Few Americans need more proof of our seriously dysfunctional Federal government. The latest Gallup poll reported Congress has an approval rating of 19 percent as of January (and likely lower by now). The president? His weekly average has been hovering around 37 percent.
We need a rectification.
The very next Constitutional amendment we need is not a balanced-budget amendment (somehow we all intuitively understand that Congress and presidential administrations would utilize creative accounting to arrive at a balanced budget, whether we truly had one or not). The next Constitutional amendment we need should include the following reformations:
- Senate: A two-term limit enacted, four years each term. Half of the Senate would be elected/re-elected at the midway point of the remaining Senators’ terms, thus Senate elections would occur every two years. The rotation would split any given state’s delegation to the U.S. Senate.
- House of Representatives: A two-term limit enacted, four years each term. Half of the House would be elected/re-elected at the midway point of the remaining House members, thus House elections would occur every two years.
- Presidential campaign: Elimination of the electoral college, with only the popular vote deciding. No more gaming the system utilizing swing states.
- Supreme Court: Direct election of Supreme Court justices, two-term limits, four years each term. Justice campaigns are not allowed to run on political party platforms.
- Lobbying: After their service, members of Congress and their staff should be permanently banned from accepting lobbying or career positions with firms in industries over which the Congressional member formerly legislated.
- Congressional districts: Gerrymandering must be halted, with congressional districts based on counties, parishes, townships and other established borders – not arbitrary borders. Readjustments are allowed along recognized borders only when population shifts require them.
- Campaign donations: Since a working legal definition of “good” versus “bad” political organizations is all but impossible to establish, all organizations — profit or non-profit — should be banned from donating to campaigns, or work using indirect support of campaigns; only individuals should be allowed to donate to campaigns, $1,000 maximum per individual per year.
So as not to infringe on free speech, organizations — political or otherwise — would have to be allowed to independently promote their agendas. This, obviously, continues to favor organizations backed by large amounts of funding (e.g., Super PACs) but if you have a better idea, I’m listening.
This reformation of our national electoral system will not eliminate all dysfunction in central government, but would go far in creating a Federal government better positioned to respond to Americans’ needs.
This is not the first time such reformations to our Constitution have been suggested:
The second feature (of the proposed Constitution) I dislike, and greatly dislike, is the abandonment in every instance of the necessity of rotation in office….— Thomas Jefferson, in a December 20, 1787 letter to James Madison.
The political party of Jefferson, the Democrat-Republicans, desired to shorten ‘the Senatorial term, and devising a process for the responsibility of judges, more practical than that of impeachment’. — Thomas Jefferson, in a January 13, 1813 letter to John Melish
It suffices for us, if the moral and physical condition of our own citizens qualifies them to select the able and good for the direction of their government, with a recurrence of elections at such short periods as will enable them to displace an unfaithful servant before the mischief he mediates may be irremediable. — Thomas Jefferson, in an October 28, 1813 letter to John Adams
The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. This will lay all things at their feet, and they are too well versed in English law to forget the maxim, ‘boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem’ (a tongue-in-cheek statement that translates, ‘a good judge establishes enlarged jurisdictions’)… Having found, from experience, that impeachment (of justices) is an impracticable thing, a mere scare-crow, they consider themselves secure for life… A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but the independence (from) the will of the nation is a solecism (incorrect behavior), at least in a republican government. — Thomas Jefferson, in a December 25, 1820 letter to Thomas Ritchie. Parenthetical statements are the author’s.
Some 200+ years later we, as a nation, need to reopen this debate.