In recent months, there’s been a lot of talk about amending the U.S. Constitution, mostly by partisans on either side of the political aisle who, failing at the ballot box and via the legislative process to impose their philosophical positions upon others, want to do so by way of making them part of our nation’s supreme law.
I oppose all of the recent ideas I’ve heard for Amendments because invariably, they seek to amend our Constitution to take away rights. That’s not something I can get behind. These folks probably look at Orwell’s 1984 as a blueprint for a perfect society rather than a warning about the perils of trying to legislate dystopia. They are afraid of freedom and want to use the Constitution to constrain it. I, on the other hand, am afraid of tyranny and want to use the Constitution to prevent it.
There are, however, three Constitutional Amendments that I’d like to see, all of which involve taming demagoguery in some manner, because demagoguery invariably gives rise to tyranny. In no particular order of importance, my suggested Constitutional Amenments are:
1. Repeal the 17th Amendment
The Founders intended the Senate to be somewhat analogous to the British House of Lords. One of its purposes was to give the States representation in the Federal Congress; but another was to help avoid the risks of democracy deteriorating into demagoguery.
Alexander Hamilton in particular was acutely aware of the dangers of mob rule, writing:
“[O]f those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants…”
The fear of a Republic deteriorating first into demagoguery, and then into tyranny, was, of course, not new. In Book VIII of “The Republic,” Plato proposed that a democratic republic was the most likely form of government to end in tyranny. He believed it inevitable that a “towering despot” would arise who would define one or more pariahs from whom he would assert that the people needed protection, foment public fear of those pariahs, and then promise protection from them — using the public’s fear to justify increasing curtailments of civil rights, which the people would then welcome rather than oppose.
We’ve seen examples of this throughout history, with the most obvious example being the last three years of the Weimar Republic, the pivotal point being Hindenburg’s appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor in 1933. A few months later, the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act of 1933 were enacted, ostensibly to “protect” the German people, but in reality stripping them of almost all constitutional protections. And we all know how that turned out.
Long before Hitler’s ascent to power, our Founding Fathers wisely incorporated some degree of protection against such tyranny by providing the Upper House of Congress with a certain degree of insulation from the pressures of mob rule. Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senators would server for long terms and be indirectly appointed. The Senate would therefore be a place where legislators could calmly contemplate proposed legislation free of the pressures of having to start running for re-election almost as soon as they were sworn in.
The 17th Amendment undid the Founders’ wisdom. It needs to be repealed.
2. Limit the Congressional Session
It is my opinion that Congress spends entirely too much time thinking of new ways to take away both our money and our freedoms. Inasmuch as every new law (other than those which repeal existing laws without replacing them) constitute some degree of limitation on the actions of the people, maximizing freedom requires minimizing the opportunity for Congress to enact new laws.
I propose that the Congressional Session be limited, by way of a Constitutional Amendment, to one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer, very much like the National Guard and Reserves. The President (and only the President) would have the ability to convene special sessions in time of war or national emergency; but only those matters specific to the emergency at hand would be allowed to be discussed, debated, or voted upon during those special sessions.
3. Hold Legislators Accountable to the Constitution
Every election year seems to bring more and more ill-advised, draconian, and often flagrantly unconstitutional bills that serve no purpose other than feeding the voting public’s desire to punish the pariahs du jour in some ungodly oppressive way. It really doesn’t matter who the chosen pariahs are. They can be drunk drivers, illegal aliens, sex offenders, terrorists, welfare recipients, or any other group that is sufficiently disliked to arouse anger and revulsion in the hearts of the voters (except, of course, the politicians themselves).
Neither does it matter whether the proposed laws would be effective, enforceable, consistent with other laws, nor even constitutional. The purpose of these bills is to garner votes, not to accomplish any useful or constitutionally-permissible objective. They are examples of demagoguery at its absolute worst.
I propose that legislators be held accountable to the Constitution by enacting an Amendment which would require that when a law is found in any regard to violate the Constitution, the sponsor(s) of the bills underlying that law would immediately be ejected from office, declared forever ineligible to serve in elected office or government employment, and stripped of any pensions or other benefits deriving from their service in office.
This may sound extreme; but consider that every elected official takes an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” When legislators enact laws that violate the Constitution, they themselves become its domestic enemies: and it is incumbent upon We the People to defend our Republic against all such enemies.
If we are to take the Constitution and the Congressional Oath of Office seriously, then it follows that legislators who urinate and defecate on the Constitution must be swiftly and severely punished and incapacitated from doing further harm. Tarring and feathering having fallen out of fashion, stripping them of their offices and any benefits accruing from their service seems to me to be quite a fair and reasonable alternative.