|Think the Constitution Will Save Us? Think Again -- NY Times -- (If you're listening to Rush, this is the article to which he referred.)|
Posted by: Russ Walden ® |
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Well, they got the sub-head correct.
The subversion of democracy was the explicit intent of the framers.
Consider a few facts: Donald Trump is in the White House, despite winning almost three million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. The Senate, the country’s most powerful legislative chamber, grants the same representation to Wyoming’s 579,315 residents as it does to 39,536,653 Californians. Key voting rights are denied to citizens in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other United States territories. The American government is structured by an 18th-century text that is almost impossible to change.
These ills didn’t come about by accident; the subversion of democracy was the explicit intent of the Constitution’s framers. For James Madison, writing in Federalist No. 10, “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention” incompatible with the rights of property owners. The byzantine Constitution he helped create serves as the foundation for a system of government that rules over people, rather than an evolving tool for popular self-government.
Writers on the left such as Jacobin’s Seth Ackerman and the journalist Daniel Lazare have long argued that constitutional reform needs to be on the agenda. Even some liberals like Vox’s Matthew Yglesias rightly worry that the current system of governance is headed toward collapse.
These perspectives are vital at a time when many progressives regard the Constitution as our only line of defense against a would-be autocrat in the White House. Yet whether or not the president knows it, the Constitution has long been venerated by conservative business elites like himself on the grounds that it hands them the power to fend off attempts to redistribute wealth and create new social guarantees in the interest of working people. There’s a reason we’re the only developed country without guarantees such as universal health care and paid maternity leave. While preserving and expanding the Bill of Rights’s incomplete safeguards of individual freedoms, we need to start working toward the establishment of a new political system that truly represents Americans. Our ideal should be a strong federal government powered by a proportionally elected unicameral legislature. But intermediary steps toward that vision can be taken by abolishing the filibuster, establishing federal control over elections and developing a simpler way to amend the Constitution through national referendum.
How hard would change be? As Mr. Ackerman reminds us, while constitutional change is straightforward and feasible in most countries, “an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the consent of no less than thirty-nine different legislatures comprising roughly seventy-eight separately elected chambers.”
But it’s a problem worth confronting. As long as we think of our Constitution as a sacred document, instead of an outdated relic, we’ll have to deal with its anti-democratic consequences.
This week’s authors are Meagan Day, a writer for the socialist magazine Jacobin, and Bhaskar Sunkara, the magazine’s editor.
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