From the fever swamp called Salon:
The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll says that a clear-cut majority is disgusted with the present political scene and retains little hope that future generations will fare as well as we have. As candidates get down and dirty in the lead-up to midterm elections, 60 percent say the country is in a general state of decline. A mere 19 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of Republicans in Congress; their Democratic colleagues (or “colleagues”) poll at 31 percent. But the most remarkable number is 79: that’s the percentage of the politicized public that presently voices its discontent with the entire American political system as constituted; and fully half of the respondents said “very dissatisfied.”
No one should be surprised. Congress is hated for good reason. It often seems that more representatives represent themselves, and cater to private rather than public interests. Government is meant to be a force for good, for fairness; not a stepping stone to private wealth and power for narcissists who grow up feeling entitled, or insensitive social climbers who live to pal around with the already privileged. As the Capitol building itself undergoes a facelift, that waggish definition of Capitol Hill, “Hollywood for ugly people,” is becoming more than mere aphorism.
What do the icy critics think of when they think of Congress in 2014? Perhaps it’s that there are too many tired, artless old men with bad haircuts and meaningless flag pins, commingling with Tea Party obstructionists–fatefully prone to insincere pronouncements about “the American people,” “freedom,” “sound policy” and “fresh ideas” as they stumble through misogynist gaffes. It’s known that these guys gravitate toward golf and strong drink. And, for some odd reason, inertia, too.
One thing (that virtually all can agree on) really stinks: Money makes our politics sordid. High-paid lobbyists exert as great a sway as ever. The formerly sanctimonious Eric Cantor, who worked against the interest of working people for years in Congress, gets booted from the House by an even greater ideologue, and promptly joins a Wall Street investment firm. We don’t want to know what he’s being paid. (We do, but we don’t.) It just makes folks angrier. This is hardly meritocracy, but he’s typical of what’s wrong. And for the record, some Democrats have cashed in, too. The system rewards the already privileged.
Though they haven’t articulated it as such, Americans want a new constitution that actually does what the original Constitution was supposed to do: serve the public good.
So, what would that document ideally look like?
It would surely reject outright the decadent, cowardly impulse to fashion a body of laws with special perks designed to prop up the few and wealthy while more or less throwing crumbs to the poor and powerless. Its overall function would be to improve the quality of life across the country, in places big and small. Let’s put it in all caps, and maybe stick it in the Preamble: TO CALL ITSELF A REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY, A NATION MUST BE REASONABLE AND EQUITABLE IN THE DIVISION OF POWER.
That drivel was written by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg, two professors from Louisiana State University. I am embarrassed to admit they are history professors. Here is a summary of the authors’ proposed reforms:
-It would limit the number of terms a representative or senator could serve, so as to introduce fresh blood from a pool of more visible talent
-Reform the debased Supreme Court by reducing tenure from life to 10 years
-No more fundraising. Period.
-Partisan-directed state legislatures would once and for all be denied the power to gerrymander districts
-Use tax dollars exclusively to fund national political campaigns
-One hundred percent public funding, and a designated campaign season extending months, not years.
-Attend first to the poor (rural and urban alike), those who were born with the fewest opportunities to advance in our highly competitive society – Don’t treat poor people–white, black, Hispanic, Native American–as waste people
-Give everyone a boost, but especially those from traditionally underprivileged areas
-Make college affordable
-Institute a two-year national service commitment, allowing students to obtain college admission at the end of high school–deferred acceptance
-Tax those who will never hurt, who will never feel the loss of a few percentage points in their accrued wealth
-Protect Social Security by increasing the Social Security tax rate of those who earn over a certain amount (say, $300,000) in a given year
-Every day is Earth Day
At least one prominent member of the political intelligentsia has given her approval to the scheme:
We need a new constitution: Here’s how we save American democracy from charlatans, loudmouths and the 1 percent http://t.co/klyPA1pMl0
— Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile) September 28, 2014
That tweet is ironic and amusing, considering that Donna is all three.
Like many of the ideas that emerge from the hallowed bowels of academia, they sound good in the classroom but would be unworkable in the real world. I’m sure you will be surprised to learn that several of their proposals would involve massive increases in funding for education.
The authors never explain why amending the current constitution isn’t a viable option, nor how they propose organizing a constitutional convention. It took considerable effort to get the first constitution drafted and ratified, and the country was much smaller and more homogeneous back then.
Here are a few sentences that should raise the hackles of any civil libertarian or concerned parent:
We must not cheapen the voting privilege by allowing angry nonsense to obtain such credibility.
“Because political ignorance has festered for a long time, the campaign against ignorance must, of necessity, be fairly radical.”
As we cultivate good, inventive, intuitive teachers to open the minds of a rising generation, we must also see to it that the best teachers are not dictated to by having to measure student success through standardized tests.
Make business executives prove themselves patriotic by cooperating with the majority’s interest in this country.
So in order to get “affordable” education, health care, housing, and food as well as a guaranteed “living wage” for everyone, all we have to do is expand the power of government! Of course “some people” will need to be reeducated to cure their ignorance and others will need to be dealt with to prevent them from obstructing these necessary reforms. Providing the greatest good for the greatest number will justify the means necessary to achieve it.
Don’t you agree, comrades?