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Ideologue Amendments

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Vox has a pretty good article on the schisms and breakpoints in American democracy: American Democracy is Doomed. The article came out in 2015 but is still absolutely relevant.

The article in Vox suggests that the current system is flawed. I’d argue the system is not flawed but the people in it are. Specifically, I target gerrymandering as an origin point. What’s gerrymandering you say? Note, that the video does play.

Studies have shown that when like-minded groups of people get together (say crammed into a voting district that is majority one-party) they tend to deviate towards the extreme. After all, the only way you can “prove” yourself is to be more extreme than the other guy. Thus, we end up with elected ideologues in government, particularly in Congress.

As a political scientist, I found the reading a timely topic. I had read The Broken Branch by Mann and Orstein (a pair of poly-sci guys) and found their argument favorable. Congress is broken and needs to be fixed by fixing how ideologues get elected.

As a follow-up, This is How American Government Will Die explains that we will end up with some sort of benevolent/elected dictator in about 50 years if we cannot change. I can see the allure of a Cincinnatus-like figure taking over in support of the Common Good.

I would tend to agree, though, that a dictatorship, even an elected one, is one dictator too many. Especially, after the recent court decision in Trump vs US, which granted the president criminal immunity for his Article II actions and presumed immunity for “official acts” (which the court declined to outline). This is the first time in US History that a person is above the criminal law. This makes the US a quasi-dictatorship.

I think what we need to consider is one of two possibilities:

A. An entire rewrite of the Constitution. Most countries  (and states!) re-write their Constitutions every couple of years. France has had five and my state of Virginia has had seven since 1776. America is the exception rather than the rule.

B. Add new amendments. We added amendments to counter the power of Big Business (think your Progressive Era amendments: 16, 17, 18, 19). Perhaps we need new amendments to counter the power of ideologues. I’d start with:

28th. An anti-Gerrymandering Amendment to ban it. In doing so, I’d consider having the House of Representatives ignore state boundaries when creating districts. An idea James Wilson originally had at the convention.

29th. Federal Elections must be financed publicly using public money. Our current mess of electoral finance results in Congresspersons beholden to the wrong kind of special interests. Congresspersons essentially are “tin-pot dictators” who can get elected by throwing around enough money and then passing laws based on who donated the most rather than the common good.

30th. Make Federal Election voting mandatory. 50% turnout makes governing difficult. By law, Congress could make Voting Day a paid national holiday. Or provide a tax incentive like a credit for voting. Could make it just a box you check that you voted or not. Obviously, the IRS probably isn’t going to follow-up on everyone but you always run the risk of getting audited and the IRS can look into whether or not you lied on the box.

31st: Junk the Electoral College. It’s anti-majorian.

32nd: Age limits for Presidents and Court Justices.

What other amendments would you add?