Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Proposed New Constitution Article 2: Insuring Greater Democracy

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.

Article 2- Insuring Greater Democracy
“1.The Electoral College is abolished. The President shall be directly elected, with the winner being the candidate receiving the most votes.”

    There probably is no part of the original constitution more disliked than the Electoral College, more regarded as archaic, useless, arbitrary, and pointless. Yet it persists, for it is politically useful to elites as a way to nullify and undermine broader populist democracy.

    As described in the Introduction, the college was intended by the founders to be a veto against the public. If they elected the “wrong” man, the electors were to ignore the voters and choose the “right” man, one who would serve the wishes of elites. The other restrictions already in place to keep out populists made this unnecessary. Only rarely did electors vote contrary to what the voters of a state wanted. Even that was fixed in the 1970s by laws requiring the electors to vote the same as a state's popular vote.

    So why does it continue? The college, like the US Senate, gives far more power to small population and mostly rural states. A lightly populated state like Wyoming gets three electoral votes, when based on its population it should get a fraction of one. Since rural voters tend to be more conservative, conservatives get an exaggerated sense of how conservative the nation is, and are overrepresented in the college. The big concentrations of electoral votes in a few states also makes it useful for political elites and the highly paid consultants they use to target those states.

    The college has an anti democratic effect in other ways too. If you don't live in a swing state, you are mostly ignored by major parties's campaigns. That depresses voter turnout. If the other party will win in your state by over ten percentage points, why bother showing up at all? As much as 45% of the voters of a state are told their vote does not count. So the majorities in one state by one party are further exaggerated.

    Congressmen and other officials running for office from the smaller party in the state are also far more likely to lose when they could have won. A Democrat running in largely Democratic Austin in largely Republican Texas, or a Republican running in largely Republican Orange County in largely Democratic California, could lose where they might have won.

    Another distortion is that small groups in big Electoral College states have far more influence than they should. How much have US relations with Cuba been dictated by a small group of Cuban-Americans in South Florida?

    This college is an incredibly unpopular institution and its fall is guaranteed by any future constitutional convention. In its place is the simple solution wanted by nearly everyone and practiced by almost every democracy in the world. The president will be the candidate who receives the most votes.

“2.The Supreme Court shall never, by any decision including indirectly, decide who shall be President.”

    Elections like 1876 and 2000 must never be repeated again. In both cases, a  corrupt party blatantly stole the election and suppressed minority votes during the election, and even more afterwards. In both cases the Electoral College negated the popular vote. In both cases, five justices of the court sanctioned and actively intervened to maintain the results of these corrupt elections.

    This clause removes the courts from elections, leaving the matter entirely to the executive branch. Clause 5 of this article, further down, guarantees election boards shall always be nonpartisan, and shall never decide to favor one party or ideology, and shall never exclude minority votes as happened all across the south in 1876 and in five states in 2000.

“3.The Vice President shall be nominated separately by each party and elected separately from the President, and also serves as the Secretary of State.”

    The Vice Presidential candidacy is more a punchline than anything else. It has given us such awful and almost universally despised politicians as Aaron Burr, John Calhoun, Andrew Johnson, William Marshall (who refused to become president when Woodrow Wilson was in a coma), Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Dick Cheney, and Sarah Palin.

    Of 47 VPs, the only ones to be highly regarded by both historians and the public were just two, Truman and Mondale. Truman headed a campaign to halt waste in wartime industries and Mondale was the first activist VP. A failure rate of over 95% for over 200 years is incredibly high even by the worst of government standards. As VP John Garner said, being VP is “not worth a warm bucket of piss.” He did not say spit, that was cleaned up by later writers.

    The office needs to be changed. The VP is chosen by a single person when they should be chosen by the voters, first in the party primaries and then in the general election. The office needs to be more than an empty formality, a person who spends most of their time at funerals or on make-work commissions to look busy.

    Make the VP also the Secretary of State. That is where one would acquire the skills most needed to step into the office of the presidency should something happen to the president. Require the parties nominate their VPs separately, and let the voters choose them separately. Then there would no more Andrew Johnsons, disasters who became president, originally chosen just to help the party ticket.

“4.The Senate shall be 100 adult citizens chosen at random each year, representative of the adult American public by age, gender, race and ethnicity, religion or lack of, and income or social class.”

    The Senate is a millionaire's club. This is no exaggeration. It has always been a vocation sought after by wealthy retired men almost as a hobby after a life in business or law. This must end. Let the Senate represent the American public directly, be chosen at random from the public itself to act as a check against any and all elite led efforts or laws.

    Look at the makeup of the Senate today in 2014.
    93 whites, 4 Latinos, 2 Blacks, 1 Asian.
    Average age of 62. 80 men, 20 women. Average income of over $1 million.
    52 Protestants, 27 Catholics, 11 Jews, 7 Mormons, 1 Buddhist.

    Now look at the makeup of the Senate under this proposed plan:
    62 whites, 17 Latinos, 13 Blacks, 5 Asians, 2 American Indians, 1 Arab.
    51 women, 49 men. Average age of 54. Average income of $35,000.
    51 Protestants, 22 Catholics, 16 atheists, agnostics, or unaffiliated, 2 Jews, 2 Orthodox Christians, 1 Mormon, 1 Buddhist, 1 Hindu, 1 Muslim, and 3 who won't say what their faith, or lack of it, is.

    Clearly our current system leaves out the voices of most women and ethnic and religious minorities. Atheists and the unaffiliated especially are completely silenced, unable to be elected because of the hostility of those bigoted against them. But the most striking silencing of all is of working class people. Even the upper middle class rarely get elected.

    A completely random process for choosing senators from the adult general public can easily be designed by statisticians. Having a senate chosen at random from the public guarantees the public shall always be represented. It turns the public into itself the fourth branch of government and a check on the power of the other three branches.

    No doubt the more elitist and downright snobby will sneer at the thought of a waitress or truck driver in the halls of congress. No doubt many of those same people will pat themselves on the back, and never consider that to your typical member of the political or economic elite, the readers looking down on a waitress themselves would be sneered at by elites.

    Those who sneer at the hard working and less educated are contemptible, unlike the ones they look down on. Not having a degree does not make one stupid, and equally important, it does not take away from them wanting to do what is right, and having basic common sense. The recent documentary Schooling the World makes a very strong case for how education can often be used to make a person less ethical, more materialistic,  and less tied to their community. The famed book Lies My Teacher Told Me points out that, believe it or not, more education makes one more likely to support wars, not less.

    Having wealth in many ways makes a person less capable. They are sheltered from day to day struggles. They don't know what it is to have to choose which bill to pay, to go without, or to see one's children go without. It is elitist to sneer at those on public assistance as “lazy” when truly the laziest people are those who let their wealth do their work for them. It is ignorant or willfully blind to not know the wealthy receive far more public assistance than the poor.

    A nation should never try for change solely from above, imposed on those below. Those below must have a veto. A senate made up of 100 John and Jane Does rather than Rockefellers provides that.

“5.Redistricting and the administration of elections shall only be done by nonpartisan committee, and gerrymandering to favor one party or dilute minority voting power is forbidden.”

    Redistricting is today done by the most highly partisan people possible. State legislatures decide voting districts, and they generally do so openly to favor their own party as much as possible. For over a generation after the civil rights era, it was also quite common for districts to be set up to weaken or exclude minority voting power.

    A good example of partisan redistricting is Austin. Politically, Austin's voters are quite similar in their outlook to San Francisco's. The Republican state legislature gerrymandered Austin out of its own congressman, dividing it up into parts of six more conservative districts. By one gerrymandering effort alone, nearly a million Americans are not represented in the House.

    But perhaps the most notorious examples of partisan electioneering have happened in Florida and Ohio. Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris purged eligible voters, mostly Black, and halted a recount to help her own party. Ohio's Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, himself Black, disenfranchised a number of minority voters, and then refused to cooperate with investigations into his actions. Neither person, nor indeed any politician, has any business as an authority to decide who can vote.

    Less known, but just as unjust, is how partisan election rules keep out third parties. When John Anderson ran as an independent candidate for president in 1980, eventually getting 8% of the vote, his campaign spent much of their time and limited funds overcoming the many barriers to getting on the ballot in each state. Anderson at one point had over a quarter of voters supporting him. State barriers trying to exclude him were not the only reason he did not do nearly as well as he could have. But they had a crippling effect on his campaign.

    Voting, and insuring that everyone eligible can vote as easily as possible, should not be up to partisans with a stake in keeping out voters of other parties. It should be as nonpartisan and uncontroversial as health or fire departments.

“6.Congressional representatives' terms are changed to four years, elected in the same elections as the President.”

    Most of the public does not show up to vote for midterm elections. These votes, and the people chosen by them, are illegitimate because most of the public is not represented. That must change.

    Blaming the voters themselves is pointless. Voters often show up depending on how much they have been conditioned to show up, and the media does not do so for midterm elections. The media pays far more attention to the presidency than all other offices combined, but there is no law that will change that. Instead that attention must be harnessed so that a majority will always turn out to elect their congressmen.

    The terms of the two houses are almost reversed by this proposed system. Today senators are wealthy elites with a longer term than a president, and they represent mostly small population states. Congressmen serve only two years, and while still well off, have slightly higher numbers of the upper middle class than senators. This new system makes the new House the upper house, with longer terms and still likely more well off economically than the Senate.

    The new Senate will be mostly working class and mid and lower middle class. While there will still be some from the upper middle class, it is unlikely to have more than a single member of wealthy elites. There likely will even be several members of the Senate each year who were unemployed at the time of being chosen, and a fair number of retirees and housewives. With a new Senate every year, it will represent the mood, beliefs, and priorities of middle America better than any past congress ever has, or could. With nonpartisan redestricting, the House will look much more like America as well.

    That is as it should be. This will be the most direct form of democracy seen since town, village, or tribal meetings, a populist one that can and will block elite actions that harm others or the nation.

---------
 Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books including the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Proposed New Constitution Article 1- Continuing and Expanding the Original Constitution and its Amendments

From the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution, available online. This and all related articles may be freely shared and reposted, in full or in part, under Creative Commons, with proper authorship and not for profit.

Article 1-
Continuing and Expanding the Original Constitution and its Amendments

“1. All articles and amendments from the previous Constitution of 1787 remain the final law of the land, except as changed by the following articles or later amendments.”

         As was just described in the Introduction, the original constitution does not deserve reverence. It was elitist, conceived in secrecy, passed by undemocratic means, and deliberately designed to insure economic elites will also hold political control. This proposed constitution does not seek to take away what was good and right in the original amendments to the original Constitution. The Bill of Rights, and amendments such as the Reconstruction Amendments and the Right to Vote for Women remain incredibly important.

    The original constitution is another matter. It is purely a document of power, who has it and can wield it. It is not about rights or democracy, but designed to limit rights and democracy. The amendments stay protected. The First Amendments is the most cherished part of the entire constitution, protecting freedom of speech, assembly, petition, and religion. It also blocks established state churches, one of the main causes of religious repression and wars partly or wholly begun or justified using religion. The lack of an official state church is one of the main reasons the US is one of the most devout nations in the world, with an incredible diversity of faiths. There are dozens of Southern Baptist organizations alone.

    The Second Amendment is the most controversial of all the amendments. It is best left alone, for any attempt to alter it would at least occupy and perhaps split apart the entire convention. Not only that, crime has been dropping for several decades already, including gun crimes. Most gun deaths are suicides, and they along with some gun crimes can be reduced by restricting guns to the mentally ill, felons, or those under restraining orders, by ordinary law.

    The remaining amendments include rights against self incrimination, to a speedy trial, equal protection in the Fourteenth Amendment, an end to slavery, suffrage for women, presidential succession, and an end to poll taxes and literacy tests. It would be difficult to understate the importance of these rights to individuals and to expanding rights. All these amendments besides the Bill of Rights are ones most of the founders would have opposed. These amendments are almost all very real defeats of the original elitist intent of the founders.

2. This and all future constitutional conventions must be representative of the US public, by gender, race and ethnicity, and religious faith or lack of. Its members must be respected intellectuals drawn from education, religious institutions, civil rights groups, non-governmental organizations, labor, business, military veteran groups, consumer groups, and scientists. No current or former elected officials or appointed cabinet members or presidential or congressional advisors or staff are allowed. All constitution conventions must be in full view of the public, every word said by every delegate at the convention scrupulously recorded.

    The original constitution was by, for, and of elitists, entirely white males, mostly very wealthy slave owners, speculators, and professional politicians. Any and all future constitutions, including this proposed one, must not be. They must include everyone, every last social group, every last group of important representative institutions. To fail to do so means the document is not legitimate, and deserves not to be seen as such.

    Look at the background of the original 55 founders:
    41 had been members of the Continental Congress. 35 had legal training (not all practicing.) 18 were speculators in land or stocks. 14 were plantation owners, also owning many slaves, and others had domestic slaves. There were only two small farmers. The only other good trait of the founders were five who were doctors or scientists.

    All 55 were white. All 55 were male. 49 were Protestant (28 of them Episcopal), and only two Catholics. Three of the most important, Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, were Deists, believers in God who did not belong to any church.

    Now look at a hypothetical convention of 100 delegates who represent a cross section of America under this proposal:
        64 whites, 17 Latinos, 13 Blacks, 5 Asians, and 1 American Indian.
        51 women and 49 men.
        51 Protestants, 22 Catholics, 16 atheists, agnostics, or unaffiliated, 2 Jewish, 2 Orthodox Christians, 1 Mormon, 1 Buddhist, 1 Hindu, 1 Muslim, and 3 who won't say their faith.

        Obviously there were would be no plantation or slave owners, though likely a few speculators or lawyers. Most of the membership would be drawn from institutions devoted to public service, and no office holders. The only thing the two conventions would share might be roughly equal numbers of scientists and doctors.

        Such a convention would be far more devoted to the public good than the founders ever were. The chances of institutions like an Electoral College being repeated are extremely remote. Ideally the delegates would seek consensus on as many issues as possible, and deliberate obstructionists would be few, as they are intellectuals more than ideologues.

        The most constructive way to run a convention would be to limit the time to several weeks to give the delegates impetus to finish decisively. Immediately hold an informal nonbinding straw poll to see which proposals have the most and least support. All proposals with less than a third support get tabled until the end, perhaps never voted on at all. Those with the highest support are voted on, in that order. This would create a momentum to hopefully carry forward the proceedings, and help solve the more difficult and contentious issues.

        Such a convention must also have rules in place to bar filibusters entirely, strictly limiting the amount of time speaking by one person, establish quorums easily, and bring votes quickly. For the truly intractable issues, a model can be found in how historic treaties like the Camp David Accords were negotiated. When two sides disagree strongly on an issue, those who are not part of either group and with the least stake or emotion tied up in that issue act as go betweens, seeking out common ground and finding solutions neither side had tried or thought of before.

        This and any other possible future conventions must be out in the open for all to see, with no more secretive deliberations as the original convention had. The media must be there to observe but not interfere or agitate, and the public there to observe, much like the visitors' gallery in Congress today. Secrecy and elitism create and guarantee mistrust, rightfully so. Recent history shows us the public greatly distrusted NAFTA and GATT, for perfectly valid reasons, as gatherings of remote elites designed to undermine democratic institutions out of sight from the public. This convention must be accessible. Every word at it must be recorded for historic reasons as well. There is much we do not know about the original convention because of the walls of secrecy those elitists hid behind.

3. Each of these following articles must be voted on and approved separately by two thirds or more of those voting to become the law of the land.

     The public should not be forced to vote an entire document either up or down, accepting those parts they disagree with in order to have those parts they do agree with. This is what the original founders did (except it was to other elites, the special state conventions and not the public) and it further shows how anti democratic their methods deliberately were.

    The vote should also be a supermajority, two thirds or more, to become the highest law in the land. Passing by narrow majorities would be rightly seen as contentious, undermine any consensus these new laws deserve to be our constitution, and probably foreshadow a great deal of conflict.

    One of the best examples is the abortion issue. There are few countries where abortion is a more divisive issue than the US, and that is precisely because of how it was done. The Supreme Court declared abortion bans to be unconstitutional based on an implied right to privacy. In most of the rest of the world, abortion bans were dropped by vote. Thus the issue felt more resolved to most of the public. Had the court not acted, an abortion ban may well have dropped anyway, state by state. I hasten to point out, this proposed constitution includes the right to privacy in Article 15, protecting abortion rights among other things.

    This vote must be held by the public, and not by legislatures as the current constitution requires. Needing approval by the states gives far too much power to small population and mostly rural states, far out of proportion to their population. It is deliberately anti democratic, as the founders yet again intended.

    If two thirds of the public nationwide vote for these articles, that gives them legitimacy. But would that not ignore the original constitution? Yes, and that is half the point. The founders did precisely the same, ignoring the original Articles of Confederation. The original Articles state they are “...perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time be made in any of them; unless such alteration agreed to in Congress of the US & confirmed by legislatures of every State.” As pointed out in the Introduction, on both counts, the constitution was illegally adopted, not agreed to either by congress or state legislatures.

    If the founder could ignore the original Articles, we as a nation can and should ignore the founders and the constitutional requirement, based on the precedent the founders themselves set. A two thirds supermajority will create enormous pressure on the federal government: Accept these new constitutional articles we have just approved, overwhelmingly, as now the highest law of the land.

---------
Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and the author of numerous articles and books including the forthcoming A Proposed New Constitution.
http://proposednewconstitution.blogspot.com/
http://alcarroll.com

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Links

Some sites reposted my articles on History News Network, Counterpunch, DailyKos, and Quora.









 
Here are the many other articles I've written or links referencing my works.
 
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/04/14/18754143.php
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/05/09/the-moral-and-practical-failures-of-libertarianism-and-small-government-conservatism
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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/04/24/1294456/-How-Presidents-and-the-Public-Have-Ignored-Right-Wing-Terrorism

http://www.journeyman.tv/?lid=59085&tmpl=transcript

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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/04/22/1293958/-Seven-Genocides-That-Presidents-Refused-to-Stop

https://www.academia.edu/6823924/Seven_Genocides_That_Presidents_Refused_to_Stop

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/08/06/18439218.php?show_comments=1

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Proposed New Constitution- Fifteen Articles in Full


A Proposed New Constitution – Fifteen Articles



Article 1- Continuing and Expanding the Original Constitution and its Amendments

1.All articles and amendments from the previous Constitution of 1787 remain the final law of the land, except as changed by the following articles or later amendments. 2. This and all future constitutional conventions must be representative of the US public, by gender, race and ethnicity, and religious faith or lack of. Its members must be respected intellectuals drawn from education, religious institutions, civil rights groups, non-governmental organizations, labor, business, military veteran groups, consumer groups, and scientists. No current or former elected officials or appointed cabinet members or presidential or congressional advisors or staff are allowed. All constitution conventions must be in full view of the public, every word said by every delegate at the convention scrupulously recorded. 3.Each of these following articles must be voted on and approved separately by two thirds or more of those voting to become the law of the land.



Article 2- Insuring Greater Democracy

1.The Electoral College is abolished. The President shall be directly elected, with the winner being the candidate receiving the most votes. 2.The Supreme Court shall never, by any decision including indirectly, decide who shall be President. 3.The Vice President shall be nominated separately by each party and elected separately from the President, and also serves as the Secretary of State. 4.The Senate shall be 100 adult citizens chosen at random each year, representative of the adult American public by age, gender, race and ethnicity, religion or lack of, and income or social class. 5.Redistricting shall only be decided by nonpartisan committee, and gerrymandering to favor one party or dilute minority voting power is forbidden. 6.Congressional representatives' terms are changed to four years, elected in the same elections as the President.



Article 3-Guaranteeing the Right to Vote

1.The right to vote for all citizens of legal adult age is absolute and cannot be denied, limited, barred, blocked, or suppressed, whether by deliberate attempts or unintended outcomes. All current such attempts are ended. Any law with the outcome, even unintended. of making voting more difficult shall be immediately void. 2.Any official who deliberately or unintentionally makes voting more difficult shall be immediately removed and their decisions voided and actions reversed. Deliberately blocking others from voting or blocking voting recounts shall always be prosecuted and punished as a felony. 3.Voting days shall be national holidays, with a paid day off for workers only with proof of voting. 4.The voting age is lowered to sixteen for any US citizen proving their maturity by holding a job or living on their own.



Article 4-Ending the Buying of Elections

1.All elections shall be publicly funded only. Private contributions or donations to or on behalf of a candidate or party, except for unpaid volunteer work, are outlawed. Corporate donations of any kind are forbidden, and business and corporate owners and management are forbidden from intimidating, pressuring, or influencing in any way their employees, punishable by long prison sentences. 2.Campaigning and advertising for all general elections are limited to the period of six weeks before election day. Campaigning and advertising for all primary elections are limited to the six weeks before the general election period. 3.No election, whether federal, state, county, city, special district, American Indian tribe, or of unions, civic groups, lobbying groups, or private clubs, is valid unless more than half of its citizens or members vote. If less than half of the citizens or members vote, there must be immediate new elections within 30 days with different candidates.



Article 5-Voting Guarantees Benefits

1.All eligible voters must vote. Failure to vote results in inability to receive all government benefits until the next election, including licenses, grants, subsidies, tax refunds, eligibility for public assistance, student or business loans or credit. 2.Those with strong and longstanding religious, philosophical, or political beliefs against voting are not required to vote if they declare said beliefs.



Article 6- Limiting Corporate Power

1.All rights in this and the previous constitution, as well as under all American laws, are limited to human beings only. A person under US law is defined as a living human being only. Corporation rights and powers may be severely limited by any and all governments, whether federal, state, city, country, special district, or American Indian tribe. 2.A corporation must serve the public interest and its life span shall be limited. Any corporation shall be permanently dissolved if they break the law more than five times. No business, corporation, or individual can escape fines, punishments, or legal judgments by declaring bankruptcy, or by the use of holding companies, shell companies, or any other diversion, evasion, or tactic. 3.The right to collective bargaining by unions or other workers shall not be limited more than other civic or lobbying groups, nor subject to government recognition.



Article 7-Ending Colonialism

1.The United States recognizes the great wrongs done by genocide against American Indians, apologizes fully, and shall always strive to make amends. All federally recognized American Indian tribes are forever sovereign, defined by their treaty or other legal relationship to the United States, with rights to decide their own government and laws, and to enforce those laws on all residents and visitors within their territory. 2.All American Indian tribes have permanent and absolute rights to their current reservation lands, forever. All federal lands, or lands reacquired by American Indian tribes, that are within these tribes’ historically recognized boundaries, or protected by treaty, will be part of their reservations. All sacred sites of federally recognized American Indian tribes shall be returned immediately, or protected by federal partnership if requested by tribes. 3.Native Hawaiians are recognized as a tribe by the US government and shall have a reservation with a sovereign government with relations with the US government and rights equal to an American Indian tribe. Nothing in this article shall be construed as denying or abridging Native Hawaiians' right to pursue the return to being an independent nation as they were before the illegal overthrow and seizure of their nation. 4.US citizens and nationals of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Washington DC have full local self rule, and shall vote in federal elections and have voting federal congressional districts.



Article 8-Renouncing War

1.The United States shall not go to war except in self defense, and permanently renounces wars or acts of military aggression. 2.The United States, its government, agencies, or agents shall never try to overthrow another nation's government again unless directly attacked by said government. 3.Unless under direct and immediate attack, the United States shall not go to war, and the President cannot deploy troops for combat without an official declaration of war by Congress. Unless under direct and immediate attack, the declaration of war by Congress must then be approved by a vote of the American public within 30 days. Failure to get approval by the American public overturns the declaration of war. 4.The US President can deploy troops to rescue US or other citizens and must prevent genocide, other large scale atrocities, or humanitarian disasters. The President must report to Congress on such action within 7 days and Congress must approve the deployment of troops within 30 days. 4.The US government is forbidden to go to war or use war as an opportunity to enrich in any way any American businesses, corporations, or individuals. Family members of government officials shall not be exempt from military draft, nor sheltered in special units, or in any other way.



Article 9- Referendums and Recalls

1.Members of the public may propose referendums to pass new laws, recalls to remove for illegal or corrupt actions the President, Vice President, member of Congress, Supreme Court Justice, or any appointed official, or bring an end to wars or operations involving US troops. 2.A referendum or recall begins 30 days after the certified collection of valid signatures of ten percent of all voters.3. No referendum may overturn, contradict, or limit anything in either constitution, and such efforts must be done instead by constitutional amendment. Nor shall referendums or recalls be funded by corporations or private contributions, except for individual unpaid volunteer work. Referendum advertising must be equally funded both pro and con, must be publicly funded only, and subject to reasonable limits.



Article 10- Nonprofits for the Public Interest

1.National defense industries, healthcare, prisons, education, and news media must be nonprofit. No business, corporation, or individual can profit unfairly from the federal government or public resources and must pay fair market value for all current and previous resources, subsidies, and research. 2.No journalist, commentator, or others presenting themselves as experts in politics, history, law, society, health, medicine, or science can make more than five times the median national income, and any excess income must be donated to charity or it will be seized by the federal government. 3.All journalists, commentators, and others presenting themselves as experts for mass news media will be fined every time they lie in their articles, broadcasts, or public statements. No person or media outlet can profit from lies or falsehoods and fine shall at least equal all profit, money, or benefits made from lies or falsehoods. 4.The agency in charge of judging lies and falsehoods by journalists, commentators, or experts for the mass media must be entirely of respected historians for matters of history and politics, respected legal scholars for matters of law, and respected scientists or doctors for matters of science, medicine, and health, and shall be entirely nonpartisan, with no member affiliated with any party.



Article 11- Ending Institutional Support for Hatred

1.No government body, law, or regulation will sanction or reward racism or ethnic hatred, religious bigotry, sexism, or other hatreds based on linguicism (hatred or discrimination based on language) or national or regional origin. 2.Nor shall any government fail to provide redress for longstanding discrimination based on the previous. 3.Any person or institution taking part in or promoting discrimination or hatred based on the previous results in that person or institution's permanent inability to receive government jobs or benefits, including licenses, grants, subsidies, retirement including pensions and Social Security, tax refunds, eligibility for public assistance, student or business loans or credit.



Article 12-Ending Class Bias in the Law

1.All crimes must be punished. No president may pardon or give clemency to any in their own administration, or the administration of other presidents of their party, or to anyone who has given them campaign contributions. All such previous pardons are overturned. The guilty shall never be allowed to profit from their crimes. The guilty must pay back all wealth from their crimes and pay for all damage done to others. 2.All fees, fines, and taxes must be progressive, based on ability to pay. Regressive taxes, where the wealthy pay a proportionately smaller amount, are expressly forbidden and must be immediately made progressive.



Article 13-No Special Treatment for Wealthy Elites

1.Government assistance only goes to those in need and corporate welfare is forbidden. No person or corporation, nor any trust or legal entity used by a person or corporation, shall receive government assistance or funding unless they make less than double the median national income and possess less than double the median national wealth. 2.All government loans or tax deferrals or holidays or other benefits to corporations or business must be repaid, with interest at market rates. All facilities built even partly to benefit or profit private businesses or individuals must be paid for by those businesses or individuals equal to the benefits or profits received.



Article 14-Limiting Idle Wealth

1.Large concentrations of idle wealth are inherently dangerous and inhumane. All income from any and all sources greater than 100 times the median national income and all wealth of an individual greater than 100 times the median national wealth shall be seized, unless it is reinvested or donated to charity. 2.All attempts to conceal wealth to avoid taxes shall result in prosecution as grand larceny, full seizure of not just concealed wealth but all their wealth, and long prison sentences which may not be suspended. Separate white collar prisons, or other prisons that are less arduous or harsh, are forbidden, and all white collar criminals must be punished and imprisoned with all other prisoners.



Article 15- The Right to Privacy

1.The right to privacy, unless it can be shown to directly and obviously harm others or affect national security, shall not be abridged in any way. Private individuals shall not have their private lives divulged in any form without their consent unless they commit felonies, or failure to divulge such information can be shown to affect or harm others in a direct and obvious way. 2.Libel, slander, or defamation of public figures is subject to the same punishments and standards as for private individuals. 3.Private information on public figures cannot be divulged without their consent unless it can be shown to serve the public interest.



Articles and Amendments Not Proposed

Balanced Budget-This would be disastrous in times of depression, recession, or war.

Equal Rights Amendment- This is already covered by Article 11.

“Right to Life”/Anti-Abortion Amendment- Most of the public supports keeping abortion legal. Article 15 would guarantee that continues.

Flag Burning Amendment- This contradicts the First Amendment.

Prayer in Public Schools Amendment- This also contradicts the First Amendment.

English as the Official Language- This is barred by Article 11, since it creates institutional discrimination based on hatred of other language speakers.

Term Limits- There is no need. The average congressman serves only ten years.

Altering the Second Amendment- The convention would spend its time on nothing else. Crime rates, including firearm deaths, have been dropping for decades.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Articles for A Proposed New Constitution


These are the proposed new article. In the coming weeks, I will post one article a week in full, with explanations and arguments for them.
 
Article 1- Continuing and Expanding the Original Constitution and its Amendments

Article 2- Insuring Greater Democracy

Article 3-Guaranteeing the Right to Vote

Article 4-Ending the Buying of Elections

Article 5-Voting Guarantees Benefits

Article 6- Limiting Corporate Power

Article 7-Ending Colonialism

Article 8-Renouncing War

Article 9- Referendums and Recalls

Article 10- Nonprofits for the Public Interest

Article 11- Ending Institutional Support for Hatred and Discrimination

Article 12-Ending Class Bias in the Law

Article 13-Ending Special Treatment for Wealthy Elites

Article 14-Limiting Idle Wealth

Article 15- The Right to Privacy

Introduction to A Proposed New Constitution


America’s constitution is a sacred cow. Some cows should not be worshipped. For nothing should be so revered that one cannot question it, and blind worship is always to be avoided.

There is, among those on both the political left and right, what can only be called widespread constitution worship. Most on both sides hold up the constitution the way a vampire hunter in the movies holds up a cross to ward off vampires. Everyone from the most stoned pot smokers to gun toting militia groups calls on the constitution as support for causes, beliefs, and attitudes they hold dear.

This constitution worship is every bit as blindly enthusiastic as it is unknowing of the actual history of the constitution, and how and why it was adopted. For this, most people are blameless. People cannot be faulted for what they were not taught, or more often, falsely taught. I made the same argument in Presidents' Body Counts, and others, notably James Loewen in Lies My Teacher Told Me, argue likewise.

For the founders themselves did not think much of the constitution. Jefferson wanted a new constitution every twenty years. Other founders disagreed, largely because they were not sure the constitution would last twenty years. For the founders, it was a pragmatic even temporary measure, not holy or intended to be permanent. Constitution worship did not become a regular feature of American society until near the start of the twentieth century, in part as a way to assimilate immigrants.

I often tell my students that America is great not because of the constitution, but in spite of it, and especially in spite of the founders. The constitution itself is clearly at the root of many of our worst problems in American society today. If it were up to the American public, the following solutions would have become law many decades, even half a century or more, before today:

1. Abolishing the Electoral College.

2. Ending the buying of elections.

3. Limiting the time campaigning for office, as they do in Great Britain.

4. Ending wars quickly in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Each war continued over half a decade after the American public wanted to get out.

5. Reforming the office of vice president, widely regarded with contempt by most, and
producing candidates that even most voters of the same party as the presidential candidate did not want.

6. Ending corporate welfare and other wasteful spending.

7. Ending most foreign military aid, and support for tyrants and dictators around the world.

8. Limiting the power of the Supreme Court.

9. Ending the political monopoly of wealthy elites.

10. Guaranteeing privacy from government intrusion.

Each of these proposals have widespread bipartisan support and are hugely popular across the political spectrum by great majorities. But none of these proposals, not too surprisingly, have majority support among elected political elites, economic elites, or the leadership of either party.

The constitution itself is the biggest barrier to solving these problems. Not one of these problems have been, or ever could have been, quickly solved, precisely because the constitution makes it difficult. Most of these problems require a constitutional amendment, something made deliberately long and difficult by the founders. A few of these could be solved temporarily by ordinary laws, which could then be easily overturned next election.

So why not go to the root of these problems? Why not a new constitution?



Constitution worship is the reason. Most Americans have been so heavily propagandized to think of the US Constitution as undeniably great and downright sacred, something you just don’t question without being seen as un-American.

What is pretty comical is to see the most idealistic of leftists, who are deeply cynical of everything else that is elitist and coming from powerful and wealthy institutions, become like a fundamentalist when the constitution is brought up. What is equally comical is to see populist conservatives or libertarians become enamored of government power when it is enshrined in a document written by, after all, Deists and Enlightenment thinkers who did not trust organized religion or nobility. Both are smitten by constitution worship.

There are two obvious ways to deal with that. One is to challenge the holy stature of the constitution. Write the true history, which most historians and political scientists already know is not a noble one, but one of elitists hijacking a popular revolution.

The other solution is to keep what is best about the old constitution while adding to it. Propose a new constitution and a new constitutional convention, but make one of the first proposals to keep the best of the old document.

For the best of the constitution is not the original document at all. The best part is the amendments. The original document is not about rights and all about power, who has it and how they can wield it, and that it will always remain in the hands of elites. The amendments are what most rightly revere. Keep the amendments, and amend the original document of power to spread the power to the mass of people, and add more amendments to limit the power of elites, for good.

That is what this proposed constitution tries to do. It adds to the best of the document, keeping all the original constitutional amendments with Article 1. The rest of the articles serve the same purpose as amendments.


What of the first solution to ending constitution worship? Tell the true history of the constitution, uncensored, without the heavy doses of patriotic propaganda that leave out its elitist nature. That story has already been told many times in the fields of history, political science, etc. But to help the curious and open minded, and for the less patient, let me summarize the history of the adoption of the constitution. To do that, one has to go back to the American Revolution.

The American Revolution was not a real revolution at all. It was just an independence movement. In actual revolutions, elites are overturned, killed off, imprisoned, or forced to flee the country. America's elites, plantation owners like Washington and Jefferson, were actually strengthened. They no longer had to listen to British authorities. Many scholars, the best known being the eminent Charles Beard, argued the real motive for the founders' rebellion was economic. The British Empire was run by mercantilism, which required colonies to trade only with the mother country. The founders wanted primarily more profit from free trade, not political freedom.

But there were many in the middle and working classes who wanted a true class revolution. There had been class warfare in the earlier English Revolution, Roundheads who were middle class and anti nobility, and the Levelers, primitive versions of communists who wanted to level off the wealth anyone could have. In the American Revolution, there were anti elite groups like the Sons of Liberty, and populist rabble rousers like Samuel Adams, George Mason, and most of all Thomas Paine.

There was a populist wave of the American Revolution before it was hijacked by the largely elitist founders. The Massachusetts Revolution of 1774 happened a year before the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The public took control of Massachusetts courts, forcing judges and the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to resign. They overthrew every county government in Masschusetts. That is why the British were occupying Boston in the first place at the time of Lexington and Concord.

This was just the start of a populist revolution. There were over 90 Declarations of Independence before Jefferson's, from counties, cities, and states. Most were based on George Mason's in Virginia. Jefferson's was simply an elite attempt to seize control of a popular uprising. There were popular uprisings, attempted class revolutions within the elite-led revolution. There were mutinies within the US Army, in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Congress was forced to use a draft, bounties, even the promise of slaves to gain recruits.

After the war, there were early experiments in anarchism, socialism, and other revolutionary notions for that time. For a year, Pennsylvania tried shutting down the government entirely. Pennsylvania also tried outlawing the collection of debt, a form of wealth redistribution. Slavery ended in seven northern states. One out of eight slaves in the US were freed. New Jersey even gave women the right to vote. Though first done accidentally in 1776, it stayed on the books until 1807.

Aristocracy and feudalism were ended in the US. Noble titles, primogeniture, and entailment (the wealthy being able to seize public property) all ended. There was enormous confiscation and redistribution of wealth during and after the revolution. (Try telling that to a Tea Party member.) Most British loyalists and many aristocrats, whether they sided with the colonists or with Britain, lost their property. Established state churches in nine of the thirteen colonies were abolished. These were all fairly radical changes, and many Americans wanted to go even further.

American elites’ fear of class warfare created the US Constitution. The most pivotal event was Shay’s Rebellion. Farmers in western Massachusetts tried to stop foreclosures on their farms, so they shut down state courts. Jefferson called this, “liberty run mad.” Washington called it, “anarchy and confusion.” What horrified the founders was not the size of the rebellion. It was minor, with few deaths. The fact that it took so long to break the rebellion worried them. And at the same time, the French Revolution was going on. They feared this minor rebellion might grow into a similar class revolution. All the radical experiments in wealth redistribution added to that fear. The founders called the convention in direct response to Shay's Rebellion.

The constitutional delegates had a low opinion of the public. They believe people without wealth were just one hungry belly short of becoming a howling mob, that working class people were selfish, unreliable, and easily misled. They wanted the nation to be run by “men of quality,” the very wealthy, and argued the wealthy must be protected from the general public above all else. “Those who own the country ought to govern it,” as John Jay argued.

The Constitutional Convention was secretive. There were no notes taken, except Madison's, done at the end of the day in his room, against the wishes of the convention. The public was barred. So were the press. The delegates, just like Colonial Congresses before them, took oaths of secrecy to keep debates from the public. There was almost no debate on expanding the power of the government. The elite delegates already agreed in advance on most questions.

The US Constitution was and is deliberately anti democratic, designed to look like a democracy without actually being one. Great power was given to the president. The assumption was Washington would be the first, and the clumsy Electoral College put in. Electing a president was deliberately made cumbersome to stop anyone not as admired as Washington from being elected. The founders did not want competetive elections, but presidents chosen almost by acclamation.

Ratifying deliberately excluded opponents of the constitution. Special state conventions, not legislatures or the public, ratified the constitution. Even so, as word leaked out, the public turned against this document that most were not allowed to vote on. Elites at the special state conventions began to get nervous. Votes against the constitution were highest in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. The Massachusetts convention only ratified after Governor John Hancock was promised (falsely) he would be the first president or vice president.

In Virginia, George Mason and Patrick Henry successfully pushed for the Bill of Rights as a condition for ratifying. The first presidential election was planned without New York, North Carolina, or Rhode Island. New York actually prepared to secede and become their own country. Federalists in New York City then threatened to secede from New York. The New York convention backed down and narrowly ratified.

North Carolina's convention defeated the constitution and held out a year before a new convention ratified. Rhode Island was the only state to hold a “popular” vote. (Not only minorities and women, except in New Jersey, were barred. There were property requirements to vote in every state.) The constitution was defeated in the state by a 10-1 margin, a good indication of what most of the public thought. Washington was actually elected withut Rhode Island voting in the presidential election.

Ratification took three years of enormous elite effort *against* the general public. Ben Franklin owned most newspapers in the US. An economic boycott was used by wealthy elites to shut down many of the other papers opposing the constitution.

The original US Constitution, minus the amendments, has a deliberate *anti* democratic structure.

1. The Electoral College means there has never been a direct election of presidents. Originally it was intended to be a veto by elites vs the general public. If they elected the “wrong” person, the electors were there to overrule the public.

2. The US Senate is the most undemocratic part of the system. Wyoming has 75 times greater representation than California. Until the 20th Century, senators were chosen by state legislatures, not voters. (Some Tea Party leaders want to return to that.)

3. The Supreme Court almost always defends wealthy elites.

4. The winner take all/majority rule system is less democratic than parliament systems in most other nations. It leaves small groups unrepresented, cripples newer or smaller parties.

5. There is no mention of rights in in the original constitution whatsoever, except a stricter definition of treason.

And the US Constitution was illegally adopted. The Articles of Confederation's

Article 13 states “…Articles of this Confederation…shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time be made in any of them; unless such alteration agreed to in Congress of the US & confirmed by legislatures of every State.” On both counts, the constitution is illegal. Neither Congress nor state legislatures ever confirmed it, only special state conventions.

Obviously I am not suggesting resistance to the current constitution, or ignoring it. That argument leads to chaos, and only militias and sovereign citizens on the fringe embrace that. There is a legal concept which says even if a law was adopted by faulty means, it remains the law if it has been in force for a good length of time. My point was simply, when one hears that this is a nation of laws, remember that the founders ignored the highest law in the land, the Articles of Confederation. Being elites, and very elitist, they just went ahead and did it.

Imagine a modern parallel to what the founders did. Imagine the wealthiest elites writing a document only they had any say in, and only allowing themselves to vote on it, and then declaring it the highest law in the land. That is what the founders did, and this is precisely why the original constitution deserves no reverence.

Instead, let us resolve to craft a new constitution that preserves the best of the old, the amendments, and adds to it with a far better system of government and drastic limits on elite power.

Unlike the original convention, any new constitution deserves, needs, and requires as much popular input as possible. While the proposals that follow were written by me, many of these proposals have been made in other forms before. Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, proposed some parts of several of these articles, as have others. It is depressing, and proof that reform is needed more than ever, that none of his proposals were adopted in spite of public support. The call for a new constitutional convention is ongoing.

These proposals, and any proposals, need to come from you, the general public. Send in your suggestions, criticisms, counter proposals, arguments and debates. Spread the word anywhere and everywhere you can. This cannot be done without you.

The only real arguments for continuing the current constitution are stability, and a view of the American system based more on romanticism than actual history.