aNewDomain — What if Trump advisor and alt-right publishing chief Steve Bannon had his way?
Bannon, of course, has often written about the American system being so broken and poorly constructed that the only thing that could save it is just taking it all down and start rebuilding from scratch.
For sure he’s had worse ideas. And this idea of his is more compelling than most. Try to picture it. What would happen if we just took down all the pilars of government, trashing everything from the Constitution to the budget? What would happen if we Americans had the chance and a say in what America should look like in 2017 and beyond.
What if we all just rolled up our sleeves and went about reimagining every cog, every wheel, every existing part of US government and then rebuilt it all?
What if we all had a say and a vote for how United States 2.0 should operate?
Well, it might look something like this.
Welcome to America 2.0. It’s easy to imagine the obvious changes.
Right off the bat you’d have to decide on a system of government and specify how decisions get made. The best place to begin would be with the Bill of Rights.
The first thing that would go is the current system for electing leaders. Does anyone reading this right now believe we would choose the lame two-party duopoly model the second time around?
I didn’t think so. The parliamentary model most European nations use would be a better fit. But think bigger. We could easily put a system in place that is more like a direct democracy, one vote per citizen and no representatives. Why not?
Either way, they wouldn’t reinstitute the antiquated electoral college. There’s a reason only a handful of countries, mainly autocracies in the developing world, have anything like that. So it’s out.
Just implementing that change would let Americans, all Americans, have a say in the new Constitution and definitely its amendments, regardless of whether the 2017 Reframers decide on a representational democracy or a direct one.
The Bill of Rights and the amendments are natural places for construction to begin. For sure, we’d vote to reinstitue the First Amendment right to free speech, though it might be curtailed to ban hate speech and false speech, as many European countries have done?
Based on numbers alone, we’d most certainly trash it by majority vote. Polls have long shown that most of us are in favor of serious regulations mandating background checks and a limit on what kinds of weapons are available at all. Again, based on current polling, the majority of us would vote to limit gun ownership to a pistol or two, carried openly, and hunting weapons.
After you put those reimagined amendments in place, things start to get really interesting.
Old Constitution, New Delusions
In days of yore, when the U.S. was still that shining city on a hill, newly independent nations modeled their constitutions on ours.
They don’t do that anymore. And they haven’t for awhile.
That’s because we are old. And we are increasingly decrepit.
Freshly minted countries like South Sudan, for instance, don’t adapt our antiquated constitution because it guarantees fewer rights than most people believe humans are entitled to. That’s why they instead turn to documents like the European Union Convention on Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Our reframers would do that, too.
We’d even put in a clause to review the Constitution every few years to make sure it still works. Other nations replace their constitutions completely an average of every 19 years.
By global standards, our 228-year-old charter is ridiculously ancient. It doesn’t guarantee the right of every citizen to education, food and healthcare. Newer constitutions of course carry those guarantee such things.
Also, unlike ours, they guarantee the right of defendants to be considered innocent until proven guilty. They don’t just say it, as we do. They legislate that.
All these would be reasonable, intelligent changes to make if we had the opportunity to start again on the United States and redesign it from scratch.
A More Perfect Union?
Before Bannon and all the alt-right militants get too excited, let me say right away that if we were to go ahead and convene a second constitutional convention, the time to do it is not now.
Two hundred twenty-eight years ago they had Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Today we have Nancy Pelosi, Scott Pruitt and Paul Ryan. Today we have a NASA chief who thinks dinosaurs rode on Noah’s Ark. We have an EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, who not only denies global warming and human-caused climate change, and has been repeatedly criticized as letting oil company interests keep him from admitting to his former Oklahoman contituents that, duh, fracking causes earthquakes.
Forget Pres. Trump for a minute. The whole swamp, liberal and conservative, has never been skeezier.
No matter what side of the national political schism you sit on, I’m sure you agree that this political class isn’t fit to rubberstamp a routine raising of the debt limit, much less figure out how this More Perfect Union could become new and improved.
Don’t lock them up. Lock them out of Washington or anywhere else, at least while we finish the job of rebuilding this new nations.
Recreate Delaware? Forget about it!
It’s high time that we shed the deluded national viewpoint that the U.S. is some cute wet-behind-the-ears nation-come-lately.
The frontier has been conquered. And forget about expansion. Even though 97 of 100 Puerto Ricans want in, there will be new states.
In short, we are old.
We are, in spirit and by chronology, old as the hills, old like Old Europe, old like a retiree in Florida who begins planning the two mile trip to the Early Bird Special at Morrison’s the day before. We are stuck in our ways.
Assuming we have the sense to see how fogeyish, dysfunctional and incapable of progress we’ve become, we need to spring back up and dash it all down. Then we can consider things with fresh eyes.
Don’t believe it. Look at a map. Now ask yourself: Would anyone sane divide administrative districts into 50 states whose populations and sizes varied as much as inconsequential Delaware and ungovernable California?
The Stupid Stuff
Citizens of Washington D.C. can’t vote in presidential or gubernatorial elections.
Why the hell not?
You can fight and kill in the military at age 18. But you can’t drown your Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in beer before age 21.
You can drive at 16, but you can’t rent a car till you’re 25.
Immigrants must pass a serious citizenship test before becoming an American citizen. But, according to a national poll last year, more than 60 percent of Americans didn’t recognize the “rule of law” and didn’t know the executive branch from a library branch.
Instead of forcing those voters to pass a similar civics test before they are allowed to vote, why not just make things simpler this time around?
Listen: Our leaders fail us in innumerable ways, but their worst sin is to accept things as they way simply because that’s the way they have always been.
Whether in government or business or a family, the best way to act is determined by careful consideration of every possibility, not by succumbing to inertia.
Don’t just imagine — reimagine.
We live in the best country in the world. Remember?That’s what our teachers taught us. And throughout our lives, it’s an idea our politicians and our media keep pedaling like some wonderful feel-good drug. Most Americans believe it, too.
But it isn’t true, not by most objective measures of such things.
Americans suffer from drastic income inequality, massive adult and child poverty, an atrocious healthcare system, higher education affordable only to the rich and worse.
The kicker: The candidate who most of us vote for doesn’t necessarily get to be president.
The old and the ossified
It doesn’t have to be this way.
All we need is a little imagination.
Probably because I have a foreign-born parent and thus dual citizenship, and also because I have been fortunate enough to visit a lot of other countries, I bring an internationalist perspective to my political writing and cartoons.
Like Robert F. Kennedy, I don’t accept things how they are. I imagine how things could be — and what it might take to get there.
And why shouldn’t we learn from China’s ability to build infrastructure? Why can’t we improve food quality standards like the EU? Aiming for the best possible result ought to be the standard for our politicians. For citizens, too.
New New York Times columnist Bret Stephens called for repealing the Second Amendment following the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. His piece made a splash because he’s a conservative. Setting aside whether banning guns is a good idea, no one followed his suggestion to its logical conclusion: it won’t happen — in not just because guns are popular (which they are), or of the influence of the NRA’s congressional lobbyists (who are formidable), but because it’s impossible to amend the constitution over any matter of substance.
In fact, the U.S. has the hardest-to-amend constitution in the world.
In imagination, we trust
Girls can join the Boy Scouts and women can fight our wars, scores of Silicon Valley investors pretend to want women in the seats of power. But we live in a country that never passed the Equal Rights Amendment.
And justice? We are the only developed country that still kills our criminals, even though we know full well, thanks to efforts like The Innocence Project, that so many of them are innocent.
We The People are stuck in an ossified, 1789-era body, complete with wooden teeth and a powdered wig. It’s time to retire that old body as the Constitution once defined it and reimagine a new America.
Any objective analysis by someone with no skin in the game and nothing to lose would agree. The time has come to start anew. Not now. But soon.
America is obsolete, obviated. Our Bill of Rights protects us from having to billet troops in our homes, but it doesn’t protect us from the fearful paranoia and the stubborn recalcitrance that comes with doddering old age.
For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.