America Needs A New Constitution

In honor of Constitution Day, and because Republicans have broken the old one, my modest proposals for restoring democracy. Note that these are all procedural changes, not policy changes. If it were up to me, FDR’s Second Bill of Rights would be in there too.

Article I: Enlarge the House of Representatives by mandating one representative for every 500,000 persons, in order to make congress more responsive. By contrast, the UK has one MP for 101,000 Britons and the Bundestag one for every 116,000 Germans. Mandate non-partisan redistricting. Enlarge the Senate, and make it more representative, by giving the 10 most populous states 1 extra senator after each census and the top 5 states 2 more after that. These Class III senators would end their terms early if their state dropped out of a population category following a census. Allow the states to chose the method of selection, either by the legislature, statewide election or (in the larger states) even by district. Make the Vice President the actual presiding officer of the senate and make all former presidents and Vice Presidents lifetime ex officio senators. The senate would be required to take a full floor vote on all legislation passed by the House within 30 days, with the possibility of a one time extension for more investigation. Likewise, all judicial nominees would have to be voted on within 30 days or become recess appointees. Congress would be given explicit law enforcement authority to enforce subpoenas or prosecute persons for contempt.

Article II: Split up the nearly dictatorial power of the executive branch by switching to a semi-presidential system. The president (directly elected by single transferable vote) would remain as Head of State, in charge of foreign policy and commander in Chief. The head of government would be a new position, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States (“prime minister” seems too European, “chancellor” sounds too academic to Americans, and “First Secretary” while more accurate sounds vaguely communist). The CEOUS would be appointed by the president but confirmed by the House, along with a Cabinet. The president could dissolve the House and call for new elections but not dismiss the CEOUS, although the House could also vote no confidence. In addition to putting more constraint on executive power this system would have the added effect of encouraging Third Parties, since coalition governments would be possible. Neither the CEOUS nor Cabinet members would be required to be members of the House. Under this system, Presidents would be more likely to be elder statesmen or international leaders (think George HW Bush or John Kerry) while the CEOUS would be held by smart tough politicians who know how to count votes (LBJ, for example, or Nancy Pelosi).

Article III: Expand the Supreme Court to 15 members and put term limits on all Federal judges (say 20 for SCOTUS, 12 for Courts of Appeal, and 10 for District Courts). Require that the President pick off a list developed by non-partisan committees in each state and Circuit, plus one for the nation as a whole. Mandate that courts must give the elective branches an opportunity to correct any Constitutional defect in legislation before striking it down. Mandate that the Courts can only declare laws Constitutional or not, not effectively rewrite them. Allow Congress or the Executive Branch to seek advisory opinions.

General: Overturn Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United, et. al. and impose strike limits on campaign donations and expenditures. Make it clear that only natural persons have Constitutional rights, not corporations (other than the right to Due Process).

I’ve probably got some other ideas rattling around but this is it for now.

Published in: on September 17, 2020 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Corrupt Duopoly!

The two party system in America is a bug of the Constitution, caused by a system where the head of state and head of government are combined in one office elected separately from the legislative branch. Thus, third parties have no leverage and as a result no one votes for them. However, we did have an effective version of a multiparty system for decades, where both parties were broad-based coalitions of liberals, moderates, and conservatives. Republican presidents could count on conservative Democrats; Democratic presidents could count on liberal Republicans. That changed in the 1980’s, with the Democrats now composed of mostly the center Left, with a contingent of Progressives and a handful of moderates. The Republican Party on the other hand has systematically purged all non-conservatives…and continued moving Right until there is basically nothing left but a rancid fascist death cult. But the system remains the same. There is nowhere else for voters to go. Our political culture has ossified into a stagnant pond. That won’t change, unfortunately, without Constitutional change.

Published in: on August 25, 2020 at 6:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Polling Socialism

Recent polls showing Biden with a commanding lead over Trump compared to other Democrats are probably accurate as far it goes. When you consider that your average voter knows nothing about any Democratic candidates except Biden and Bernie, plus the fact that Biden benefits from nostalgia for Obama (and the days where the president wasn’t a corrupt, incoherent, narcissist authoritarian), it’s not surprising. Long term, it suggests that the Democrats are in a good position…except the part where the public prefers Trump to “a socialist.” Bear in mind, of course, that Trump and the GOP will blast any Democratic nominee as a socialist/communist/Shining Path Maoist, just as they have been doing for the last 40 years. Also bear in mind that the general public has no idea what “socialist” means (including this woman). Whoever the Democratic nominee is has to have a good rebuttal to Trump shrieking “socialist!”, such as pointing out all the very popular government programs that Republicans have routinely bashed as “socialist” over the decades. Getting into an extended argument over capitalism versus socialism is a losing bet. This isn’t a freshman political science class. The voting public already knows that kind of person Trump is (and a fair chunk of them still love him); the Democratic nominee has to define herself or himself before the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus has a chance to.

Published in: on July 7, 2019 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Political Malpractice

Joe Biden’s problem with his old segregationist buddies and busing is pretty much the same as Elizabeth Warren’s with her make-believe Indian heritage. And both have shown an inexcusable level of political incompetence in dealing with them. Warren, as I wrote at the time, could easily have defused the issue when it originally came up in her first Senate campaign by A) admitting that the decisively-debunked family legends of Cherokee ancestors were false; and B) apologize for giving offense to many Indians. She could even, as I suggested then, turned it around on Scott Brown by pointing out that he voted against the Violence Against Women Act that was expanded specifically to protect Indian women. Instead, she  refused to back off, and in the last most egregious example released that idiotic DNA test in advance of her presidential announcement, to widespread mockery.

Likewise with Biden. Literally no one was asking him about his relationship with loathsome racist troll James Eastland. Nobody. Biden, with his famously uncontrolled mouth, just decided to blurt it out as the worst possible example of his ability to work across the ideological divide. Why Eastland? He could’ve made the point just as easily (in fact, better) by citing his cooperation with John McCain, who is widely respected among Democrats (at least recently). When criticized for it, Biden dug the hole deeper, reinforcing the criticism of progressive Democrats that he’s out of touch. On busing, a lot of northern Democrats were on the wrong side of that issue. Even Ted Kennedy had to fudge his support a bit in the face of furious attacks by his constituents in Boston. The smart move would’ve been for Biden to simply admit he was wrong, that he’s learned better, and apologize for not supporting black families trying to make a better life for their children. That would’ve defused the issue. Instead, he’s gone defensive and put himself in the losing position of arguing racial issues with a black woman.

Warren (and especially Biden) are supposed to be skilled politicians. If that’s true, why do they keep shooting themselves in the foot?

Published in: on June 29, 2019 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Proposed Constitutional Amendments (A Series, Part 2)

Amendment XXIX

Section 1: The President of the United States shall be elected by the People.

Section 2: A candidate for President of the United States shall be listed on the ballot in each State or other political subdivision of the United States wherein they have filed with the appropriate authority the verified signatures of eligible voters in an amount equal to at least one percent of the total ballots cast for President in that State in the last presidential election. The petitions for nomination must be submitted to the appropriate authority in each of the several States no later than ninety days before the date fixed for the election.

Section 3: No person shall be eligible to election as President unless they have qualified to appear on the ballot in each of the several States.

Section 4: On the ballot for President, each candidate shall be listed together with their chosen candidate for Vice President. The voters may rank the candidates for President according to their preference. If no candidate receives a majority of the total votes cast,  the candidate with the fewest number of first-preference rankings shall then be eliminated and these votes redistributed, the process being repeated until one candidate achieves a majority. The candidate who receives a majority shall then become President.

Published in: on October 23, 2018 at 2:43 pm  Comments (1)  

Proposed Constitutional Amendments (A Series)

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, shall be eligible to vote upon reaching eighteen years of age, excepting only those persons who have been duly found to be incompetent to manage their own affairs in a final court proceeding wherein the respondent shall have been afforded all rights of due process.

Section 2: The right of citizens of the United States to cast a free, fair, secret, and secure vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State.

Section 3: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Published in: on October 16, 2018 at 11:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Zombie Apocalypse

The greatest threat to American democracy isn’t Donald Trump or the Russians; it’s the Republican Party. Or rather, Republicans. And it has absolutely nothing to do with policy, though Lord knows there are plenty of disastrous Republican policies and proposals to choose from.

No, the danger comes from the fact that the overwhelming majority of Republicans have become mindless sheep who will fanatically support anyone or anything as long as it’s stamped with an “R”. Even if the candidate or policy is directly contrary to long-standing Republican positions or violates deeply-held personal convictions. If the GOP nominated a gay, transgender, Muslim, illegal alien pornstar who performed abortions on the side, 85% of Republicans would crawl over broken glass to vote for them. If Trump suddenly advocated nationalizing the means of production and instituting a dictatorship of the proletariat, Republicans would weep with joy and take to the streets to support him.

Consider that “evangelical Christians” believed overwhelmingly that a president’s personal morality was important…until Trump got the nomination. Republicans overwhelmingly opposed intervening in Syria…until Trump staged a dog and pony show with smart bombs. Republicans considered Russia a major threat to America (Romney made the issue a centerpiece of his campaign!)…until the Russians helped Trump get elected.

Fortunately for the Republic, Trump has turned out to be precisely as stupid, lazy, and incompetent as he appears. Being a dictator is hard work and requires some brain pan. But what about the next guy? There’s already some very troubling polling that indicates a big chunk of Republicans would support martial law; what happens when a future Smart Trump calls for that? Then what happens?

Published in: on August 5, 2018 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

The Way We Were

As anyone who knew me in college can tell you, I’ve always been a political science nerd. I loved the inside baseball details, I loved the social norms, I loved The Process. And like any good political science nerd, I took it as an article of faith that the way to win elections and especially the way to govern was right down the middle, avoiding the extremes of both sides. I believed in bipartisanship, I believed in seeking common ground, I believed in working together. Not anymore.

I remember the first time I realized something was very seriously wrong. It was 1995. Like most Democrats, I cheered the election of Bill Clinton. I thought, finally we have a New Way. Finally, we have a candidate who can shake off the stale liberal past and chart a new course. And then I watched the Republican Party go completely and utterly insane. There were the dark, paranoid emails about the Clinton Murders. There were the insane black helicopter conspiracy theories about the UN coming to “take our guns.” There was the rise of incendiary, nearly psychotic Right Wing talk radio. And then came Oklahoma City. The worst terrorist attack on American soil, innocent people, women and children, callously murdered by a Right Wing terrorist with strong militia ties and anti-government views. And what was the response of the Republican Congress? They invited the militia to testify before a special hearing, concerned that they were getting a bad name. Because little children had been murdered. It was as if, in the wake of 9/11, Democrats had invited Hamas to address Congress and lay out their concerns. That was the last time I ever cast a ballot for a Republican. Any party that would willingly ally with such creatures will never get my vote. And then it got worse: impeachment, the stolen 2000 election, George W. Bush, The PATRIOT Act, Iraq, being told that any questioning of the president was treason.

When Barack Obama was elected, the GOP went completely off the cliff, pledging themselves to his defeat before he’d even taken office. And, partly due to Obama’s political naïveté, they were rewarded, first with the House in 2010, then the Senate. Why? Because the fundamental assumption of Postwar politics, that there was a vast moderate middle, had vaporized. Karl Rove, the evil genius, figured it out early with his 51% nation strategy. There is no Middle; 90% of the voters are comprised of people who will never vote for a Democrat under any circumstances (overwhelmingly white) or people who will never vote for a Republican under any circumstances (mostly nonwhite). Elections are won by whichever side turns out its base. The ultimate result of this bitter divide, and all the hatred and insanity and racism and xenophobia used to produce it, is Donald Trump.

Lessons the Republican Party has taught me:

  • Elections are NEVER over
  • Elections NEVER have consequences unless my side wins
  • The other party is ALWAYS the enemy
  • Cooperation or bipartisanship equals treason

If ANY other Republican had won in November, even someone as odious as Ted Cruz or as incompetent as Rick Perry, I wouldn’t feel this way. But Trump represents an existential threat to the very survival of the republic. As long as he squats in office, all bets are off. The only way to prevent Trump from permanently damaging if not destroying democracy in America is for Democrats to win control of Congress, an uphill battle already. The only hope the Democrats have of winning is to convince the base to turn out and the only way to do that is to fight Trump at every turn. This strategy mostly only has a chance of success under the Byzantine rules of the senate: Filibuster everything. Deny unanimous consent. Walk out. Break quorum. March with the protestors. Attack Trump for his rampant, obvious corruption. Will they win? Not in the short term, no. People who think Mitch McConnell won’t do away with the filibuster are living in a fantasy world; McConnell would literally personally burn the senate chamber to the ground to win a vote. But Senate Democrats should be under no illusions that collaboration will help them win elections; Democrats who vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch or Rex Tillerson will be blasted as traitors, terrorist-lovers, and communists just as hard as Democrats who vote no.

Yes, it’s sad that our democratic norms of governance are dead. There are a variety of reasons for it that I’ll talk about in another post. For now though, we have to concentrate on the task at hand: saving America. And to do that, Democrats must learn to fight like Republicans.

Published in: on February 1, 2017 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Somewhere, In A Saner Alternate Universe…

  • The Coventional Wisdom is that President-Elect Hillary Clinton has no mandate, despite winning 373 electoral votes, carrying the popular vote by nearly 10 percentage points, and winning back the Senate
  • Congressman Trey Gowdy says “no end in sight” to his Benghazi investigation; Jason Chaffetz pledges the same
  • Senate Republicans vow to block all of Hillary Clinton’s nominees until “the truth comes out”
  • Republicans are demanding an immediate investigation into “massive vote fraud,” despite Hillary Clinton having won by 9 million votes
  • The MSM is OUTRAGED that Clinton plans to appoint her supporters to government office
  • Congressional Republicans are blasting Hillary Clinton as “weak on Russian aggression”
  • Talking Heads are raking Clinton over the coals for not “moving to the center” to “bring the country together”
  • The Conventional Wisdom is that both sides ran a nasty campaign 
  • It is an article of faith among Republicans that Black Lives Matter stole the election for Hillary
  • It is an article of faith among Republicans that Donald Trump never existed
  • No Republican officeholder in America will admit to having endorsed Trump
  • Trump still hasn’t appeared in public since election night, remaining secluded in Trump Tower and tweeting his plans to contest the election results
  • Rudy Giuliani is claiming that Donald Trump is the “moral leader” of America
  • The Conventional Wisdom is that incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to “govern from the center” since he only has 55 votes
  • The Conventional Wisdom is that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will be the real powerbroker in Washington, despite seeing his majority shrunk to 5 seats and barely surviving a challenge to his leadership in the House GOP Caucus
  • David Brooks is writing another column about how this election confirms his position that America remains a “center Right nation”
Published in: on December 13, 2016 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Just In Case You Were Wondering…

…no, the Republicans will not in fact learn a goddam thing from this election.

Exhibit A: Jason Chaffetz pledges two years of investigations if Hillary dares to get elected

Exhibit B: Not to outdone, Judicial Watch and the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus demand to know why Hillary hasn’t already been impeached

Exhibit C: First John McCain then Ted (Zodiac Killer) Cruz pledge to block all SCOTUS nominees as long as Hillary is president

No matter how large Hillary’s margin of victory, no matter if they lose the Senate or even the House, no matter the fact that this will mark 6 out of the last 7 presidential elections where the Republicans will have lost the popular vote, they will. not. change. Obstructionism has been baked into the GOP since at least Newt Gingrich. Elections are NEVER over, elections NEVER have consequences unless Republicans win, and Democrats are NEVER legitimately elected. My only hope is that Hillary knows this and, unlike Obama, will not waste a moment attempting to negotiate with them. If she gets both Houses of Congress, she should ram through a progressive agenda like LBJ, front-loaded with things like a stimulus package and student loan debt relief that will produce quick results;,if she doesn’t take the House, spend the next 2 years putting up popular proposals for them to shoot down and campaigning like hell for 2018. That’s how you get Capone. Play hard ball from Day One.

Published in: on October 26, 2016 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment