Glassheim: Amendments for a better U.S.
Several weeks ago I was on Mike McNamara's radio show (mactalklive.com, 1-3 p.m. on the internet). We got to chatting about how things don't seem to be working very well in America. We speculated that money was distorting politics, that party loy...
Several weeks ago I was on Mike McNamara's radio show (mactalklive.com, 1-3 p.m. on the internet). We got to chatting about how things don't seem to be working very well in America. We speculated that money was distorting politics, that party loyalty was trumping loyalty to country. The result was that gridlock-the refusal to compromise-has held America back for the past decade while other countries have forged ahead.
Soon-I forget who gets the credit or the blame-we were saying, "our government isn't working right." We wondered if we need to amend the Constitution to resolve problems which have built up over the past 230 years.
Apparently, we aren't the only ones who think the government isn't working very well. Most recent polls show approval ratings of Congress in the 11 to 14 percent range, with a few outliers at 23 percent.
If we set aside our own partisan lenses, we would see such major examples of congressional dysfunction as:
▪️for several decades, being incapable of passing budget bills in a timely manner.
▪️risking and occasionally forcing government shutdowns to make partisan points.
▪️trying to force massive changes in health care while stubbornly refusing to hold hearings or accept suggestions from those who represent at least half the country.
▪️inability to seek agreement on a plan to make Social Security actuarially sound for the future.
▪️failure to adopt plans to prevent Russian invasion in future elections.
▪️inability to respond to rapidly changing technological, economic, or cultural conditions.
National columnist George Will recently summed up the feeling many of us have that Congress is dysfunctional. He called John McCain's eloquent plea for a return to "regular order" a response to the "institutional slovenliness" of Congress.
James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, was one of the chief architects of the Constitution. In Federalist 10, he identified "factions" as perhaps the greatest danger to the American nation. He defined a faction as "a number of citizens who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."
Examples of factions are all the major corporate industrial associations-coal, oil, steel, automotive, pharmaceuticals, construction, trucking, gun manufacturers, banking, digital, financial, etc. These factions influence Congress by hiring lobbyists and publicists, donating significant dollars to campaigns, establishing think tanks, paying for research, and helping state legislatures gerrymander congressional districts. These factions make it almost impossible for Congress to represent the common good or the will of the people.
The Congress itself has its own partisan factions which keep it from functioning. For the past decade, a minority of senators prevented the majority of Congress from governing. Now, the majority of Congress is preventing the minority from having a say in crafting legislation. The resulting gridlock has created division, uncertainty and frustration among the American people.
The Constitution, which was supposed to balance various interests, has not been successful at doing this. We need to pass constitutional amendments to prevent minorities inside and outside the Congress from taking over the government of the whole people. We also need to prevent majorities inside and outside the Congress from excluding minority opinions.
I drafted about 20 proposed amendments to clarify existing protections and establish new protections in the Constitution. I will share some of these in my column two weeks from today.
But I also want to encourage you to send me your ideas ( email@example.com ) for constitutional amendments you think would improve the working of the U.S. government. Please let me know. If I select yours, whether you prefer that your name be attached to it or that it be printed anonymously. I look forward to seeing your ideas.
Eliot Glassheim is a former state lawmaker from Grand Forks. He writes regularly for the Herald.