The recent Egyptian power ouster has reaffirmed the reality that the desire of people to rule themselves is ultimately unstoppable. Egypt’s government will get a democratic makeover and likely a new constitution. These recent events have prompted me to reflect on whether the U.S. Constitution sufficiently protects and supports democracy and, if not, should it be amended?
The Constitution does not adequately protect democracy and that is why Americans live in a plutocracy — a government favoring the wealthy and privileged. A modern democracy should be a citizen-empowered representative federal government (republic) whose leaders are elected by majority vote in publicly financed elections and whose federal laws are enacted by simple majority vote. Our government falls short of meeting each of these democratic expectations.
I have concluded that each of these four anti-democratic impediments merits a constitutional amendment because the practice of government is based on the consent of the people; nothing more, nothing less.
Proposed Amendment No.1. Abolish the Electoral College. The Electoral College (a nonsensical name probably designed to make a citizen feel stupid and confused) is inherently anti-democratic and should be abolished so that the President can be elected by popular majority vote. Imagine how different our world would be if the Secret Service were protecting ex-President Gore instead of W? Let’s get smart and drop out of Electoral College.
Proposed Amendment No. 2. Require all federal elections to be publicly financed. There are numerous reasons for keeping private money out of public elections but the primary reason is to reduce the influence of corporations. In the Citizen’s United case, the Supreme Court equates money with free speech and allows anyone or any non-party organization to spend limitlessly on election campaigns (including initiatives, referendums, and recalls). Goodbye government of the people, hello, corporatocracy; a wolf among lambs protected by the falsely bestowed cloak of the First Amendment. We must amend the Constitution to get the private money out of public elections before we incur further serious damage to our vulnerable and unrealized democracy.
Proposed Amendment No. 3. Abolish the Filibuster. The Senate cloture rule (aka filibuster), requires a bill to have 60 votes (super majority) to reach the floor of the Senate for final passage, and is patently anti-democratic. Does democracy stop at the door of a hallowed institution whose membership does not proportionately represent the people? The prohibition of the filibuster/cloture rule must apply to both houses of Congress.
Proposed Amendment No. 4. Abolish the Presidential Veto. The presidential veto is a manifestly undemocratic holdover from the Roman Empire. Why should one person be able to tear asunder the work of a majority of 535 members of Congress, forcing them to have a 2/3 majority in order to overturn a veto? Dump the bully stick.
By the way, Congress will not propose any constitutional amendments, mostly because 2/3 of the members of Congress cannot agree on anything other than when to have a recess. The people will have to propose these or any other constitutional amendments at a Second Constitutional Convention.(2nd con con) and that will only happen after 2/3 of the State Legislatures apply to Congress to convene one.
I will leave the mechanics of how to get a 2nd con con convened for another time, except to say, as the Egyptians recently demonstrated, when the tipping point is reached social networking will facilitate fifty simultaneous large public demonstrations before 50 state legislatures demanding legislators apply to Congress to convene a Constitutional Convention..
Let us recultivate our garden of democracy.
Dennis L. Boaz is a writer; human rights provocateur, former attorney, teacher, and union activist who now lives in Santa Rosa.