What I mean by “left-wing” should become quite clear over the course of this series, so I’m not going to start by defining terms or anything like that. Instead, I want to sort of jump right in to the thick of it.
I’m going to open with a controversial position, and no, I’m not going to soften the blow. But I will start out with a few qualifications, just to get them out of the way.
When it actually runs well, I think the Democratic-Republic is actually the best government to have. A government that is accountable to the people is a good government. No government is perfect, and everything will have problems. However:
A) There has to be government. I’m sorry, but we humans can’t be trusted to act properly without government, and I’d argue that, if you think we can survive without a government, than you are not living in reality and as such have absolutely zero grasp of basic human history.
B) An open-feed system, where the power loops, and there is a strong system of checks and balances in place, allows for the best error-correcting system as long as you’re country is running smoothly.
But we don’t live in a country that’s running smoothly right now. Right now, we do not have a government by the people, for the people; we have a government by Wall Street, for Wall Street.
So what is my position?
I think the Constitution needs a page one re-write.
Let that sink in for a bit.
You did read it. Trust me. You aren’t seeing things. You aren’t hallucinating.
Go ahead! Go back up! Read it again!
Here, I’ll do you one better… I’ll repeat it:
I think the Constitution needs a page one re-write.
I can say it a third time if you want.
No? It’s sunk in?
And yes, I really do believe that. I believe very strongly that our Constitution needs a redo, starting with a public dialog/debate.
Because the Constitution cannot stand up to the modern age. It very simply can’t. I have often wondered what would happen if the framers of the Constitution could, right before they make the decision to declare independence, take a time machine to today, and just get a glimpse of the state we’re in. If that happened, what would our Constitution look like? Would it look the same?
Because I do believe they would still declare independence. I do believe the Revolutionary War would be fought, and won, by the US. But I’m not sure if the Constitution would read the same… at all.
So what do I think needs to change?
I think the first thing to be at least rethought, if not entirely removed, should be the 2nd amendment.
There is no way our Founding Fathers could have anticipated the gun cult (and make no mistake… it’s a cult) that’s evolved in the US today. Beyond US Football… beyond even money… guns are the US’s second god. Just think about how we’ve redefined the phrase “well-regulated militia” into a meaningless string of words. Joe Schmoe, well-known shopper of his local Wal-Mart, with a giant bumper sticker on his Ford pick-up that says “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers”, is not part of a “well-regulated militia”, and so, constitutionally, he shouldn’t have a gun. Yet over time, we’ve managed to symbolically remove the phrase “well-regulated militia” from our Constitution, so just about anybody can own a gun, no questions asked.
Sadly, this culture of gun worship has been engrained for so long that simply banning guns is impossible. We have to first educate future generations to look at guns the same way people in Australia, for example, do (they don’t care; guns just aren’t a big deal to them… I’ll go in to how that effects their “gun culture” [hint: they don’t have one] in a future post). Then we can allow the culture itself to chip away at the second amendment, and throughout the whole thing you wouldn’t need the government to do it… people will do it because they just won’t care about guns or about owning them. In other words, they’ll just be good consumers and vote against the 2nd amendment with their money by not buying guns.
I also do, in fact, think the first amendment needs to be redone, as well. Not removed… I love the 1st amendment. It’s my favorite part of the Constitution. I think it needs to be expanded. In fact, I think it should be split up, because it’s very obvious that each clause within the first amendment needs defining. I think, for example, the phrases “freedom of and from religion” and “separation between church and state” should be directly included (in positive language, of course). I also think we need to spend time putting in definitions of “speech” and “assembly”.
I also think there should be another amendment regulating, if not outright banning, private money in government. Wall Street has basically been able to buy our government, and we need to give them their money back and stop them from ever spending it on government ever again.
It’s also time to constitutionalize our budget, mainly to force a reduction in how much we spend on being the world’s Jack Wilson (from the movie Shane)… that is, how much we spend on the dishonestly titled “defense budget”, and increasing what we spend on more worthy endeavors, like health care and NASA and education and so on… you know… things that actually help the citizens of this country (and yes, NASA does indeed serve a very important purpose in that regard, but I’ve already written about that).
I think we need to define just what’s meant by “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. I think we need to include language that would define things like education and health care and housing and transportation as basic human rights… things that everyone should be entitled too. Minimum wage should be redefined and split within this rewrite. Instead of just a “minimum wage”, there needs to be a “student wage” and a “living wage”. A single parent shouldn’t have to work two or more jobs to raise his or her kid(s), pay rent for a roof over their head and a car, and potentially put himself or herself through school. On the flipside, a high school student who is still a dependent doesn’t need to make a living wage unless his or her wage is part of what keeps the family afloat. I also think this rewrite should include language that automatically regulates the market so that unethical business practices are not just illegal, but unconstitutional, and certain green standards towards protecting the environment are simply required per the constitution, with exactly zero loop-holes, period.
So yes, I’d want a constitution that socializes (GASP!) medicine and education and regulates the market.
And I also want a constitution that does not allow religious institutions to claim tax exempt status unless they jump through all the hoops and cut through all the red tape that secular/not-specifically-religious charities and such have to deal with… without exception.
I also believe that this constitution should define marriage as a religious ceremony and thus not a government issue, while upgrading civil unions to the status marriage currently enjoys and defining civil unions as simply a government contract between consenting adults, leaving gender and numbers (and ceremonies and happenstance) out of it.
And finally, I want to see language in this constitution upholding scientific thinking: from constitutionally enforcing comprehensive safe-sex education (including “yes means yes” and “consent is sexy”), to constitutionally insisting that any medical discoveries be forced to go through numerous independent double-blind trials and peer review before actually being used on the populace (automatically excluding “AltMed” and faith healing and such… and with socialized medicine, there can be no justified cries of “BUT BIG PHARMA!!!!!”), to rational, scientific thinking about so-called “recreational” drugs and using actual science to determine the legality and regulations on each different drug (because marijuana and crystal meth aren’t even close to being in the same class… marijuana is nothing compared to crystal meth), to protecting science from religious encroachment, to socializing science in the country so that, since it’s paid for by us tax-payers, we have free access to the research and results (this should also, at least theoretically, shore up the peer-review process and remove at least most avenues for corruption [private companies can’t pay for scientific studies and then use money and threats to ensure that results are reported the way they want, for example]).
We also need language dealing with our modern interconnected world, including foreign policy, technology (internet, phones, etc), travel, etc. We need language that tells our government just what it can and can’t do with regard to all these things and more. The world is a lot bigger socially than it once was, and the Constitution needs to address that directly.
And we need this constitution to include a stronger plan for a good educational system… and I still say it should look a lot like Finland’s educational system.
And so that’s basically what I’d want to see in a redone constitution for the US.
Do I want this because I think the Constitution is a fundamentally failed document?
Not even close. In fact, I think it’s brilliant. I do think it stands as a testament to our Founding Fathers and who they were, and I do think the Constitution was perfect for their time.
But times have changed. The US has grown from 13 colonies to 50 states and many territories. Weapons have become a hell of a lot scarier. There have been tons of cultural shifts and societal upheavals. Conversations and debates have changed, and the things most important to us as a nation have changed. Our presence in the world as a superpower has grown exponentially, such that even if we wanted to, we could never be isolationists again. I really do believe that, without a reimagining, our Constitution runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. The choice I present, then, is this:
Do we continue on this same path before a future generation decides to throw the Constitution out completely, ending entirely the US experiment? Or do we update and upgrade the Constitution, ensuring the US’s place in the world for the future?
“But Nathan! Isn’t that what the amendment process is for?”
Sure, if you want to keep the basic language stagnant and ultimately open to being discarded. But amendments don’t change the fact that the Constitution, while being absolutely brilliant for its time and required to begin the US experiment, is now slowly becoming obsolete.
Again… my feelings on the Constitution are not because I think it is worthless. On the contrary… my desire to see a public dialog/debate on the Constitution and ultimately a page 1 rewrite of it springs from my love for the US and my desire to see the Constitution and the experiment it spawned continue into the future strong and proud. But I don’t believe we can accomplish that without this dialog and change.
But I didn’t highlight everything, of course. Do you want to see any changes? What? Let me know in the comments.
And speaking of comments… this is not the post for nitpicking the different things I want to see in a revamped constitution. Future posts in this series, starting with part 3, will be going into each point in depth. So part 3 will be about the 2nd amendment and guns. Part 4 will be about secularism in the US, with part 5 being about free speech and free assembly. And it will continue from there until I have finally discussed everything I want to put my thoughts on in building this portrait of a left-winger. In those posts, you can nitpick each separate thing. This post is a general post, so any contentions need to be kept to generalities. In other words… if you want to go after me for my stance on the 2nd amendment and guns, wait until I put up that post.
What I’d like to read in these comments are whether you agree with my view on the Constitution as a whole and what you’d like discussed if such a public dialog/debate over the Constitution were to take place. As usual, trolls and such will be banned, so don’t even bother. Remember… first posts are moderated, so if you’ve never commented here, and your first post is clearly trollish, you won’t make it through… ever…
And so this series truly begins. It will be long, and hard, and I imagine I will alienate some people somewhere down the line because of how far to the left I am as a USian. But hopefully, in the end, an understanding of just what “left wing” really means will begin to emerge, and at least a few of you who once considered Democrats “left wing” will finally recognize just how right wing they really are.