Monday, September 19, 2022

Ten Ways To Improve our Constitution in Honor of Constitution Day (Or in Other Words, My Personal Constitutional Fantasy)

 By Eric Segall

Saturday September 17, 2022 was officially Constitution Day in America, though many universities (like mine) are celebrating it today. Our Constitution is the oldest written Constitution governing an entire country. Ratified in 1789, it has been amended only 27 times and 10 of those happened in 1791 (The Bill of Rights). 

It certainly feels like the Constitution is failing America these days (though it can reasonably be argued that Americans are failing America these days). In any event, in honor of Constitution Day, here are my ten most important proposals to improve our foundational document. On one hand, I understand this is all pure fantasy. On the other hand, shouldn't we take a hard look at a document that was ratified over 200 years ago?

This list obviously reflects my personal biases and values. How could it not? Other than number one, which I feel is the most important, the list is in no particular order.

1) The Constitution should be amended to guarantee every American a minimum level of food, clothing, shelter, and health care. Even if such a provision would be largely symbolic and aspirational, shouldn't we strive towards that goal? Our defense budget in 2021 was over $800 billion. I think we can afford to move towards a country that eliminates poverty.

2) The way we elect the President of the United States should be changed. There should be a national election and whoever gets over 50% wins, and if there are three or more candidates, we just whittle it down until someone gets over 50%.

3) The United States Senate should be composed of Senators in proportion to a state's population--you know, one person, one vote. The House would still be made up of people representing districts and the Senate would reflect population disparities among the states. 

4) Speaking of elections, election day should be a paid national holiday. Did I mention that our defense budget last year was over $800 billion? I think we can afford it.

5) No government official should ever have life tenure, obviously. Federal Judges should hold office for for a fixed term of 18 years.

6) The practice of judicial review should be written into the Constitution but with the following provisions:

"No state or federal law shall be declared unconstitutional under the federal Constitution by any state or federal judge unless that law is at an irreconcilable variance with the United States Constitution. In the event any state or federal law is declared unconstitutional by any state or federal judge, the relevant government body may appeal that decision directly to the United States Supreme Court within 90 days. If the Supreme Court does not affirm that finding by a 2/3 vote within one year from the date of appeal, the law shall remain in full force and effect. The Supreme Court shall have nine Justices."

7) As we saw last year, there is too much time between the election and the date the new President takes office. We should amend the Constitution to require the swearing in of the new President within 30 days after the final result of a Presidential election.

8) Our Constitution is much too hard to amend and the whole of the people should be allowed to amend it. There should be a provision for a national referendum and 60% of the people should be able to amend the Constitution. Times change, folks.

9) We should add a gender equality provision to the Constitution. The wording of the old ERA (assuming it hasn't already been ratified) is just fine or something similar.

10) The Constitution should be amended as follows: "The right to terminate a non-viable fetus shall not be infringed."

Hey, it's my list!

Happy Constitution Day!