David Leonard, writer of the New York Times “Opinion Today” newsletter I receive in my email box every morning, is on vacation, and two stand-ins in his absence this week are reporters Meagan Day and Bhaskar Sunkara of the socialist magazine Jacobin.
Even if you’re a committed alt-right Trump conservative, there’s no need to roll your eyes and harrumph loudly. Day’s and Sunkara’s joint Thursday newsletter piece is full of reason and good old common sense — touching on important questions I’ve wondered and worried about for some time.
One of the key issues the writers address is the fact that a Constitution written with 18th century attitudes and notions not only still reigns supreme in American life but is “almost impossible” to amend. They wrote:
“The byzantine Constitution [principle author James Madison] helped create serves as the foundation for a system of government that rules over people, rather than an evolving tool for popular self-government. … But it’s a problem worth confronting. As long as we think of our Constitution as a sacred document, instead of an outdated relic, we’ll have to deal with its anti-democratic consequences.”
The article offers a number of prospective correctives to make the government more democratic and responsive, including “developing a simpler way to amend the Constitution through national referendum.”
Even conservatives, despite their originalist reverence for the Constitution, should be able to see the need for change, considering that Donald Trump was elected president by the constitutionally mandated but arcane Electoral College while roundly losing the popular vote by some three million ballots. And how rational is it today to still have states with less than a million citizens eligible for the same number of U.S. senators as states with tens of million inhabitants?
These fair, compelling questions are very worth discussing. I invite you to read the Times newsletter linked above and see if you agree. Or not.
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