When I think about the Constitution, I generally focus on the Bill of Rights. As a Libertarian, it’s far more interesting to know what the government can’t do to me than know what it can do.
When I read that the feds cannot police my speech, arrest me without a warrant, or prevent me from owning a weapon, I feel happy. When I read that it can build post offices, levy taxes, and borrow money on the nation’s credit, I feel sad.
Alas, as much as I enjoy being reminded of my liberties, it might suffice to say that the more important section of the Supreme Law of the Land is the list of articles describing exactly how our government functions.
I like the way our government is intended to function for the most part. I like that the federal government’s powers are few and defined (even though it doesn’t always stop them from doing more). I like that each branch of government has specific responsibilities delegated to it, and that these branches are designed to keep each other in line (even though some are gaining unauthorized power while others are losing their influence).
Perhaps because of the fact that our federal government governs outside of its enumerated powers, it might be time to make a few tweaks to our system in order to better protect our safety and happiness.
I propose two new amendments: one to turn our congress into a parliamentary system, and one to set term limits in congress.
Our first and likely most respected president George Washington said in his farewell address to the nation:
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Obviously, we have failed to heed his warnings and are stuck in a two-party duopoly of embarrassing proportions. Upon a quick string of questioning, I suspect that few Americans would feel comfortable calling themselves steadfast in their allegiance to the Republicans or the Democrats. Thus, it is problematic that nearly all voters vote for Republicans and Democrats anyway.
To solve this problem, we should demand proportional representation in a European style parliamentary system. I am not well-versed enough to explain this perfectly, but the general idea is that minority political interests would be represented directly rather than have to choose the lesser of two evils. If 6% of California’s population votes for the Green Party, 3 of their 53 representatives would have to be Green. If 8% of North Carolina’s population votes Libertarian, 1 of their 13 representatives would have to be Yellow.
This would also help members of larger parties who don’t feel that their interests are being taken into account. Conservatives would be able to break away from Alt-Right Nationalists, and blue collar Democrats would be able to escape the identity politics at the other end of the left-wing spectrum.
Though it could be argued that adding more parties to our politics would be an even greater betrayal of President Washington’s warnings, a more balanced and accurate representation of the American people could return some power to We the People as Washington and the rest of our Founding Fathers fought to do in the Revolutionary War.
The 29th Amendment would be an even more important change. At the moment, congressmen are allowed to run for reelection until they drop dead (I’m not actually sure that a pulse is required). This is why John Conyers (1965), Thad Cochran (1973), and Don Young (1973) have been legislating far longer than I’ve been alive.
Since Congressmen are constantly up for reelection and are allowed to serve as many terms as they’d like, it is highly likely that the motivating factor behind their decision making is keeping their jobs by pacifying the masses rather than doing what’s right. Honesty and tough political choices have severe consequences; lies and handouts don’t.
If our potential congressmen knew that being a professional politician was an impossible career path, individuals who actually desire to serve the country would be more motivated to apply and fight for the job.
This would help limit lobbying and shady campaign financing because special interests would be forced to constantly look for replacements to rally behind instead of finding established horses to latch on to.
In other words, if you want to get money out of politics, don’t provide such lucrative positions for people to fill.
What steps should we take to amend the Constitution? Would the parliamentary system apply to both the House and the Senate? How many terms should an individual be allowed to serve in Congress after limits are applied?
I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not the only person pushing these ideas.
But conversations have to start somewhere and continue somehow. And this is one We, the American People, need to have.