Sunday, February 19, 2023

Political Reform 2023: The Constitution May Not Allow It. Here's Why?

**Please note: This post is not intended to support extremist viewpoints of either party but to explain how and why our government may not work as well as we would like. These words also do not support Putin in his handling of the Ukraine and Crimean Wars. Since the break down of the Soviet Union, there has been one primary sticking point with Russia.  It is now--as it was before WWII--a country without a year round port.  Instead of sending billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, would it not make more sense to come up with a long term plan that addresses such trade. As it says here, our federal government can only use money or might to solve problems . Shouldn't Biden lead by example and show American citizens how to work with people he doesn't like or accept.  Peach is not based on military muscle but on the feeling that people are safe.  

The Suez Canal was just such an enterprise. Spend billions on creating a frost free canal system that would serve Russia and other countries along that mountain range.  The UN was supposed to be the peace maker but it is busy fighting climate change.  Someone is going to have to blink. 

 "Draining the Swamp" is just the latest catch phrase for political reform. Many  

citizens, from both parties, feel that our current government lacks something--a heretofore undefined quality that will turn it into the ethical, efficient, and collaborative system in which we believe. Yet, change never seems to come, no matter how loud the rhetoric or strong the voter support.

The excuses are many, The old block change and the young rush into decision making without thinking. Politicians lack the moral fiber to sidestep corruption and special favors and, of course, there is a a two-party election system which does not adequately reflect the diversity of a large and vibrant country. Are any of these factors really to blame or is it something else that shackles American government into a series of big plans and divisive protections that simply creates chaos? Perhaps it's time for the young and old in Congress to look beyond age and party affiliation before it wastes another two years doing little more than campaigning for 2024. 

Constitution 1.0

While this country does a good job of hanging with the big boys in global politics, one has to remember that it is still operating on its Constitution 1.0.  Countries like Egypt, India, China, Japan and even those in Europe have a political history that spans thousands of years. Unlike the US, each had a monarchy which gave up total authority for representative government.  To them, our two hundred plus years of experience is nothing. Why is it that Americans feel that their founding fathers had all the answers--even to questions that had not yet been asked?

What was Our Early Government LIke?

To often, our vision of the past is simple and based, at least in part, on fable.  We believe our country to be founded by those who stood up for their rights against the Crown and then developed a system of government that is envied by other nations around the world.  

That perception might be just a tad off.

Here are some interesting tidbits that give a different view of what our early government was actually like. (National Archives source)

1. Early on, the colonies were governed by a well-defined system of local and regional offices that were based on English, French or Spanish law. There was no need for an overseer as most operated independently, even from their home countries.  Today, those structures remain much the same as they did back then.

2.  The First Continental Congress was not for the purpose of gaining independence but for dealing with foreign affairs, trade and tariffs.  Not all the colonies saw a need for centralized authority and one colony did not send representatives this go around.

3. A year or so later, the Second Continental Congress began meetings with a recorded 56 members in attendance. The group meet as needed but without authority from the colonies.  It would be fifteen months after British forces began engaging the colonists that this Congress would finally declare its intention to leave British control.

4. The Declaration of Independence was drafted by a committee of five and ratified by all representatives over a three day period of time.  Not all members of that Congress signed the document reportedly because of a delay in getting the final copy ready.

5. Continuity was a problem. More than a third of the signors of the Declaration of Independence would not participate in the forming of the new government (nine died, some could not attend for personal reasons). Ages varied between 26 and 81. The first version of  government was approved during war time but not set in motion until 1781 when the colonies finally approved the measure and agreed to come together as a unit.

6.  After several years of disorganization, a Constitutional Convention was called in 1787 for the purpose of amending the original Articles. New members brought new perspectives. Debating in closed session for three months, a new Constitution was finally drafted, signed and sent on to the states.  It would be a year before the 2/3 majority was reached and operations begun.  The document would not be ratified by all 13 colonies until 1790. 

7. From 1776 through April of 1789, this country operated, as it had before the War, without a strong centralized government. George Washington, one of the constants throughout the 15 year process to develop this government accepted the position of President.  Other founding members of this government, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc) would act as its first Presidents.

But did this sporadic effort result in an effective and functioning authority that secured the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness the way we have been told.

Is Constitution 2.0 Needed?

From the comfort of a computer screen, a general theme runs through the Federal government from beginning to end. At the outset, it needs to be remembered that the US did things backwards. 

It might not have seemed important at the time, but this group of colonies had no common identify on which to bond. While other countries had their revolutions and abolished the monarchy as the head of state, each remained intact as a result of a common cultural background and loyalty, not a specific faith in the new governments.

For the United States, the process of taking authority away from those that had maintained order for a hundred years or more required more negotiation and lower standards than if it had started with a strong centralized government. Even today, patriotism tends to be for its military more than its leaders.  

Here are more similarities:

  • The states still manage daily life often without appreciation. 
  • Authority is still taken from states creating an adversarial political divide. 
  • What Washington can do is limited to war/defense and wealth/trade/commerce. 
  • The quality of representation is still inconsistent and ever changing. Remember there are no required job skills to be elected and roughly 85% of Congress is up for election every two years. (ex. A teacher must be college educated, licensed, have a background check and tested for TB before they can be hired yet they have no staff and make about 25%  of a Congressional salary)
  • The size and diversity of the country lends itself to favoritism and discrimination between the states.  Federal policies often take sides in boundary or commerical disputes

Ironically, the Federal government is doing exactly what it did when it started and continues to work within the existing Constitution.  It is unlikely that political reform will be possible without a constitutional overhaul.

The Future

Delving into the actual workings of the early Federal government did offer some insight into how and why fovernment operates as it does.  Remember, there are only two main purposes of this body.  The first is to defend the country and the second is to facilitate trade and commerce.  

Two hundred years ago, there was no stock market and the federal government was a shell of what it is today.  As government has grown, it has had to justify its existence.  That means going to war against anything and everything while making money doing it. (Battling an uneducated workforce with student loans) Think about it. Is Climate Change real or is it like communism, a great threat that never seems to materialize. (There are currently five countries that are labeled communist, yet none have successfully incorporated that ideology into their lifestyles--per Encyclopedia Britannica) Why does Biden fear a form of government that is nothing more than a theory? Because without a perceived threat citizens would begin to question why we pay taxes. 

The same goes for commerce. By constantly changing the rules (minimum wage, emissions standards, and required healthcare), the United State would not be seen as one of the richest countries in the World. Is being a citizen of a rich country worth it when half of your salary is drained away with taxes and mandated services.  Maybe not?

Unfortunately, what this country needed two hundred years ago was leadership that would bring it together. Instead, it has further divided its citizens by defending some and abusing others. Will the Federal government tear the country apart just so that it can put it back together again (Make America Great Again or Build Back Better)

Note:Only when citizens stop seeing the World as something to fear will the Feds have to rethink its purpose.  Maybe it is time to rewrite Congress' job description with Constitution 2.0. The states can do that regardless of what Washington wants.