Why it's time to amend the Constitution
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Last Change: 2016-03-31
by Ronald Smith
On average, the Constitution gets amended about every dozen years or so, or about every twenty years for major amendments that restore liberty and justice. But it has been 45 years since our Constitution has seen a major amendment. Only two times in our nation's history has our highest law been this dormant for this long: once during the antebellum, and again during the bloody violence of the labor movements of the Progressive Era before we entered World War I.
Amendments serve to refresh and restore our national creed. When we allow our Constitution to become stagnant, it causes political instability – particularly when we go without amendments to restore liberty and justice. When we refresh our Constitution with a major amendment, it's followed by growth and prosperity. The Civil War – the worst political instability in our country's history – came after a dry spell of over 70 years without a significant amendment to our Constitution. Afterward, we quickly added three of our most effective amendments to improve liberty and justice. When the dust had settled and reconstruction was wrapped up, we saw a period of reduced corruption and growing prosperity. Amending the Constitution helped to restore stability. Later however, towards the end of the 19th century after decades without any significant amendments, the country began to fall back into more crime, corruption, economic disparity and political violence. Finally, after nearly fifty years without a liberty-and-justice amendment, the 17th Amendment (direct Senate elections) was passed and began to take effect, along with the 19th Amendment which further expanded the franchise to women in 1920. The prosperity and good times of the Roaring 20s followed.
By 1960, after another 40 years without a major, liberty-restoring amendment, the country had seen a reckless assault on civil liberties from McCarthyism, and was facing rising racial tensions. The 23rd Amendment (Electoral College for Washington, D.C.) and the 24th Amendment (elimination of the poll tax) helped to relieve the tension, but those amendments were narrow and insufficient to fully address the injustices of systemic racism; those injustices and the Vietnam War extended tensions through the 60's and into the 70's. The last amendment to correct a major injustice was in 1971 when the 26th Amendment extended the vote to eighteen-year-olds, who had been disenfranchised yet were still subject to the draft.
The decades following the 26th Amendment saw a rapid acceleration in technological innovation. However, after another 25 years without an amendment, political tensions continued to rise. Racial tensions simmered and the campaign leading up to the 2000 presidential election was extremely divisive. The Supreme Court hijacked the election, stopped the counting of ballots and essentially selected the president. This cemented political divisions and destroyed the Court's credibility.
The beginning of the 21st century has seen growing political instability rivaling that which the country saw during the antebellum. The Supreme Court decisions of the 30s and 40s that shifted power to Congress and the Executive in order to address the immediate problems of the times (in lieu of using the amendment process), have been used by subsequent leaders to suppress economic and political participation. The result is a severe erosion of civil liberties and justice – and a stagnant Constitution.
The Constitution was designed to be amended. To oppose making any changes to the Constitution is to oppose the Constitution itself. In order to restore stability, we need to restore liberty and justice by amending the Constitution.
But the Washington politicians are not up to the task so we're doing it ourselves. Three and a half years ago, the careful process of writing a comprehensive amendment to the Constitution began. After a year of development it was placed online to allow full crowdsourcing of the document. The amendment, now commonly known as the Uniting Amendment, addresses many of today's tough issues and it establishes a stable foundation to help rebuild our country. The current draft of the amendment:
- Establishes a simple tax system with a low rate and no exemptions
- Ends poverty and hunger, and provides healthcare for those in need with a simple, single fund
- Keeps guns out of the hands of violent criminals
- Preserves the Second Amendment with the right to carry, use, transport, transfer, or sell
- Protects the environment and preserves endangered species
- Requires that members of Congress follow all of the laws they make and get paid the same amount as an average citizen
- Recognizes the right to privacy and ends illegal government intrusions
- Provides a strong defense for our country and prevents rogue wars
- Prevents discrimination based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics, and other conditions
- Eliminates arbitrary regulation so people have the liberty to pursue their chosen trade or profession
- Establishes term limits for members of Congress
- Ensures that all of our veterans' needs are met
- Protects the right of religious expression and prayer
- Solves the immigration issue: new citizens are elected by the people
- Protects the right to teach and learn
- Provides for a jury on the Supreme Court to protect our rights and freedom
- Protects the right to control your own body – politicians can't tell us what we can eat, smoke, drink and enjoy
- Mandates fiscal responsibility and places other limits on congressional power
- And much more...
Very few people will agree with every single one of the provisions of the Uniting Amendment, but most people agree with most of its provisions and are willing to give on one or two issues in order to have others incorporated into the Constitution. But the document is far from complete. It's still very rough and needs more input before it can be submitted. It needs your input. I encourage everyone who cares about the sustainability of our representative democracy to contribute your ideas to make it better and provide a stable foundation to help rebuild our country.
Ronald Smith is the president of Egalib, Inc., the organization facilitating the development of the Uniting Amendment. More information about the amendment can be found at UnitingAmendment.com. This OpEd was originally published in The Journal Opinion, Vermont.