This is the second in the series, A Soft Landing, which explores how we might achieve a more just, equitable society without violent revolution.
Our Founding Fathers chafed under the capricious rule of King George III, had the audacity to declare independence, fought and won the ensuing war, formed a coalition of autonomous states under the Articles of Confederation, and when they didn’t work out, came together to write a Constitution that established a stronger Federal government. They even made provisions to amend that Constitution as circumstances changed.
230+ years later the majority of our populace is chafing under capricious rule. Yet, instead of rising up to create a government that better reflects our people and our needs, we all too often force fit the issues of our day to a fixed, ‘originalist’ interpretation of our Constitution. Applying our Founding Fathers’ specific words to issues they never anticipated is not reverence; it’s reactionary. Sometimes, the best way to honor democracy is to raise our voices in protest. Similarly, the best way to honor our Founding Fathers is not to be pinned down by their words, but to imitate their spirit and actions. It is time for us to create a new Constitution, one that better serves more of our people.
In theory, we ought to be able to amend the Constitution we have. The white male property owners who governed a million souls scattered across a limitless expanse of continent included a mechanism to do just that in our present document. Unfortunately, as our nation has expanded to over 300 million people of all colors and genders pressed against the extents of our borders, we also appear to have hit the limit of Constitutional change. The 27th amendment was ratified over 25 years ago: it only took 202 years to defer Congressional pay raises to the start of the next session. It’s been almost fifty years since the previous amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971. In our divisive era, the consensus required to pass any particular amendment seems beyond us.
Why, if we cannot make a single change to the existing Constitution, do I think we can create an entirely new one? The success of the undertaking lies in its very scope. Assemble a truly representative cross-section of our citizens, authorize them to be bold, and I believe we will rise to the task. The negotiation, the compromise required to move our nation towards cooperation and interdependence will actually be easier to achieve if we stop fiddling around the edges and form a comprehensive vision.
Most discussion of a new Constitution comes from what’s referred to as ‘the far right.’ Although I’m not a fan of political labels, few would ascribe that one to me. So why am I advocating a new Constitution? Because it holds promise for every political persuasion. I don’t have to be a states rights crusader to acknowledge that we need clearer separation of federal and state authority, consistent election rules at the Federal level, and more discretion locally. I don’t have to be a contortionist to realize that we can find a balanced way to draw our electoral districts. I do, however, have to be fair-minded, a rare commodity in our present politics.
I don’t have a prescribed list of clauses the new Constitution should contain, though I will postulate ideas in the coming months. I offer this idea up to generate discussion. Is it something that will happen any time soon? Probably not. But if we want to work towards justice and equity without violence, we have to change the basic premises of our money-obsessed society. And what’s more fundamental to our society than our Constitution? Let’s create one that reflects who we really are and proclaims our best selves.