Essay:Problems with the current US Constitution

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This is a discussion about perceived issues with the United States Constitution -- in both the sense of original intent of the Framers as well as living document as interpreted by Supreme Court judges. It is a companion article to Essay:Second Constitution of the United States which is an attempt to write a constitution which fixes these flaws.

Note: it is my intention to make this a community essay. Feel free to contribute to it, edit it, argue for or against certain points, etc. If so, please add your name to the list of people above in the "essay" box. Please sign comments.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Contents

Overview[edit]

The United States Constitution of 1787 was an amazing unprecedented document which defined a then-novel structure of government unknown to humanity. With brilliant checks and balances, clear-cut spheres of authority, the tripartite structure has worked well throughout twenty-three decades of growth. America's legal backbone has kept the nation functioning despite serious challenges such as the secession of the southern states in 1861, military challenges (in World War II, the nation successfully defeated dangerous enemies on each ocean, and numerous other challenges.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

But the period from 1787 to the present has been characterized by incredible change. Human populations have increased exponentially from perhaps 500 million people (rough estimate around 1700) to seven billion people. Humans have learned to harness many diverse kinds of power, revolutionizing communications, weaponry, knowledge, medicine. The changes are so vast that a hypothetical eighteenth century person, transported in time to the present, would literally be overwhelmed by the incredible changes everywhere -- and this would be true even if we could whisk the constitution's Framers to present-day America.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

During these rapid changes, it has been difficult for the constitution to keep up, to keep adapting to what has been happening. In some cases, processes that the Framers did not foresee such as the growth of political parties took hold, and became a mainstay in the political arena. The quiet workings of numerous other factors, such as rapid population growth, affected citizenship. The nation today is much different from anything the Framers could have ever imagined, and the changes and problems are so different that it would not be sufficient to make an amendment or two to try to fix things; rather, an overhaul is needed for the next century or two.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

A two-party system formed and solidified before the end of Washington's second term, and in his farewell address he specifically warned against them, so I think it's a little misleading to say that the Founders didn't anticipate the potential for a party system.--ADtalkModerator 03:13, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Perhaps, but my sense is that the consensus view among historians who have studied the writing of the original Constitution is that the Framers did not expect that political parties would become as prominent as they did. The rapid growth of the Federalist party and the Democratic-Republicans surprised almost all of the Framers, according to the historians. Still, the Constitution was crafted (mostly by James Madison) to cope with the "violence of faction" by essentially having differing factions (political parties?) compete for power, and in such sparring, to undo each other, and it was a brilliant and novel approach based on Enlightenment thinking. It worked; it prevented tyranny; that's a huge feat, an admirable accomplishment, as I think we all agree.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
While organized political parties came to play a huge role in American political life, there is not much accounting for them in the Constitution. I do not think the Framers clearly understood how parties would operate or whether the Framers chose deliberately to have the US be a two-party system (the reality today) or a multiparty system (which most democracies around the world have today). The perhaps unintended result of the Constitution was to create a two-party system caused by winner-takes-all rules via the Electoral college and in elections for representatives. I do not see much evidence at the Constitutional Convention or in the Federalist Papers that this highly important issue of two-party vs multiparty was discussed or whether there was any thinking devoted to it (most discussion focused on the big-state vs small-state issue as you probably are aware). There are plusses with the two-party model (biggest plus is helping to encourage economic stability, since fringe or extreme views are eliminated and the effect is to push people towards the political center and learn how to compromise -- historian Patrick Allitt suggested a link between the two-party approach and economic stability I believe) but some serious drawbacks (big minus is that it tends to stifle political discussion since differing non-party views are kept out of the legislature -- non-mainstream views are kept out of political debate meaning that there is less thinking and discussion because mainstream views are not challenged intellectually.) --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Here is a partial list of some of the problems with the current constitution:--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Problems[edit]

Bad foreign policy[edit]

I see this as perhaps the biggest flaw of the original constitution, and one that can not be readily fixed by adding an amendment here or there. Rather, the entire structure of government must be overhauled to fix this, and checks and balances re-thought to make it work. I went into greater depth about this problem in the discussion under the "Preamble" on the Essay:Second Constitution of the United States (a few paragraphs down).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

The big flaw in my view is that there is not one single branch of government controlling foreign policy, but that the power to make foreign policy decisions has been divvied among the competing branches (with the president having the most power overall), but branches that can work at odds against each other, allowing an adversary to play one group off of another. The result is that the nation can not adhere to a long-range systematic consistent sensible plan; it is a ship without a rudder, or which changes rudders every four to eight years (depending on which president is in office). Friendly nations can NOT count on the US for consistent support over time (exceptions: there are numerous ties between the US and the other country (eg US & Britain have had a close relationship; also US and Canada). What often happens is that it is easier for the US to coddle up to dictators, since they are easier to work with than a foreign democracy with numerous power centers.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

The evidence for US foreign policy problems is overwhelming, but a big picture analysis would probably conclude that overall, US foreign policy was -- average, mediocre -- and highly dependent on the particular skill of whichever president was in office. An analysis of history suggests that foreign policy is difficult to get consistently right -- few nations have mastered it over substantial lengths of time. But I argue that getting foreign policy right is so very important, since it will mean the nation can avoid unnecessary and expensive wars, with horrific costs including loss of life and environmental destruction, and have better relations with friendly countries. With an improved foreign policy architecture, the nation will be able to keep friends friends, and convert enemies into friends.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

And while the president has considerable power over foreign policy making, it is not the only task which he or she must do, but other tasks may intervene and distract him or her -- such as being the head of a political party, or governing (domestic concerns), or making appointments such as Supreme Court justices. What I am saying is that foreign policy is too much of a job for any one official who has other duties as well; rather, a different arrangement is needed. I have tried to explain the logic of my proposed arrangement in the Second Constitution of the United States (and will not reiterate it here.)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

No real citizens[edit]

What has happened, gradually over time, is that people have gravitated away from politics and towards work. As a result, citizenship has become less an active relation (like in the early New England town meetings) and more of a legal marker indicating a right to work and live in America. People think they are citizens, but a better description of Americans today would be something like consumers, workers, investors, and such. People don't talk politics, generally; there are few (if any) places where people meet regularly, peaceably, to discuss issues of the day in what was described as the "public sphere" (between government and private life, a kind of counterweight to political authority -- see Jurgen Habermas.) People do not know who their congresspersons are, have no idea what issues they voted on. And the disconnect between people and government, in my view, is at the heart of the problem with American politics. It leads to attack ads; frustrated citizens; out-of-control spending; inability of government to deal with substantive economic issues such as social security or healthcare spending; it's a giant mess. When people try to express discontent, it is useless to show up at town meetings since the officials there have very little authority (other than zoning ordinances or dog licenses perhaps). The only outlets are street protests such as "Occupy Wall Street" or the "Tea Party" protests. What a mess. This was not how democracies are supposed to function, with people holding placards and shouting at passing cars in a futile bid for attention. And, make no mistake: the lack of citizenship is a constitutional flaw -- citizenship was not even mentioned in the constitution until after the Civil War when we first see the word used; even then, it was never specified what a citizen was, or what the relationship meant. It is clearly the task of a constitution to say what, if anything, citizenship means.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

1) Work is somewhat more important for the daily lives of most people then DISCUSSING THE ISSUES IN TOWN HALL. | 2) deal with the fact not everybody is 100% into f*cking politics, that doesnt make them a bad citizen it makes them just not interested. --il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 07:00, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Of course work is important and should perhaps be a person's primary responsibility. But what I am saying that there should be some political participation, some involvement in the political sphere if one is to be a real citizen, not necessarily requiring people to be "100% into politics" as you say but there should be some effort, some involvement, some participation. In my view, this is much of America's problems -- apolitical so-called "citizens" who pay only mild attention to what is going on, yet who vote; these people are highly susceptible to the demeaning attack ads since they are more focused on shopping at the mall rather than studying issues, so one negative picture or unfounded accusation by a publicity person can sway the unthinking electorate. When people are not paying attention over decades and centuries to what Congress is doing, then all kinds of subsequent evils result: politicians bending the rules to make their re-election easier; gerrymandering; Senators pulling stunts like AD said called secret holds and manipulating debate with obnoxious filibusters; congresspersons giving themselves pay raises to the extent that they are among the wealthiest Americans in an entrenched political class; self-selecting candidates (as opposed to candidates urged by local assemblies to run for office) who run for office not to represent people but for personal gain; lobbyists with checkbooks dictating what congresspersons say and do. All this corruption can happen because so-called "citizens", more aptly described as consumers, are not paying attention. This lack of citizen participation can and should be seen as a root cause of numerous serious problems with America politically, and the original Constitution is partly to blame here, since it failed to specify what citizenship was supposed to be. Politically disinterested persons are not bad people (and it is rational, unfortunately, given the current system, for people to be disinterested) but it is hard for me to see why they should be considered as citizens.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Btw I wrote an essay a while back about what happened to US citizenship from the 1700s to the present; if interested, see History of citizenship in the United States.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Your proposed constitution would exacerbate these problems rather than resolving them, by forcing citizens to vote/participate whether or not they really care about politics. You would just be giving more influence to those who are least well informed & most easily swayed. WëäŝëïöïďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 19:59, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
If you assume that Americans are and will always be apathetic, apolitical beings -- regardless of their political environment -- then I'd have to agree you're right, since changing the political world via the Constitution would do little to change such an ingrained disposition. But I think people are apathetic is because they feel powerless, and empowering people would re-invigorate their interest in politics. In a world where citizens mattered and what people did and said counted, then perhaps people might change. It's a tough call.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
So how could the Constitution address this? Mikecol05 (talk) 02:17, 4 October 2018 (UTC)

Individual vs Citizenship Rights[edit]

There should be clear distinction in the constitution between rights that are exclusively for citizens (voting, holding office, etc.) and rights that are to be held by all individuals (privacy, free speech, due process, etc.) I propose two lists - one for citizens and one for everyone (including citizens). The majority of rights should be in the second list but things that relate specifically to one's relationship with their government should be in the first. --Ender

Dual Citizenship[edit]

While we're clarifying the citizenship question - is it really necessary that one surrender foreign citizenship to become a national? It is important that a person clarify their loyalties in times of war but when relations are amicable (US-UK, US-Australia) this isn't needed. The Second Constitution should deal with this in the Citizenship section if you all like this idea. The caveat should be that if the US declares war on another State, citizens of that State who are also US citizens must surrender one or the other. Actually, H2O is very beneficial to our bodies. ----Ender

Awkward transition between presidents[edit]

From election day (November 6th) to the inauguration of the next president on January 20th, there are effectively two presidents -- one in office, one awaiting office -- and this allows confusion during this almost three-month period. The president in office is a "lame duck", while the president-elect has no formal authority. The nation is somewhat leaderless during this transition.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

When has this ever been a problem?--ADtalkModerator 03:16, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
The obvious solution is to make them take office right away i assume you want? yah because that wouldnt be even fucking worse, having no prep time!--il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 06:44, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
(1) President John Adams making so-called "midnight" appointments (which resulted in Marbury v Madison Supreme Court decision) possibly to throw a monkey-wrench into the incoming presidency of Jefferson. (2) Incoming President George W. Bush pushed outgoing president Bill Clinton into deferring on a treaty with North Korea; in effect, the incoming president was telling the outgoing president what to do.[1](3) During the awkward even-longer transition period (5 months?) between incoming president-elect Lincoln and outgoing president Buchanan, the South seceded. (Undoubtedly the South would have seceded anyway, but confusion about who was really in charge (Lincoln or Buchanan?) was not helpful. (4) The 1932-1933 transition, with incoming Roosevelt, was marked by a banking free fall.[2]--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:52, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Presidential transition periods are times of uncertainty and contradiction. The outgoing President retains all the formal legal powers of the presidency, yet his last electoral success is four years removed and his political capital is at low ebb. The incoming President, in contrast, enjoys an electoral mandate and enormous political influence but has no formal control over the reins of government. During transitions, in short, there is no relationship between power, accountability, and electoral support that normally hallmarks the democratic process.
—Jack M. Beermann & William P. Marshall, in the North Carolina Law Review (2006)[3]

As far as prep time goes, I think the national security apparatus does "start early" in that regard. I believe that in 2008, after the conventions, both McCain and Obama did start getting briefings on the world situation, and similar was true in earlier elections. That makes good sense -- you don't want the President to take office and be shocked by the report on his desk that says, "Canada is planning a mass invasion tomorrow." MDB (talk) 15:34, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Canada, invading? Great if they could bring more Molson beer! :) Good that candidates get national security briefings but, what are we talking about, a few hour long sessions? Foreign policy smarts requires regular study, 24/7, over years.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
The old start in march was because back in tyhe day of horse and wooden boats, it actually took time to get places--il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 21:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Under-representation of voters from populous states[edit]

Since each state has two U.S. Senators, a rural state such as Alaska has as much clout in the Senate as a populous state such as California. When the original constitution was written, there was not much difference between the relative populations of the most populous state such as Virginia and the least populous state. Today, in contrast, a state such as California has approximately 70+ times the population of a state such as Alaska. California has 35 million people; Wyoming has 500,000. The effect of both states having the same number of US senators is a huge distortion, since the Wyoming voters have a disproportionate weight. The result is a "remarkable flow of federal dollars from "highly populated states such as California and New York to thinly populated but politically advantaged states," according to constitutional scholar Sanford Levinson.[4] It results in weird projects such as Alaska's "bridge to nowhere"; further, needed highway projects in populous states are often unfunded when they would clearly benefit more people.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

It is directly contrary to fact to say that this has not always been a problem. In fact, big states like Virginia were feared by the Founders, which is why there is a House as well as a Senate. This ensures a strong voice for every state, as befits a federation of states, as well as direct response to the proportionate needs of the populace.--ADtalkModerator 03:18, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
It is time to rethink the Virginia compromise, since population shifts have changed the dynamic considerably. I think the big problem comes with money flows, when money comes in to Washington, gets redistributed, and flows back out of Washington. The House and Senate control these money flows. The House is motivated to give back the money proportionately (since that is how it is structured); the Senate is not. As a result, much-needed funds which would have gone to structural improvements in high-population states with big cities are diverted to places like Wyoming and Alaska and New Hampshire. This is clearly a constitutional issue.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
You also just described the Constitutional solution, which split representation into a bicameral congress to deal with the issue.--ADtalkModerator 20:00, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
The bicameral big-state small-state Virginia compromise solution was a way back in 1787 to entice states like Delaware and Rhode Island to buy into the constitution program. This compromise wasn't a big giveaway back then because the relative population differences were not that great; but they are today. My proposed constitution solves this, in part, by moving much of the task of economic regulation away from Washington, and to state governments themselves, meaning there is less $$ for Senators to squander in projects like the Bridge to Nowhere.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
While I don't know how they make decisions on money distribution, here is my idea for how they distribute seats: The number of senate seats for each state would be proportional to the square root of the states population. This way, California would have 8 senate seats while the smallest states would have 1 each. But perhaps they should use weighted voting in that case, as Maine has 1.5× the root population of Wyoming. This idea can be done with the Australian Senate as well, where each province has 5 seats regardless of population.--LiamM32 (talk) 20:10, 30 January 2019 (UTC)

District of Columbia voters lack representation in Congress[edit]

Roughly 600,000 people live there. But they lack a representative in Congress. Supposedly the Congress controls the entire area of DC. But it seems unfair that citizens there -- who pay taxes, serve in the military -- do not have a congressional representative.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

The Democrats have proposed a representative for them very regularly. But because such a rep would be a sure thing for the Dems, the GOP always crushes the proposal.--ADtalkModerator 03:19, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Exactly. It is not working. Partisan concerns have trumped what's right, and the people of DC have been left without a representative.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
So... why is this a Constitutional problem?--ADtalkModerator 19:57, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
My thought is this. For the purpose of representation in the Senate, the District of Columbia shall be treated as a part of the state of Maryland. The residents of the District shall vote in Maryland Senatorial elections. The District will have one representative in the House.
XVXV. There are two ways of thinking about it. One view is the original Constitution was essentially the best possible, crafted by prescient thinkers with people afterwards trying their best to follow it, and sometimes falling short. A second is seeing the original Constitution as good but imperfect, written by fallible humans, and if unfortunate results happen, we blame the Constitution, not the players since they were only following what it instructed. Perhaps both views are somewhat true? Perhaps people lean to one view or the other; I tend to lean to the latter view (blaming the Constitution), so perhaps I should explain myself a bit.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
I see the original Constitution as a kind of DNA-like genetic code specifying how the parts such as lawmakers, candidates, office holders and society will function together. It is a powerful document. It influences so many aspects of American society, particularly the law, where its words have been used to guide legal decisions. But its influence is profound -- it is hard to imagine any part of American society which has not been shaped by its words. It influences courtrooms, state legislatures, classrooms of school children, popular songs. Arguably the biggest impact is how the Constitution arranges the parts of government -- the tripartite structure, the roles, the checks and balances -- with influences both obvious and subtle about how people think and relate to each other. It is such a powerful influence that people have almost come to look at the document as divine, as sacrosanct, as above reproach, to the extent that a kind of fog of worship surrounds it, preventing people from thinking about it rationally, preventing people from seeing that it was written by enlightened humans who lived more than two centuries ago, who do not know as much as we know today, who could not have seen the results of their creation in the same way that we can do today, in retrospect. Madison and Adams and Hamilton never knew about cell phones, or computers, or political parties, or spaceships or nuclear bombs; we know about such.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
What's key is examining patterns. If some result happened some times, but other times fixed itself, then maybe we could chalk that up to the players being responsible (and see the Constitution as doing a good job of keeping the country on course.) But consistent patterns and trends, seen again and again over time, then perhaps it is a result of the document setting the pattern, that is, the Constitution. Patterns I see include: a giant trend away from civic duty in perhaps all forms; haphazard foreign policy (some wins, some losses, overall => mediocre); inequalities of wealth I don't see as a permanent trend (it ebbs and flows; my guess is it will flow back to a more equitable distribution of wealth, and that wealth inequality is not a constitutional flaw); in the case of DC voters lacking representation, I believe that has always been the case, that is, for 230 years, DC voters have never had a representative to call their own, so it is hard not to see this as a continuing trend. Is that a result of the GOP? The GOP was not around before the 1850s. In my view, DC voters lacking representations is clearly a constitutional flaw. It was pointed out by constitutional scholars and I am echoing their point.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Last, we can look at how different constitutions and arrangements work in different countries, and do comparative analyses. What's instructive is that few nations around the world have copied the US constitutional model exactly, but most have chosen a parliamentary model, and seem to be doing quite well with such systems. There are numerous opportunities for comparative study here.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
You speak of patterns, and then assume they are rooted in the Constitution. But not every pattern is a constitutional problem or has a constitutional solution. Throughout this discussion, I have noted that you don't seem to be thinking very hard about the practical and immediate workings of what you are discussing. For example, you believe that American foreign policy is short-sighted, sporadic, and untrained, because the voters are uninformed and tend to choose poor and inexperienced presidents. But the Constitution doesn't require voters to make such a choice - GOP primary voters could easily pick a Huntsman over a Gingrich. Nor does the Constitution tend to drive them to such a choice, as the actual debate in the primary and in past contests shows, where foreign policy experience was a vital factor. As you may recall from 2008, it was one of the most important assets McCain had against Obama.
Your solution to the perceived problem is to overhaul the system so that voters don't get to make the choice - they can't be trusted as much as a favored elite! - via a huge change in the Constitution. I believe that this is wrong both ideologically, because democracy and voter participation in foreign policy is essential, but also from a practical standpoint. If you actually wanted to fix this problem, then you'd just try to apply pressure to increase the important of a sound foreign policy in government. This would translate to supporting candidates like Huntsman, with strong experience, over ones like Gingrich. Or if you're a Democrat, then a similar choice in 2016. Tell your friends. Ask questions. If you feel inclined, start a blog and point out the inexperience and its consequences that you see.
The solution starts with you, not with mandated amendments to the highest law of the land.--ADtalkModerator 22:13, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
US foreign policy IS "short-sighted, sporadic, and untrained" according to numerous foreign policy experts. Bay of Pigs fiasco. Vietnam War (10 years, 58,000 deaths, huge waste of funds.) Gulf War II. The Korean war (dubious). Teddy Roosevelt's strong-arming of Panama. The Spanish-American war (instigated partially by newspapers hoping to sell papers). War of 1812 -- stalemate; mistake in choosing to fight this one when the nation was seriously unprepared for war. The Valerie Plame affair (administration OUTING one of the US's own agents for domestic power games.) Consider that an entire region -- the Middle East -- has intensely negative attitudes towards the US. 9/11. Why did it take 10 years to finally get Osama bin Laden? US coddling dictators (including Qaddafi many years, Saddam Hussein before Iraq War I). A humongous national defense budget. Carter with the Iranian hostage crisis (sparked by a not-so-bright Carter move to have the hated Shah come to the US for medical treatment.) Kissinger complained that every incoming president is tempted to pull up every foreign policy initiative by the roots to see what it is about (thereby killing it). These problems with US foreign policy are directly tied to the Constitution which asks ill-equipped voters to choose the commander-in-chief to serve for only 4 or 8 years preventing any foreign policy plans which take longer to enact (and many do). The Constitution structures the commander-in-chief not to have only one focus -- foreign policy -- but many, so there are numerous ways in which the president can get distracted or waylaid by domestic concerns. And yes, the Constitution does structure it so that voters choose the foreign policy chief -- a clear mistake, since it will take professionals to know who is actually the best person to handle this tough responsibility. Look at past presidents: Eisenhower, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama. Of these, only a handful were competent at foreign policy; others learned on the job (Kennedy); Bush II was singled out by numerous experts as a disaster. These mistakes: the faults of GOP voters? Or Democratic party voters? Clearly the Constitution is to blame.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 00:02, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Your complaint is that other Americans don't value the same attributes in a potential president that you do. It is a gross miscarriage of democratic values to strip your fellow voters of their ability to choose the leader of the nation just because they don't value foreign policy experience as highly as you do. If everyone else really thought that those issues that you raise were the most important ones to them, then they'd be electing stronger foreign policy candidates. It's not that they're incompetent, they just don't agree with you. That difference is the center of the democratic process: if you think your fellows have their priorities out of whack, then you try to convince them of that. Take Grover Norquist: he thought that American voters didn't value his idea of fiscal conservatism highly enough. So he created a campaign to raise awareness of the values he thought were important in a candidate. His campaign uses political pressure, a practical pledge, and extensive argument - and now his idea of fiscal conservatism has become the norm among GOP voters. You can do the same thing for foreign policy, or support via donation and argument someone else who is doing so, or take other action.--ADtalkModerator 00:40, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
I appreciate your thoughtful response. In your view, I am imposing my personal political preferences (better foreign-policy) not by arguing for it within the existing structure, but by re-doing the structure to fit my preferences. In your view, democracy functions by people expressing what they want by voting, and if they wanted better foreign policy, they'd vote for it; but they don't feel it is that important, so they choose otherwise (Carter, Bush, etc).--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:29, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
So, what's the problem? And it's this: the US government is not a democracy but a republic. It is a more complex integrated structure which includes elements of democracy, but which also includes elements of monarchy and aristocracy, and was fashioned by the Framers. Its origins go back to the writing of Locke and particularly Montesquieu, who looked at each particular type of government (democracy, monarchy and despotism) and saw pluses and minuses with each. Democracies deteriorated into despotisms; monarchies had the problem of succession; aristocracies became tyrannical; despotisms were unstable ruling by fear, and so forth. As a result, Montesquieu hypothesized that a government using all three structures would work best: majority rule (democracy), minority rule (aristocracy), individual rule (monarchy), since the differing structures would compensate for weaknesses in the others. It's what the Roman Republic had (before the Gracchus brothers around 123 BCE roughly). The current US government has elements of all three -- rule by the majority (Congress), rule by a minority (Senate, to some extent, the Supreme Court), and rule by a single person (the President). And a key to making it work well is to have each branch do what it does best YET be checked by the others.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:29, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
If you think that my suggestion is somehow stripping voters of their right to elect the President, well, all I am doing is having voters choose presidents indirectly rather than directly (which you perhaps already accept in principle if you approve of the Electoral College -- an indirect step in presidential elections). All I am suggesting is a different way to do this. Consider that while Supreme Court justices can rule a law unconstitutional, the public did not elect them but they were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate as you know. In office, they are accountable to nobody. They can rule for or against abortion. This is serious unelected power. If you applied your democratic principle consistently, then you might be opposed to such judicial power. But we accept this arrangement. What I am saying is have the State department be appointed indirectly like the Supreme Court is. I am taking the existing principle of three-part government and jiggering the parts to try to make it work better.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:29, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
Last, in your analysis you are suggesting that good foreign policy is somehow a debatable question -- a partisan preference or choice -- like should voters choose foreign policy X or foreign policy Y, or choose presidential candidate M lots of international savvy or candidate N with less skill but a better domestic program? And I do not think that is how voters look at it; rather, all voters would choose the best foreign policy, wouldn't they? They realize that the nation-as-a-whole benefits when foreign policy is smart, and suffers when it isn't. Voters should stick to the area they know best: pocketbook issues, domestic concerns, and elect leaders who will meet these needs. And, in turn, the government should elect the foreign policy department.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:29, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
When voters choose a president in the current arrangement, they elect a leader with a partisan agenda, usually either pro-business or pro-labor or some mix. So it is tempting for such a leader to not make decisions which are best for the nation as a whole, but which reflect this partisan agenda. There are numerous instances of executives with partisan agendas screwing up foreign policy -- a few examples: in the Valerie Plame Affair, the pro-business pro-defense spending Bush II administration OUTED the secret identity of an intelligence agent -- it hurt America's foreign policy effort to reflect a partisan. Jefferson's Embargo Act of 1807 reflected an anti-business agenda to cripple New England maritime shipping, but it backfired, and helped lead to the rather pointless War of 1812. What I am saying is get partisan politics out of the State Department. Almost all foreign policy experts see partisanship as a highly divisive counterproductive force in international relations. And my proposed constitution is based on choice. Imagine if we bring the American public into a room. We look at what has happened. We look at foreign policy. And everybody agrees: the current system is not working. We need a better system. And people would agree to a new constitution which would work better and remove the selection of foreign policy leaders from a direct vote every four years.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 16:29, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
In the interest of full disclosure, I live in Maryland. MDB (talk) 14:59, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Noted. :) I wonder if Virginia would be jealous. Your Maryland solution is a workable one. Or, possibly assign a representative to DC, based on population -- if the current ratio is 1 representative for every 747K persons, then shouldn't DC get one representative? Seems only fair.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
The reason I picked Maryland is that DC was originally created out of land given by both MD and VA. However, VA's portion was returned to them (I can't remember when but it's been a long time.) Also, Maryland pretty regularly sends Democrats to the Senate, and DC is solidly Democratic. (The Democratic Mayoral primary is effectively the mayoral election; the actual mayoral election is an afterthought.) Assigning DC to VA for Senatorial purposes would have a much more noticeable effect on party balance in that state. MDB (talk) 17:17, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Makes good sense. Please consider changing the wording in the "Second Constitution..." article to reflect what you think is best. --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:20, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Failure to specify a right of privacy[edit]

The original constitution failed to specify in clear terms if there was a right of privacy. Such a right has been inferred based on some Supreme Court decisions, but it should be made explicit.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

I agree with this, and would support an amendment for a Right to Privacy.--ADtalkModerator 03:20, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
And I assume you would support a Right to Privacy in a new constitution too?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Properly worded, yes.--ADtalkModerator 00:30, 30 November 2011 (UTC)

Danger of a military dictatorship[edit]

Levinson suggested that a catastrophic attack on Congress (one bomb by a terrorist when it was in session) could lead to a declaration of martial law by the president. The constitution does not specify what specific arrangements should be made if such an attack did happen.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Individual states are rightly responsible for deciding how to replace their delegates. They all have procedures, most of which direct the governor to appoint replacements. It is a mystery to me why martial law would be necessary if Congress was wiped out. Each state has a governor and state legislature, the executive branch and associated bureaus would still be around, and so on. What's so urgent?--ADtalkModerator 03:22, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Not sure what you're getting at here. Here's the problem: suppose a bomb wiped out Congress. No more representatives. No more Senators. It would be incredibly tempting for the President to declare martial law and rule as a dictator to solve the problem. The current Constitution does not specify how to cope with such a situation; it should. Perhaps, in time, individual states would replace their delegates, but the danger is that a president could use the excuse of danger to prevent this from happening or slow it down.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
I guess the president could seize power, but it doesn't seem like any kind of real threat. First of all, members of Congress are only ever rarely all in the building. Even on important votes, they tend to just show up, vote during the appropriate period, and leave. Many call a colleague and have him hit their button. But even if they all were there, and did get wiped out with a bomb, some would likely have been absent or sick. Governors would appoint replacements to those who were killed probably within a day (if there was an emergency). It seems unlikely any president would try to seize power in that narrow window. Or if he did, it seems unlikely it would stand the remotest chance of succeeding. At least one Congressperson's going to have survived and become head of Congress automatically, and that body's vote would still be binding.--ADtalkModerator 19:55, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Right now, it seems safe since the threat of terrorism or war seems nonexistent. But after 9/11, with suspicions and fear and smoky fallen buildings, there was a climate in which the executive branch felt compelled (for the interests of national safety) to do warrantless wiretaps, seizures and detentions, espionage on civilians at home & abroad, and a slew of extralegal activity -- all in the name of "protecting the nation." Such a situation could easily return if the nation is once again subjected to a serious terrorist incident (a nuclear bomb; an attack on Congress; or more likely, a biological WMD in a city such as anthrax). The current president doesn't look dangerous. Hitler didn't look that dangerous either; when a fire happened in the Reichstag building, he blamed subversives, and used the attack to round up political opponents and execute them.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Here's another thing. Since the presidency is a powerful office with huge prestige and limitless psychic benefits, and since there are numerous logistical and financial and personal obstacles towards running in such a race, the result is that the office attracts extremely ambitious candidates who have few if any scruples about doing whatever is necessary to win election to it. Fair-minded candidates with personal qualities of integrity and honor may find that the requirements for winning the office are so great that they will not endure the multi-year grind of 15-hour long campaign days and handshaking, and they will bow out of the race, leaving the more ambitious to vie for it. Even in the 2008 election, two years prior to the actual election, there were 12 serious candidates spending vast amounts of time and vast personal resources to earn a shot at the presidency. It is a reasonable assessment to suggest that such a powerful office will also attract possible tyrants, or attract persons with less-than-perfect morals who, in office, will be tempted into becoming tyrants.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Governors can replace Senators, but House members have to be replaced via election. MDB (talk) 19:58, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Actually theres various laws that have to deal with stuff like that. Constitution =/= ONLY law of the united states. its the trunk, not the entire tree--il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 06:36, 28 November 2011 (UTC)--il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 06:36, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes the possibility of succession given a catastrophic attack has been discussed in Congress -- one report used these words: potential for a mass “decapitation” of both the legislative and executive branches of government, and raised questions as to the whether current arrangements were adequate to guarantee continuity in government under such circumstances. These concerns have led to a range of discussions in both Congress and the public policy community.[5]

Frontloaded primaries[edit]

Since the Constitution did not specify how political parties or states would go about selecting presidential candidates, but left the decision to states themselves, two states, namely Iowa and New Hampshire, hold political primaries earlier than the rest of the states. As a result, aspiring presidential candidates court voters in these two rural states to a great extent, early on, which means that voters of these two states have a disproportionate power to select which presidential candidates make it to the later stages. In most presidential elections over the past 50 years (there have been a few exceptions), the pool of candidates leaving New Hampshire has been either winnowed down, or a frontrunner has been determined (based on the Iowa caucuses or NH primaries) so that voters in downstream states generally do not exert as much of a role in the selection process. This is not fair for voters in the remaining 48 states. It is also a huge financial windfall for these two states, since for a month or two before the primaries, loads of reporters, staffers, publicity people and others spend huge amounts of money covering the race. Constitutional critics have proposed various fixes.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

There's an issue here in that NH's own Constitution says "we will have the first primary". (Iowa goes before them, but they have a caucus, not a primary.) Whether the Federal government could trump that is an open question and would need to be resolved with any changes to the Constitution. MDB (talk) 15:09, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Lack of competition for House seats[edit]

Congresspersons, once elected, enjoy numerous advantages as incumbents which make it highly difficult and unlikely for challengers to unseat them. Numerous analyses have shown that the re-election rates of congresspersons who seek reelection are usually around 90% or higher.[6][7] The result is that Congress is essentially out of touch with the American public. The only times when a House seat opens up is when a member decides to leave, or if he or she is involved in a scandal or makes a highly controversial political statement (such as mentioning the words "Social Security"). Further, because House members are constantly seeking funds for reelection, they have less time to focus on issues and governing. The original constitution is largely at fault here, by having a system in which in-office congresspersons would compete with challengers; didn't they see that the people in office could manipulate the rules to make it easier for them to stay in office? Here are the three big incumbents advantages:--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Gerrymandering[edit]

The party in power re-draws electoral maps to give their candidates greater chances in upcoming elections. The result is that candidates win not by appealing to voters, but by cleverly drawn electoral maps which make some seats virtually unassailable, while concentrating the party-out-of-powers voters in one or only a few electoral districts. This is clear corruption but it's generally been seen as "legal" since it is allowed by the constitution. It's been around since the early days of the republic.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Independent redistricting commission, like California now has? (((Zack Martin))) 07:20, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes. Independent nonpartisan redistricting commissions are one way to deal with gerrymandering.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Access to cash[edit]

Incumbents have usually a six-to-one advantage in raising cash from lobbyists and other sources with which to buy television time in congressional races and Senate races. It is a self-defeating spiral -- because of past results, campaign donors predict that incumbents will win, and when they do win (because of greater resources), then it becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Franking privileges[edit]

Incumbents abuse the privilege of having free mailings to use the mail pieces essentially as advertisements for their candidacy in office. Challengers lack this tool.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Breakdown of the federal system[edit]

The beauty of a federal system is that it should combine the benefits of small state regulatory smarts under the umbrella of a national defense. Small states are generally easier to govern -- a state capitol is close to the citizens within the state physically in terms of distance. Since the number of voters within a state is smaller than for the whole nation, the government is more likely to be in touch with the needs of people within the state. People exert more influence, relatively, since there are fewer people in terms of population. It was the Framers intention (as well as what Tocqueville had thought was best) to have the majority of economic regulation accomplished by state governments, and to keep the national capital focused on international matters as well as issues concerning the whole nation. There is a further check here, in the sense that if a state regulates badly, it is much easier for citizens or businesses or labor unions to leave the state and set up shop or homes in a state which regulates more wisely. This is a huge freedom enjoyed by people, and serves as a check on state power. But what has happened, over the past 230 years, is that states have lost precious regulatory authority which has moved to Washington. As a result, there are numerous federal agencies regulating many areas of the economy and environment and education -- in a one-size-fits-all format -- so intelligent rulings benefit everybody, but bad ones afflict everybody too. And citizens have lost the freedom to express displeasure with regulations by moving from state to state, since it is much more difficult to emigrate to another nation.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

The constitution was partly to blame here: the Supreme Court more often than not sided with Congress and the Federal government in a rather consistent effort over several centuries to expand federal power. It creatively interpreted the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper clause to enlarge the federal government. Even a mention of the power to establish post roads mushroomed into a huge monopoly employing almost 600,000 workers (600,000!) in a giant money-losing operation which charges 43 cents for a letter (as opposed to free emails) and delivers junk mail (at a discount) to millions of homes daily. The court took advantage of vaguely worded amendments (the Ninth and Tenth) to expand federal power to the detriment of the federal arrangement. The big pushes towards federal power happened (1) after the Civil War (the idea of states having sovereignty was hurt when a number of them tried to secede, and failed, but this set a precedent against states having economic and regulatory autonomy) and (2) during World War II (when the whole scheme of employer-withheld tax money, bypassing the worker, was used to increase funds for the federal war effort -- this withholding scheme, still in effect today, means that employers are required by law to withhold tax money from a worker, and pay it DIRECTLY to the government, which undermines a citizen's ability to express displeasure with government by threatening to not pay taxes) and (3) war on terrorism. But there has been a gradual push towards greater specialization which may have been inevitable, caused by the expansion and increased complexity of the entire nation. A further sign of this was the 17th amendment in 1912 which established direct election of US Senators by the public; as a result, state governments lost an important voice in the national government; further, there was essentially no difference between the Senate and the House since lawmakers from both chambers were directly elected. --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

There is a difference between the House and Senate - the House is almost proportional while the Senate gives the same representation to all the states all the time. The place where bicameralism doesn't make sense is the state level where the state's house districts are just half the state's senate districts. The is no true distinction! --Ender

Dangerous concentration of power in the presidency[edit]

Numerous thinkers have criticized the so-called "unitary executive" theory, in its strong form.[8][9] What has happened is that, particularly in the 20th century and present day, is that the executive branch has grown proportionately more powerful than the other two branches, partially as a result of wars or the threat of wars (eg the supposed war on terrorism.) The original constitution provided that the president should control the executive branch, but what has happened is that this branch has expanded substantially since the early days of the republic. And when a president decides to exert considerable control over everything the executive branch does, then he or she has a power which is vast and unanticipated and capable of overriding the other branches. Consider the alphabet soup executive agencies: FDA, EPA... (long list) -- they have substantial power to make business and environmental rulings which generally are not open to public discussion, which bypass Congressional input in most instances. In effect, the president can legislate using these agencies. An example of increased executive power is the much-criticized presidential signing statement in which a president, when signing a bill, makes a statement suggestion how he or she intends to understand the law; the American Bar Association has criticized this practice as unconstitutional, as well as academic critics such as Dana D. Nelson[10] and others. Thinkers such as Naomi Wolf suggest that if the nation is seriously challenged by terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, then there is the very real possibility of a dictatorship or tyranny stemming from an overzealous president taking extraordinary steps to try to defend us.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

The clue's in the name - Congressional abdication is the fault of Congress. In the past there have been disproportionately powerful Congresses and disproportionately powerful Presidents; the tide of power ebbs and flows. So increased executive power does not happen in a vacuum: Congress has willingly handed over, or failed to stop the executive branch overtaking, most if not all of the power currently enjoyed by the Presidency. An early example would be the Alien Acts - Congress, likely unconstitutionally, granted extra power to President Adams. A later one would be the Patriot Act. Congress has also largely abdicated its power to declare war.
I agree Congress should bear much of the blame for handing away much of its authority, but I think letting the Constitution off the hook is not wise either. The Constitution enabled repeat terms for congresspersons. This was a mistake since it enabled those persons in power to figure out how to stay in power. The Constitution failed to specify term limits. It should have done this. It didn't. The result is a Congress which is out of touch with the public, riven by special interests, stuffed with professional career-politicians, unable to pass term limits, and which public approval ratings of only 25% or less. A body which is supposed to serve the public is only liked by a quarter of it? This is clear corruption. A new constitution can fix this by building term limits into the new structure. The executive branch has been doing many of the tasks that Congress was supposed to have been doing, and while I agree that power ebbs and flows between the various branches (which is healthy), it seems like increased presidential power is here to stay because of the enormous growth of firmly-entrenched federal agencies. And when foreign surprises happen, the administration can go into "crisis mode", getting even more power at the expense of Congress, since it can act unilaterally, quickly, while Congress can not. But the executive branch (numerous scholars argue) is the least democratic branch since it is led by only one person, and therefore brings with it the possibility of tyranny.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Justice Jackson wrote in his concurrence in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer: "But I have no illusion that any decision by this Court can keep power in the hands of Congress if it is not wise and timely in meeting its problems. A crisis that challenges the President equally, or perhaps primarily, challenges Congress. If not good law, there was worldly wisdom in the maxim attributed to Napoleon that “The tools belong to the man who can use them.” We may say that power to legislate for emergencies belongs in the hands of Congress, but only Congress itself can prevent power from slipping through its fingers." We can talk about state constitutions and Federalist Papers all we want, but the overstrong executive is not the fault of the Constitution. It is the fault of Congress. Blue Talk 03:59, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Libya is a good example. Obama didn't seek Congressional approval for the war, despite the violation of the law and Constitution, because the level of partisan venom makes it not just unattractive, but downright unfeasible, to get the approval demanded by the War Powers Act (and by extension, the Constitution). He chose to act unilaterally in a way that was at least arguably not really "war," instead. Now, it's interesting to note that this is, as Blue notes, an abdication of power by Congress. Both the executive and the legislative permitted this: Obama because of the above reasons, and Congress because it's easier to just let the President take the lead and either praise or scold him afterwards. If Congress had wanted to stop Libya, they could have done so with a single vote. Thus the problem isn't really the Constitution, it's just that everyone involved agreed to just pretend it said something other than what it says. This convenient fiction is unfortunate, but it is the reality.--ADtalkModerator 05:23, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree with your interpretation of events except again I am not letting the Constitution off the hook. Essentially, what you are arguing is that the President and Congress cooperated to do what both bodies thought was best while essentially ignoring the specific powers vested by the Constitution; that is, Congress ignored its responsibility to declare war (or exercise its "war powers" clause) and let the President dictate strategy; and, as the argument goes, the resulting Libya strategy was a good one since it all seemed to work out fine since Qaddafi was toppled. For me, however, this is further evidence of the shallowness and fickleness of American foreign policy. With the Libya situation, America was reacting to events (an uprising); a person probably incompetent to make decisions such as whether to go to war was in charge (Barack Obama, who has little foreign policy experience, no military service, no evidence of serious study of international events over time). This Libya affair was probably not part of any American long-term grand strategy designed to serve America's best interests in the region. And two bodies (President and Congress) are jousting over what, if anything, should be done. In this particular Libya instance, it appears as if the right result happened; if so, it was lucky. But I argue that foreign policy should not be a result of luck or happenstance. The list of America's foreign policy failures is too serious (Vietnam, Iraq War II, Bay of Pigs) to conclude that this whole constitutionally-determined arrangement, with President and Congress making foreign policy, is effective. In the past, American could blunder its way through because of its wealth and size and military; in the future, it will not be able to get away with mediocre choices and luck.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
First of all, you do not explain why the Constitution is on the hook here. Is everything that goes wrong in the government, in your eyes, a failure of the Constitution? I'm starting to think so!
See previous discussion. (search for XVXV)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Secondly, this is a pretty terrible example for you to use to argue incompetence. You're right: Obama had little evidence of serious competence in foreign policy. But the voters picked him! If you don't think American voters are savvy enough to pick good Presidents, then just say that, and then you can impose a cursus honorum on American politics (i.e. you must have been a governor, ambassador, and congressperson before you can run for President). Further, Libya turned out amazingly well, and probably was part of a good overall strategy to support the Arab Spring as subtly as possible (so as to perpetuate its democratic effect without tainting it with American direct support).--ADtalkModerator 19:15, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes in this case the process appeared to have worked -- it seems like it "turned out amazingly well" in your view. Time will tell. But overall, knowing what I know about American foreign policy, it probably was not the result of a long working out of strategic choices and cultivating friendships and patience; rather, it was luck--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
About American voters not being savvy enough to choose a leader competent in foreign policy? Yes; they're not competent at this task. I am not blaming Americans or saying that they're stupid; rather, the problem is that (1) people don't know enough about foreign policy in general to assess which leaders might be best (2) foreign policy is complex, takes time to learn, and even then mistakes are possible since many factors are involved in long sequences of events (3) people elect presidents not just for foreign policy experience, but regarding domestic or so-called pocketbook issues -- they may choose a leader who appeals to them on some other domestic issue but who lacks experience. And I think the long record of US presidents will bear this out -- there is tremendous variation. Foreign policy experts such as Brzezinski and Kissinger and numerous others have criticized past presidential decisions in the foreign policy sphere.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Inability to get rid of an incompetent president quickly[edit]

Examples: Wilson (suffered from an economic malady); possibly Roosevelt in last years in office (with serious heart and circulatory issues); Bush II (clearly incompetent choice to attack Iraq) -- he was in office for eight years despite a consensus among many experts that he was one of the worst presidents in US history. In the nineteenth century, the nation could get along fine with an incompetent chief executive; in the 21st century, however, with nuclear bombs being able to strike within an hour, with terrorism, with a complex international world to contend with, an incompetent chief executive can cause the country major damage. Most other democracies have ways to remove an incompetent president (or prime minister) quickly -- in the UK, for example, Parliament whisked away Margaret Thatcher (who had been an effective prime minister) based on a vote within the government; the US government should have a similar power too.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

Impeachment! It already exists! If Congress needed to do so, they could remove the President within the day.
Also note that the presidents you mention were all reelected despite what you perceive as their obvious incompetence.--ADtalkModerator 03:26, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Section 4 of the 25th amendment. --il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 06:43, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
That's usually considered to deal with the President becoming mentally ill (i.e. He's flipped out and wants to nuke Canada or something.) It's not generally considered to deal with a President who we've decided is an idiot. MDB (talk) 15:03, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Not true - any removal from office, including for incompetence, triggers its provisions.--ADtalkModerator 19:06, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
(moved to this section) One of the problems with the Presidential system the US uses, is that once elected, Presidents cannot be removed until the end of their term. While they can be impeached, impeachment is reserved for misconduct or serious dereliction of duty, and is a difficult hurdle. Contrast with the Westminster system, where the Prime Minister must continue to maintain the confidence of a majority of Parliament during its term, and a Prime Minister can be replaced part way through their term if Parliament becomes unhappy with their performance (even if they haven't done anything to warrant impeachment.) To implement this in the US, drop the Electoral College, instead have the President elected by a majority of the House of Representatives, and the House of Representatives can dismiss the President at any time and elect another one instead. To fully go down the Westminster path, you'd need to abolish the prohibition on the President or Cabinet members being members of Congress, but while that change would have value I don't think it would be essential. (As to separation of powers, its the separation of powers between the executive/legislature and the judiciary which is really important. Separation between the legislative/executive adds little value. Besides, the President's veto makes them a quasi-legislator anyway.) (((Zack Martin))) 07:14, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
I agree about the difficulty of impeachment which has happened only rarely (two times? Johnson & Clinton, three if you consider Nixon was about to be impeached).Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Btw I urge people to add their names to the box at the top.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 14:17, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
By the way, you don't want to get rid of presidents quickly. That would be an inherently bad and political situation. Listen to all the right wingers declaring Obama to be both the anti-christ and teh worst, anti-american, god hating president ever. One of the reasons you keep it difficult to remove a president is because you do not want a Blow Job to be the reason a president is removed. The second you make it easier to remove a president, you will have chaos on your hand that makes "we won't pay for New York's hurricane damage until you balance the budget" positioning look like a game of Farmville. Any time power shifts in the house and senate, teh president will be booted out -- just cause they can. Pink mowse.pngGodotSome would use a tautology to describe it ("The way things are done around here is the wa 15:10, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
I think the 25th Amendment system is actually pretty good. In short, for a President to be declared unfit to serve, it requires a majority of the Cabinet (and maybe the VP) to say "we think the President is no longer capable of serving". Since they are all presumably political allies of the President, or at least not angry opponents, they're only going to invoke it if they really think the President is completely incompetent. Now, there's the possibility of too much loyalty, of course, with the Cabinet ignoring signs of incompetence, but unless we get into insanely blind loyalty, they'll act as filters to keep truly catastrophic decisions from being implemented. (I've heard stories that one of Nixon's Cabinet officers was concerned Nixon would decide to go out in a blaze of nuclear glory and told the military to contact him before implementing any "unusual orders.") MDB (talk) 16:20, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
The 25th amendment is better than what existed previously. Still, it requires action from the Cabinet and VP, and the extent of the Cabinet's impartiality may be subject to question. Overall, I prefer the British system much more, with the prime minister having to appear before parliament each week in a half-hour question-and-answer system, having to prove competence each week so members can see for themselves whether there's a problem. It reinforces the sense of who is working for who (the PM serves at the behest of Parliament). A simple vote of no confidence can remove him or her. This British system seems much better than the American adversarial one in my view.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

Life tenure for Supreme Court judges[edit]

Justices have been criticized for staying in office so long that they are physically incapable of thinking about complex court cases or being able to do the necessary study and work to render intelligent judgments. If many states and firms have rules about mandatory retirements, why are Supreme Court judges exempt from such a requirement? An additional problem is that Supreme Court judges can time their exit so that they leave the bench when a president is in power who is consistent with their views (ie either liberal or conservative). In that way, a departing judge can time the exit to ensure that a similarly-minded judge takes his or her seat, and in such an instance, a departing judge has a power to determine the makeup of the court which he or she should not have. Term limits would be much better; some constitutional scholars have suggested 15 years; another 18 years; although term limits, by itself, would not necessarily eliminate the selected-exit problem listed above (but would make it harder for a justice to linger on for a favorable like-minded president to get into the White House.)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

In Australia, we have a compulsory retirement age of seventy for our High Court (equivalent of US Supreme Court). Justices serve until they reach compulsory retirement age, so e.g. a justice appointed at 50 can serve at most 20 years, one appointed at 60 can serve at most 10 years. (((Zack Martin))) 07:16, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Compulsory retirement age is a reasonable alternative to seriously geriatric justices. Which do you prefer, then: term limits for Supreme Court justices? Or compulsory retirement age for them?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure I support either, but if it's one of the two, I prefer term limits over a mandatory retirement age. Mandatory retirement age would just encourage Presidents to nominate young justices who would serve for long terms.
Perhaps there could be a clause where a super-majority of all other justices could say "Justice Smith is no longer competent to serve" and at least get him temporarily removed from the Court while the Congress evaluates the situation instead of a mandatory retirement age. MDB (talk) 17:25, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
What about both term limits and a mandatory retirement age; so justices could serve, say, 15 or 18 years, and then have to retire, or if they reached 70 years old, then they'd have to retire regardless.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 21:34, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
The best solution I've heard for this is a system where every President gets to pick one justice per term. Justices retain their lifelong appointments, but only the most recent nine justices make decisions. In case of conflict of interest, illness, or other factors, then there's a shift to the next-most-recent justice to substitute. Considering that this tends to mimic the actual rate of appointments in the past sixty or so years, it seems like a good change that also will be fair in partisan terms, doesn't perpetuate the two-party system (i.e. a third-party candidate could appoint a justice), and so on. This appointment should come after three years in office. But I haven't heard any good counter-arguments, so I don't know if this is feasible.--ADtalkModerator 21:50, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Or simply let each President be guaranteed one appointment per term and let them all participate, bringing in both new and traditional perspectives in order to achieve a balance. If a Justice retires/dies, the seat remains unfilled. 76.98.217.9 (talk) 02:24, 6 March 2016 (UTC)

No right to travel[edit]

The current Constitution has no guarantee of a right to travel within the US, or to leave it. Hence, the government can and does prohibit travel to Cuba. In theory, the state of Tennessee could bar citizens of Kentucky from crossing the border. I think the Constitution should specify a general right to travel, with a "health, safety and security" exception. MDB (talk) 15:16, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

I agree fully about a right to travel. Should we include this in the Essay:Second Constitution of the United States? Wondering how to word it. It's important because it gives the ultimate freedom of a citizen -- the freedom to leave -- and without this, a state could effectively "imprison" a critic or dissident by requiring them to stay within the nation (and away from foreign reporters possibly.)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)
Citizens should also have a right to reenter the US after spending time outside of it. --Ender
And then the supreme court would rule on it. I fail to see the problem. --il'Dictator Mikalosa (talk) 21:58, 28 November 2011 (UTC)
Problems could come if the composition of the Supreme Court changes, and instead of advocating permissive travel rules, tightened up considerably. The advantage of writing a right to travel in the constitution is making it more permanent. Further, problems could come by way of unusual circumstances, and perhaps it is worth it to think through some of them. I know the State department routinely posts what it calls "advisories" recommending citizens not to travel to specific countries at specific times (risk of being taken hostage; inability to guarantee safety; health concerns etc). If a citizen disobeyed, wandered into a foreign civil war, and was taken hostage, then it can become a giant nuisance for authorities to try to secure release. Other possible circumstance: suppose a US citizen who has strong ties to another country, happens to be highly active in the politics of that other country, and decides to travel there for the purpose of instigating a rebellion or protest; how would that be dealt with? I am thinking that the right of travel overrides most of these concerns, overall, but that the State Department should be able to influence where people go, and possibly punish citizens who deliberately disobey rather clear instructions. The ultimate case, perhaps, would be a US citizen who travels abroad and, in so doing, causes the foreign country to go to war with the US -- I know, highly hypothetical and extremely unlikely, but it's possible. The case that may have come closest was a private US citizen-pilot who landed a small plane in Red Square during the Cold War; it may have been possible that Soviet authorities could have interpreted such as gesture as the beginning of a surprise attack, and possibly instigated war.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 17:03, 29 November 2011 (UTC)

The United States Constitution does have a clause protecting the right to travel between states. Kentucky can not close it's borders. In 1823 the supreme court declared freedom of movement a constitutional right, and in 1869 "freedom of movement" was defined as the "right of free ingress into other States, and egress from them".

Requirement to Maintain a Monopoly of Force[edit]

Seems pretty bleeding obvious, actually, but considering the existence of failed states it'd be nice to have a big honking trigger that says 'hey, citizens, the Military does not control everything, the country is dead'. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

What do you mean here?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
For example, the United States cannot allow a foreign power or a corporation to dictate what goes in the country against the will of the people/government. I mean it's just pretty much the definition of government. If we had a situation like the American Civil War where some other government contested our claims of governance we either need to surrender the claim or regain sole control. If we have a situation like Vichy France then we should just admit that the U.S. failed and we're not a country anymore. No outsourcing Los Angeles to the Japanese, for people who get that reference. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 04:20, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm still not quite clear what you mean. For example, what wording would you use for a new constitution to say what you're trying to get at?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Destruction of Classified Information[edit]

This should be considered a capital crime. Even if something needs to be sealed away for 150 years before it's safe to open, it should still be there. If I had my druthers Nixon should've been punished much more for erasing the tapes than anything what could've been on it. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Yes, this is a valid one. Any instance of the destruction of classified information is probably an occasion in which somebody in power was trying to hide wrongdoing from history, and this should not be permitted.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Against, on grounds of ethical objection to capital punishment in general. It should be classified under "High Crimes and Misdemeanors." RoninMacbeth (talk) 00:05, 5 October 2017 (UTC)

No provision for non-human sapients[edit]

Laugh all you want with this one, but in a century or so it's very likely we'll have simu-Humans or intelligent robots or whichever. Just a little statement saying that the provisions and protections of the U.S. Constitution applies to any self-aware lifeform and not just humans would be nice. If the previous Constitution has taught us anything, these things can last for a loooong time. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Interesting, definitely; never occurred to me. A robots' rights?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes. Not relevant now and may not be relevant for the entirety of the lifespan of the U.S. Constitution (or humanity), but definitely relevant in about 100 years. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I agree. Historians will like this. Plus, I think that it might motivate some would-be bad-deed-doers from worrying about possible exposure at a later time, and thinking twice, and behaving. Mind if I add your excellent idea to the this version?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Great. How do we word it? "The right contained within this constitution shall apply equally to all intelligent life forms"? This also make the assumption that the beings in question are human like. How would a swarm consciousness exercise individual liberties? Is it one person or many? If it gains citizenship, how many votes should it have? --Ender

No provision to protect us from a Gattaca-like situation[edit]

Also getting into the realm of 'science fiction now, probable crisis later', the Constitution should have a provision explicitly stating that inherent increases to human/sapient intelligence or longetivity not solely and explicitly determined by randomness and heritability of citizens that existed before the creation of this or any other mechanism: 1.) If the mechanism can be applied to existing humans the government must do its utmost to provide it for every one of its citizens whether they want to or not. 2.) If the mechanism can only be applied to citizens-to-be the government must do its utmost to provide it for every citizen whether they want to or not, up to and including confiscation of citizens-to-be from parents or guardians. 3.) If the mechanism cannot be applied to at least 99% of existing citizens then the government shall do its utmost to forbid, hinder, and destroy it in both this nation and outside it. 4.) If the difference in intelligence or longetivity is due to a difference in the physical properties of two unmodified sapient beings not consciously caused or in the control of either sapient parties, such as a human being and an artificial intelligence, the government must do its utmost to close the gap by increasing the status of the 'inferior' species. Failure of the government or its citizens to uphold this amendment shall be explicitly regarded as treason and punished as such. Again, double laugh all you want at this or call me a transhumanist kook, but the people who come to inherit the earth many generations later will thank us for this. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

It is not clear what you are getting at. It seems like it is based in hypothetical speculation, since it depends on mechanisms not yet created, and I do not think this would work for an existing constitution, but perhaps this will be an issue for future generaitons.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
It is totally hypothetical but it's important to have this debate settled before the situation actually happens. A situation where a minority (or majority) can have designer babies or enhanced intelligence and the majority (or even a minority) gets what God gives them isn't just terrible; it's an active assault against humanity (or what have you). Even if you criminalized or restricted people doing it there are going to be some people trying to make it happen anyway. And while I'm not against people making the next generation super-cyborgs, I am against the idea of certain people not getting them. The tragedy is that the people who do go down this road are certainly not individually trying to directly attack humanity or institute slavery by doing this but the net effect is that they will be doing so. But it needs to be treated as an attack on one, hence to show how dead fucking serious we are about this we are going to flat out state that it's treason. No one wants the decision to make their children less able or less perfect. So either you go full-Liliput and declare that children are a resource of the state and not of their parents or you decide that unless everyone can have designer babies no one can. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Your analysis is interesting; still, the overall difficulty here is that there are so many hypotheticals that I do not see how we could build in any kind of language into an existing constitution; rather, we would almost have to wait by necessity. In general, law tends to lag behind technology. Your example assumes that (1) designer babies would be possible or whether (2) they would be more powerful than ordinary humans or (3) whether they would dominate the regular humans. It could happen this way; or it could happen differently. I do not think it is good material for a revised Constitution, and is not really a good criticism of the existing one, but I think that it could serve as useful speculation for constitutional amendments in fifty years from now possibly.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Limitation on Pardons[edit]

1.) If you were in an elected position in federal government, you can't get one until 10 years after you've been removed from office. 2.) Pardons can only be applied after a conviction. You still must follow due process until it's done. Again, this is something that we shouldn't have to propose, but after the EXTREME sketchiness of the Nixon and Casper Weinburger pardons the nation should strongly be considering that. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Don't forget Ford's pardon of Nixon. Clinton, during his last days in office, pardoned Marc Rich, a campaign contributor to Clinton's campaign -- clearly another abuse of pardon power.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I'd just like to amend it real quick; you can get a pardon even if you were in the federal government if it's for something that does not directly pertain to the duties and powers of yours or others' offices or their functioning (for example, drunken driven while on vacation). If it is for something that does affect the functioning of government (bribing, various Watergate crap, using the franking privilege to send hate speech, using classified information to conduct inside trading) you can't get pardoned right away. Come to think, the military and government bureaucracy should probably be included in this.
The idea of the pardon power was to provide for situations in which good people got caught up in weird situations, and despite their best intentions, get punished -- unfairly. And the idea was to give this power to the president, who could look at the overall impact of a situation, and pluck a person from being punished because the president had a bird's-eye view of the situation, and could see the big picture, and dispense justice. Or, it could have been used as a means of accomplishing the national interest despite the current conviction of a person -- for example, suppose an especially adept safe-cracker has been imprisoned for robbing banks, but the government needs him or her to be free to help Fort Knox build better crack-resistant safes. That sort of thing. Overall, the pardon power is supposed to serve as a check on the judiciary by the executive branch. The problem has come when presidents have used it to get cronies off the hook -- for example, President George W. Bush commuting the sentence of errant staffer Scooter Libby.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
My sense is there may be a place in government, somewhere, for the pardon power, but the mistake is that it is unilateral. So if the pardon power is kept by the president, then I would suggest making it contingent upon the blessing of some other non-judicial body, such as the Senate or House. Or, let the commander-in-chief role have the pardon power, but contingent upon the blessing of the president or Congress. I do not think it is wise to try to specify in a constitution which specific instances would be pardonable or non-pardonable, since the specifics of any one situation will probably not fit any words we might possibly write.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
These are really important now, given Donald Trump's conduct. Also, I would like to add the following: 3)The President of the United States cannot pardon themselves, nor can the governors of the several states pardon themselves. 4) An attempt to violate this is a high crime and misdemeanor under Section 4 of this Constitution. RoninMacbeth (talk) 23:29, 4 October 2017 (UTC)

Restoring Voting Rights[edit]

Once you've been released from the care of the state you should get these back. It feels silly to bring this up, but, considering the millions of people in the United States who are disenfranchised due to having been in prison we need to do something about these people. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Doesn't this happen automatically?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
As far as I know some states ban felons from voting after they've done their time. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
The idea is good. But I think the principle should be extended to cover not just voting rights but other areas -- jury duty, political participation, and so forth. So, after a convict has served his or her time, and been released, then the incident is over -- it's done with -- and full admittance to citizenship in all its forms should be restored. The question is: how it might be worded?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Prohibition on Torture[edit]

Duh. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Agreed, but maybe with a few well-defined and clearly drawn out exceptions (ie ticking time bomb scenario, planted bomb, captured terrorist, where is it? etc.)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
If that's the case, see below. I do agree that ticking time bomb scenarios happen, but, if they do then people should be willing to fall on their sword for them. If it really was justified (i.e. stopping a nuclear bomb from going off) then no one is going to really punish them. Hell, they'd probably be hailed as a hero for their tough decision-making. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm wondering whether the context matters too. In peacetime, without substantial threats of terrorism or insurrection or civil war, then torture should be taboo. There's no need for it. What I am wondering about is what happens in a wartime scenario. It is difficult for me to imagine what steps may have to be done to prevail in a war, or what difficulties may emerge. As a general rule, I think it is wise to give a commander total power to wage a war as he or she sees fit; any limitation on this power (if known by an enemy) may be used to thwart this war-making effort; and it is hard for me to see, in advance, what powers may be needed. I definitely hope that a possible future commander would see that torture is counter-productive, leading to backlashes and public relations disasters as well as similar retaliation by enemy forces against our soldiers that may become captured (ie torture is admittedly a bad choice); at the same time, I am loathe to saddle a commander with rules or limitations in advance since I can not see what may be needed. If a commander has to constantly worry about possible recriminations after a battle or war, then it might make them so hesitant that they are unable to lead effectively. The Romans gave great freedom-of-action to their generals, so a commander in the field could take advantage of an opportunity that opened up unexpectedly, and act decisively; the last thing the Romans wanted were to have generals so afraid to act because of worry about being second-guessed and punished afterwards. So, if there is a prohibition on torture, it makes sense to provide exceptions (ie ticking time bomb scenario; possible wartime scenarios.)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

People invoking extra-Constitutional actions in emergency[edit]

Regardless of how you feel about people having the ability to suspend the Constitution in extreme emergencies - for example Abraham Lincoln - when things get under control it should be grounds for automatic resignation and trial. If you feel that the situation has gotten bad enough that you must subvert the Constitution temporarily in order to save it you should be willing to put your job and freedom on the line for it. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:08, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Interesting choice. I think almost any kind of war, or serious act of sustained terrorism or civil strife, can put hug pressure on the government to resort to any means necessary (including extra-legal or unconstitutional) to win its war; so in your comment, you are essentially saying that this will happen, but if so, then the persons who do it must fall on their swords afterwards. Probably a good provision but which needs more exploration.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Access to voting mechanisms[edit]

1.) All federal and state elections need to have an explicit voting holiday. 2.) Anyone who wants to vote in a federal or state election should be provided reasonable access at no personal cost to the citizen which should on average take no more than two hours of work. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:12, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

How about a provision that nobody can be punished (ie fired from work if they vote). That might solve the problem without having to have one more holiday when the number of holidays is getting up there (and misused as shopping come-ons.)--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Voter ID laws come to mind. I don't think that they're a bad one, but if they happen people should be getting them for free and it should be something you can get without hassle. I also think that the average person should not have to spend more of an aggregate effort (transportation, roadblocks, voter ID checks) two hours getting to a polling place to cast a vote - I think that's definitely grounds for a suit against the government if it happens to enough people. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Here in Australia, elections are usually on Saturdays. How about that? Most people have Saturdays off anyway, so no need for a public holiday. For the minority of people who have to work on Saturdays, or who have some religious objection to voting on that day (e.g. Orthodox Jews or Seventh Day Adventists), you can always provide early voting (come in person to a designated voting centre before election day to vote early — also useful for those who, e.g., plan on being interstate or overseas on election day) or postal voting. (((Zack Martin))) 08:22, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
In the U.S., voting turnout can vary considerably; if it is a close contest, greater numbers can turn out, swamping polling stations and leading to long lines, but it is hard to predict since people do not have to vote. Saturday election days seem reasonable. Voting-by-mail, sometimes days or weeks ahead of the election for people who will be traveling or for members of the armed forces, can be problematic (it has been tied to voter fraud in the U.S.) My sense is if we can get people thinking and acting and behaving as real citizens, then logistical problems of voting will happen less, particularly if citizens get used to going to a local spot quarterly and participating.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Recalls[edit]

The long terms are fine to an extent, but no one in Congress and probably the lower courts (for states that elect justices, such as Texas) should be completely insulated from the voters. A provision for a universal recall (something like a 10% signature drive of people the people serves) would be nice. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:12, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

So if 10% of voters sign a petition recalling an official, then the official is out?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Nah, they just hold a new election. To put a limit on abuse there should be a period of time when a recall effort is announced (done by the candidate running for office), how much time you have to collect enough signatures, how soon a new election must be held, and a limit to the number of recalls someone can be subject to - no more than once per 30 months, including 'regular' elections. Actually, 10% might be too low in our much-more organized society. Maybe 20%. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
The recall idea is similar to the referendum idea, and my reactions are that it is a good way to deal with the current system, but that both recalls & referenda would be unnecessary if more serious and substantive constitutional reform was done. Essentially, a recall is like a referendum not on an issue but on an official. Recalls could work if citizens were generally paying attention to politics, but since they are basically aloof and apolitical, there would be an incentive for recalls to be mounted by well-organized partisan factions. My preference is for more substantive reform overall.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Census and Redistricting[edit]

Considering the growth of the U.S. population and gerrymandering (probably much faster than the framers ever envisioned it) this should really be shortened from ten years to five years, with a mandatory hand count in each case. For much the same reason the Inauguration has been shortened from March to January. Redistricting should be done every time there's a census, too. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:12, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

New Zealand does a census every 5 years; it fines residents who fail to submit a questionnaire.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
How about an independent redistricting commission like California now has? (And is common in many other countries, e.g. Australia or the UK). At once every ten years, the frequency of the census is not too bad; surely once every five years would be better, but the real issue is getting redistricting out of the hands of politicians and into the hands of a neutral body, rather than the delays inherent in a decennial census. (((Zack Martin))) 08:20, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes, an independent redistricting commission is much better than politicians drawing maps. Requiring citizens to fill out a census questionnaire regularly (whether every 5 or 10 years) is still a good idea, since excellent information can result with numerous benefits. In this version, the whole districting issue is "solved" by unlinking representatives from geographic space.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Or redistricting via neutral algorithm. The straight-line method has good results. --Ender

National Referendums[edit]

We need this. Also the House and Senate are not allowed to stall or delay or hold these votes, they MUST vote on them in a reasonable time-frame. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 02:12, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

How would it work?--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:50, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm thinking that if at least 20% of the population or one half (round down) of state legislatures approve a bill all with the same language it gets send to Congress for consideration. Congress can vote normally on it afterwards. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I think national referenda for constitutional amendments is not a bad idea. Australia has an interesting model, which might work well in the US - a majority of the national vote overall in favour, and a majority vote (on a state-wide basis) in a majority of states. (Many countries outside the US already has this, and in the US it is common at the state level as well.) Citizen-initiated referenda, while originally intended to give power to the citizenry, ends up giving power to those with the financial and logistical resources to execute signature-gathering exercises. (((Zack Martin))) 08:17, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
I agree about citizen-initiated referenda being abused; case in point is California's system which has been misused extensively, leading to more problems, or with well-meaning initiatives coming to tie the hands of legislatures afterwards. My general problem with any kind of referendum (referenda?) is that the public is making a decision without much deliberation -- it is legislation made outside of the legislature, essentially. So voters making the choice may not have thought through the issues, or understand the tradeoffs. Referenda might work well on simple clear-cut issues in which the citizens have an agenda opposed to the politicians (e.g. term limits) but on complex issues, the wording of the referenda can make a huge difference. I'm still interested in learning more about the Australian model.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Standardization of fractions[edit]

The constitution should be explicit about whether you round up or down. Not really that important, but stuff like 'three-fifths' irks me. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 03:58, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Possibly important. Yes, it should be mentioned.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Splitting the Commander-in-Chief and Head of State Roles[edit]

For the record, I totally agree with you about the problem of Presidents and foreign policy. Here's what I propose: The Head of State (whom we currently view as the President and will have all of the other traditional executive powers), whenever there is a vacancy, suggests someone for the role who is approved by both Houses in Congress. The Commander-in-Chief has nearly lifetime tenure once approved by both Houses of Congress but can be subject to a Vote of Confidence, initiated by a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court or the President - sort of like how things worked in the American Revolutionary War. The Commander-in-Chief only has control of the military and domestic police and conducts foreign policy. The President still controls the rest of the executive branch and the federal bureaucracy, makes appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, lights Christmas trees, etc. Both will still be way more powerful than the framers probably ever intended (or not, see John Adams) but because of politicization, continuity of policy, and power consolidation they should be separated once and for all. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 04:20, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Why o why o why? Why would you do this? Hey, in Australia, our Commander-in-Chief is our Governor-General, an office which 99.99% of the time is purely ceremonial and has no real power. (On very rare occasions, that is times of constitutional crisis, the Governor-General may have a more substantial, real-world, role to play; but constitutional crisis doesn't happen every day, more like once every few decades.) One of the advantages of the Westminster system, is that this never-ending battle between the President and Congress, over military/foreign affairs/intelligence/national security matters, just doesn't happen, since almost always the majority in the legislature is of the same mind as the executive. (((Zack Martin))) 07:24, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Dr. Swordopolis, I think we agree about the problem (one person essentially doing two tasks). I would be interested in seeing a more fleshed out constitution along the lines you suggest, since there are many issues and concerns -- power relationships, checks and balances, who reports to who, and so forth. I think if you start from your premise -- splitting the presidency into two roles, one foreign-policy related and one domestic-policy related, then it becomes important to specify in some kind of system how the different parts will interrelate. A key issue (for me) is preventing tyranny.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Maratrean, in this case, I think historically the Australian and U.S. models in terms of foreign policy have been so different because of size and role considerations, although this is changing (the U.S. is becoming relatively less important in world affairs, and Australia is becoming relatively more important, along with emerging powerhouse economies such as China, India, and other nations.) So it makes sense to me that the U.S. move closer to the Westminster model, since like you say it brings the advantages of a legislature and executive on the same page.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
It seems most nations of the world have two different persons in each role -- the head of State role versus the head of government role -- and the U.S. is one of the few nations where both tasks are combined in one office. So, a decision to split an overworked and overburdened presidency would be moving closer to world norms.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Size and organization of the U.S. Judiciary[edit]

While the court-packing scheme was a naked power grab, it's not to say that there won't be any situation in which it's necessary to expand the size of the Supreme Court or re-organize the lower courts. Something more formal and less subject to politicization should be proposed to account for this rather than our current bumbling along. Perhaps a provision such that the size or jurisdiction of the courts should be considered for a change initiated either by the U.S. Supreme Court (which would be effective immediately if approved by Congress) or if done within Congress won't go into effect until 8 years. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 04:20, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

I agree that the original Constitution fails to specify the size of the Supreme Court. Why not specify the size of the Supreme Court -- 9 justices -- and leave it at that? --Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

Certain offices need to be explicitly spelled out and protected[edit]

The Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, Federal Reserve Chairman, and other such roles wield enormous amounts of power but seem to disappear beneath the notice of most people. To prevent a disaster like the U.K. Parliament wanting (and politicizing) direct control of their Federal Reserve these offices should be formalized and given explicit powers/duties/restrictions/protections I believe. --Dr. Swordopolis (talk) 04:20, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

But these offices have evolved over time, and surely will continue to evolve. By entrenching the current arrangement of government departments and cabinet members in the constitution, you will reduce flexibility in responding to future needs. It is likely that in the future, the government will assume new functions it does not presently have (e.g. secretary for the department of space colonization? secretary for the department of lunar affairs? department of relations with extraterrestrials? etc.), while other functions currently performed by the government will disappear (either since those functions are no longer needed at all, due to e.g. technological/economic changes, or because in the future the non-government sectors (either private or not-for-profit) may come to have a much important role in those areas, eclipsing the present government role... (((Zack Martin))) 08:14, 3 December 2011 (UTC)
Generally I agree with both points. The plus of having protections for specific important offices such as the Federal Reserve is protecting them from a possibly short-sighted partisan-oriented president; the downside of having protections is the opposite (if the Federal Reserve chairman is inept and partisan yet an intelligent virtuous president wants to remove him or her but can't). So I am kind of on the fence here. And I agree with Maratrean about possibilities for new offices or older ones losing importance. So, overall, I guess it depends on what happens here -- if the current US Constitution is kept but amended then protections for key offices makes sense; if the constitution is overhauled totally, then such protections may not be needed.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 13:34, 3 December 2011 (UTC)

The Method of Amendment[edit]

There have been just 27 amendments to the constitution by the official amendment procedure. Ten of those, the Bill of Rights, were passed within 2 years of the original constitution and can be regarded as really an after thought to it. So just 17 amendments in 223 years. Some of those are self cancelling such as Prohibition. So very few amendments have been passed and yet there has been a large amount of constitutional change in the US. This has been partly by changes in practice, for example the acceptance of the President as legislative leader around 1900, but mostly by reinterpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court. This has led to politicisation of judges with judges records being minutely examined with Presidents trying to appoint a judge to the Supreme court favourable to their views. Can it really be desirable that the chief method of constitutional change in the US is by unelected judges? The solution is to introduce some method to make it easier for political change. Perhaps a 60% in both houses of Congress and a national referendum with a 60% majority requirement. Mikeallen1948 (talk) 16:54, 20 October 2014 (UTC)Michael Allen 20th October 2014.

Checks and balances within the legistlative[edit]

The seventeenth amendment, while creating a situation much better than what the constitution had before, removed something important. The senate was intended to counter-balance the more populist positions of the directly-elected house. Removing state government corruption was a good step nonetheless. I, personally, think the correct solution is to move the house to proportional party voting(almost certainly covered elsewhere), so that the motivations of the house are policy based, where senators could operate on a more traditional personality based election. Thus the motives of the two houses could conflict, making more need for non-partisan based disagreement between the two, which I allege would facilitate more compromise than the "roadblock the majority party" status quo. Ikanreed (talk) 17:33, 20 October 2014 (UTC)

Good things with the current Constitution[edit]

I am not arguing that there is not much good with the current constitution. Best things: checks and balances; divided government with each branch having a separate sphere of action; the two-party system does provide a measure of stability which has a been a big boost to economic growth; peaceful transitions of power from one party to the other, regularly; civilian control over the military; expansion of individual rights through numerous court cases as well as a general empowerment of the individual; promotion of commerce; a legal structure which supports business and commerce. And the rule of law (not men). These are excellent things which should be kept.--Thomas Wright Sulcer (talk) 02:42, 28 November 2011 (UTC)

References[edit]

  1. The Lame Duck Presidency: A Case for Restraint on “Midnight” Actions During the Transition Period, Ryan Patrick Phair, [1],
  2. The awkward interval: America's long transitions - planning for change in presidential administrations - includes related article on presidential transition teams - Cover Story, Michael Rust & Shawn Miller, Feb 1993, Business Library, [2]
  3. [3]
  4. Sanford Levinson, Our Broken Constitution, University of Texas website, October 16, 2006, [4], accessed 2011-09-01
  5. Thomas H. Neale, Presidental Succession: An Overview with Analysis of Legislation Proposed in the 109th Congress; June 29, 2005; quote =... potential for a mass “decapitation” of both the legislative and executive branches of government, and raised questions as to the whether current arrangements were adequate to guarantee continuity in government under such circumstances. These concerns have led to a range of discussions in both Congress and the public policy community....[5]
  6. David C. Huckabee (editor), Reelection rates of incumbents, Novinka, see page 21, 2003, [6], accessed 2011-11-27
  7. How To Clean Up The Mess, Newsweek, quote=Incumbents have more than a 90 percent re-election rate, Oct 27, 1996, [7], accessed 2011-11-27
  8. David Sirota, U.S. moving toward czarism, away from democracy, San Francisco Chronicle, quote= ... "unitary executive" that aims to provide a jurisprudential rationale for total White House supremacy over all government, January 18, 2009, [8]
  9. Johnsen, Dawn. "What's a President To Do? Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of Bush Administration Abuses", Boston University Law Review, Volume 88, page 395 (April 2008): "On 363 occasions, President Bush objected to provisions that he found might conflict with the president’s constitutional authority 'to supervise the unitary executive branch.'"
  10. Dana D. Nelson, The 'unitary executive' question, Los Angeles Times, quote= Unitarians (for lack of a better word) want to expand the many existing uncheckable executive powers -- such as executive orders, decrees, memorandums, proclamations, national security directives and legislative signing statements -- that already allow presidents to enact a good deal of foreign and domestic policy without aid, interference or consent from Congress. Ardent proponents even insist that there are times when the president -- like a king -- should operate above the law., October 11, 2008, [9]