than two months before the general election.
These three ideas all go hand in hand to reform the election process. Also from the previous post's comment thread, Lynn said:
I dont think in a general way, looking over your list, that extreme regulation is the answer to all. I dont think for example that restricting the length of time that people can campaign makes sense. Seems like it would, but a shorter campaign time benefits the rich and hurts people who need to work a long time to raise money and gain notoriety. Your idea hurts the poor and the obscure.
I disagree with that, because if all private money were banned from the system and only a set amount of government funds (from that box you may or may not check on your tax forms) were equally distributed among each of the candidates (both presidential and congressional - although I would give the presidential campaigns a much larger share, due to the national aspects of the campaign), and equal access to media provided - remember, the public owns the airwaves, after all - then the playing field would be leveled, not tilted toward the rich.
I think we're all already tired of the 2008 Presidential Campaign, and the election is still fifteen months away. Frankly, I'm surprised that someone hasn't already declared to be a candidate for the 2012 election. Or the 2016. That may sound ridiculous, but it's where things are heading. The way things are now, a five year old could declare her intentions to run for President in 2040 and begin campaigning. Imagine the name recognition she'd have by the time the election rolled around!
Keep in mind that all of this (with the exception of the reader comments quoted) is merely the ideas in the head of this old dog. What I would hope to see is a discussion among people - a trading of ideas and playing off each other's thoughts - in the hopes of actually doing something to change the corrupt and unfair system that we have now, rather than just bitching and moaning about it.
I now open myself to comments and criticisms from my adoring public (both of you).
ETA 12 August 2009: Since I originally posted this, I switched to a different commenting system. The original comments on this post are located here.