February 25, 2004
Amending the Constitution
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Amending the Constitution of the United States is supposed to be a historic and lofty event; we do not lightly or crassly change what to Americans is (or should be) a document sacred to us. And yet, all too often politicians, often for their own sordid, partisan motives, put forth proposals to amend the highest law of the country.
President Bush has done exactly this with the proposed amendment against gay marriage. Aside from being homophobic, discriminatory, and insulting to a sizable segment of the population, it is also opportunistic and highly politically motivated. Bush knows it will never pass two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of all states. It is clear it will fail. So Bush is obviously not doing this out of principle. He is doing this solely to use the most sacred document of our country, the Constitution, and the rights of an entire class of our society, as a gross partisan political weapon during a presidential election year. This, in my book, is yet another reason to get this man out of the White House as soon as is humanly possible--say, January 20th of next year. Impeachment would be better, but the Republicans control the Senate, so not much hope there.
Bush said that he is acting out of concern because of "activist judges" in Massachusetts (mostly appointed by Republicans, by the way) are legislating from the bench. This charge is so old and tired it should have been put to sleep long ago. Whenever a court comes to a decision that conservatives don't like, they always resort to that knee-jerk appellation, "legislating from the bench." Well, go ahead and read the decision (PDF file)--it is very easy for the layman to understand for a high court opinion, and is very well written. The dissent (PDF file), on the other hand, is far less reasoning; it is clear that at least Sosnan is opining from personal prejudice, and Spina doesn't recognize that the judiciary is empowered to check the legislature if it finds that its laws violate the state constitution.
Just for edification purposes, here is the process for amending the constitution; here are the six amendments that passed Congress but not the states, and here is a list of proposed amendments over the past dozen years or so that never got past Congress.
I have selected some of the more dubious ones from the US Constitution.Net site, and listed & commented on them below.
Calling for the repeal of the 8th Amendment and its replacement with wording prohibiting incarceration for minor traffic offenses (for those of you who would have to look it up, the 8th is the one about Cruel and Unusual punishment)
Apart from the traffic offenses part sounding weird, this one is dangerous--it would open up all kinds of unthinkable punishments. Definitely a bad idea.
To allow for any person who has been a citizen of the United States for twenty years or more to be eligible for the Presidency
The "Schwarzenegger Amendment." Not that the idea itself is that unreasonable (I could argue for or against it), it's just when a constitutional amendment is aimed at one person for current political gain--or, in fact, any amendment is intended for a short-sighted, partisan political goal--it is almost certainly a very, very bad idea.
To limit pardons granted between October 1 and January 21 of any presidential election year
Some Clinton-hater dreamed this one up as a way to block lame duck presidents from enacting corrupt pardons on their way out. Or it could have been a Bush 41-hater, George Sr. had his own highly questionable last-minute pardons. While it could be possible that corrupt pardons go through, that window could be a time for righteous pardons that might otherwise be undoable to go through as well. And again, it is based on a present-day political situation. This could be viable, but I would want to see more evidence that it is truly a problem for the country.
To allow a Presidential pardon of an individual only after said individual has been tried and convicted of a crime
As much as I would have loved to have seen Nixon prosecuted, I think this one is more vindictive than useful. A pardon is a pardon, and is meant to alleviate a wrongdoing or to alleviate a national crisis. This amendment is designed to see political opponents twist in the wind before they are reprieved. We can do without that.
To declare that life begins at conception and that the 5th and 14th amendments apply to unborn children
Talk about imposing religious beliefs...
To clarify that the Constitution neither prohibits nor requires school prayer
Which is to say, opening the door to allow same, again imposing beliefs. You gotta love that "nor requires" bit--added to make it sound less biased.
To provide for "moments of silence" in public schools
I have even less respect for them if they don't have the guts to say what they really mean.
To provide for the reconfirmation of federal judges every 10 years
Can anyone say "judicial gerrymandering"? Very bad idea. This would make political hostages out of judges, and lead to all sorts of political manipulation of the justice system--as if we don't already have far more than enough of that already.
To provide for the recall of Representatives and Senators
Booo! Even if used on Republicans! If they did that bad, impeach them. If not, live with it until the built-in recall process--we call them "elections"--comes around. Recalls open the door for removing politicians for purely political reasons, as we've seen. Too opportunistic and destabilizing.
To force a three-fifths vote for any bill that raises taxes
Taxes pay for stuff. Unless lowering taxes is similarly difficult, this is a bad idea. Too much a conservative obsession--taxes, though painful, are nevertheless necessary. It is already too hard to pass them when they are needed.
To repeal the 26th Amendment (granting the vote to 18-year olds) and granting the right to vote to 16-year olds
Posted by Luis at February 25, 2004 11:14 PM
Posted by: Jen at February 26, 2004 04:32 AM
Posted by: Justin Faulkner at February 28, 2004 11:57 PM
Posted by: Justin Faulkner at February 29, 2004 12:09 AM
Posted by: Steve S at July 12, 2007 04:33 AM