Saturday, December 7, 2019
December 7-8, 2019: Future Constitutional Amendments?
[On December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. So this week I’ve AmericanStudied that crucial amendment and four others, leading up to this weekend post on three potential amendments to come!]
On three ways the Constitution should probably be further amended (and by “should,” I want to be clear that I’m only talking about potential changes I support here!).
1) The ERA: I already wrote about the ERA as part of Wednesday’s post on the 19th Amendment, and of course that’s the thing with the ERA—it’s not at all new, having spent nearly five decades now languishing in limbo after passing both Houses of Congress in 1972. Yet far from making it less of a potential future amendment, I would argue that that history makes the ERA the next amendment that should be ratified and added to the Constitution. Frankly, it is entirely ridiculous that this straightforwardly equitable amendment (one that simply validates and reinforces the “All men are created equal” sentiment on which the nation was founded) has not been added long since, and that it’s apparently controversial enough to have stalled for so long. But there’s no time like the present, and what better way to inaugurate the centennial of suffrage than to finally pass the ERA?
2) The Electoral College: I really do believe that the ERA should be as non-controversial as an amendment can get, but I fully recognize that my 2nd and 3rd subjects for today are and will always be far more divisive. While the Constitution did many things, at its core it created the American form of democratic process and governance—and one core element of the process part was the creation of the electoral college as a system for electing the executive. Yet the way in which that system operates was significantly shifted by the 12th Amendment, reminding us that every aspect of the Constitution is and must be living and changeable. Moreover, there’s just no way to conflate what populous/less populous or large/small states meant in 1787 with what they mean in 2019, when (for example) California has a population of nearly 40 million and Wyoming a population of just over 500,000. To my mind, electors (however they are distributed) cannot possibly represent the will of those populations and individuals sufficiently, and an amendment to create some form of popular voting is necessary if the US government is ever again to reflect the American people.
3) Guns: The same historical vs. contemporary point certainly applies here: while there are various ways to read and interpret the 2nd Amendment’s tortured grammar, the bottom line is that what “arms” meant in 1789 has precious little (if anything) to do with the weapons of war that have been decimating our communities and nation over the last decade. But to be honest, even if there were some way to teleport to the 1780s and we learned that George Mason and company intended for every American to be able to carry around a personal bazooka or some such, I would argue that the more important point is this: the amendment process was created precisely so the Constitution can evolve to address a continually evolving society. The Framers understood well that America in any future moment would look different from theirs, and designed this vital part of the Constitution in order to allow it to grow and shift along with the nation. In the 21st century, both guns and America have evolved to a point where our gun culture has to change if we are to continue moving toward that more perfect union promised by the Constitution—and since the 2nd Amendment exists, any significant such change will require its own amendment as well.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other Amendments you’d predict or argue for?