Back in 1974, when Gerald Ford became vice-president without having been elected, there was a general movement to repeal or modify the 25th amendment. Oddly enough, this movement faded when Ford became president and then came back full force when Ford pardoned Nixon. There was a sense that the democratic process was not functioning properly.
It’s important to recognize that the 25th amendment was only seven years old when Ford became president. It was a widely-praised reform aimed at eliminating the likelihood that the Speaker of the House, third in line of official secession, would ever become President. At the time, it was argued that Speakers were elected only by their district, which might be a tiny fraction of the population and parochial in their view point. It never occurred to anyone that the President and Vice-President might both by forced from office by disgrace within a single term.
The 25th amendment allows the President to fill a Vice-presidential vacancy, pending Congressional approval. There were several ideas for fixing what was seen as a usurpation of democracy.
Representative Julia Butler Hanson suggested a simple repeal, which the Senate constitutional subcommittee considered holding a special national election when a Vice Presidential vacancy occurs. Sen. John Pastore of Rhode Island thought the national special election should occur only if that unelected VP were to be followed by an opening in the Presidential office. Sen. Robert Griffin of Michigan introduced a constitutional revision that would have eliminated Vice Presidential candidates from the general election ballot, having Congress select the Vice President after the election.
The proposal died in commitee in 1974 after Hansen chose not to run for reelection and there’s been no serious moves since then to repeal it, but Soda Head and the Daily Kos were both discussing it in recent weeks.
Now we’re moving into the “Civil Rights” era amendments.
I’m generally in favor of taking a good hard look at any amendments that were passed due to a specific period in history. The United States Constitution should not favor any group of individuals over another and when we do, we should eliminate that discrimination. The 24th Amendment is simple and doesn’t seem to cause any harm, but let’s discuss whether it was even necessary to make a prohibition against poll taxes a constitutional provision.
Yes, I know about the Southern states attempting to block black voteres from the polls by use of poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. I understand why people felt this was a necessary constitutional provision, but do we foresee this technique working in the 21st century? It just feels really knee-jerky and as if it could have been solved by a Supreme Court case.
The 25th Amendment was a necessary move toward clarifying presidential succession. If the 12th Amendment were reevaluated, the 25th might need to be revisited, not because there’s any problem with the 25th per se, but because the two amendments interact and a convention of the states might see a disharmony that would require correction.
I personally registered to vote when I turned 18 and I think I’ve been a responsible voter in my 35 years of suffrage. I also had parents who taught me the value and the responsibility of my vote. Sadly, too many young people vote with their feelings rather than their heads, resulting in lunacy like two terms for Barack Obama. It should be noted that 18 to 21 year olds make up less than 5% of the vote, generally, so they’re practicing and hopefully learning some hard lessons from their voting behavior. We might want to have a discussion about it, but my feeling is – they’re adults and citizens of the United States.
I personally would like to see a citizenship test administered before one could register to vote, just so people actually show that they have a basic knowledge of what is at stake, which is one reason I would favor a repeal of the “voting” amendments to replace them with a single amendment that perhaps provides some sort of safeguard against stupid, uninformed voting. But that might just be me wanting something unconstitution because it makes pragmatic sense.
The 27th Amendment didn’t go far enough in limiting the power of multi-term Senators and Representatives to enrich their own pocketbooks. Only if it had been coupled with term limits might it have been effective. It’s worth a review to see how it might be strengthened, but without term limits, it probably can’t be.
My primary problem with all the “forgotten amendments” is that they are forgotten and that tends to make me wonder if they’re necessary or if they were era-specific political machinisations.
I termed the next seven amendments the “forgotten amendments” because … well, almost nobody can remember them, which should make us wonder about their efficacy.
The 20th Amendment was a housekeeping device that I can’t find a real problem with, in and of itself, except for an unintended consequence. Delegates at a convention of the states to propose amendments could have a great conversation about whether Congress needs to be in almost perpetual session. Perhaps we should strive for them to spend at least six months out of the year in their home districts … you know, talking to their constituents … you know, the people they were supposed to represent. Is their entrenched occupancy of DC a product of this amendment or just a product of their elitism? What do we want to do about it? Why not discuss that while we have the opportunity?
The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th. Enough said. I’m going to visit these twin amendments at the end of the series because it is indicative of how we ought to reform government when necessary.
Now, the 22nd Amendment has had some real attempts at repeal. Partisans always want their president to be able to run for more than two terms. While it would be tempting to allow a really great president to stay in office, I think we’d be stupid to do it and so far, Congress has agreed. There is a reason the 22nd Amendment was pushed through right after the death of the only president to service four terms and it wasn’t because people thought they were wise to have elected him to more than two. Roosevelt worship avoids the topic, but significant numbers of Americans thought that two terms for the president was enough. Congress has not advanced the proposed amendments — there have been three since Obama became president. I don’t think 38 states could agree to change the 22nd either.
Given the resounding success of the 22nd amendment, a convention of the states could discuss term limits for Congress. That would be a step in the right direction toward returning control of the government back to the states and the people. If you read the “anti-Federalist” papers you find that the Framers actually discussed term limits for Congress. I think they could not conceive of a future where people live nearly 20 years longer than they did or they would have put a term limit provision in the Constitution’s body, but had they done that someone would have lobbied to amend the Constitution to allow people to serve for decades to reflect our new longer lifespan. We’d eventually have wanted to repeal that amendment because it is silly that Don Young has been a US Congressman for 40 years, but Alaskans are not going to stop electing him as long as seniority equals power in Congress.
The 23rd Amendment was also an acknowledgement of the right of all citizens to self-governance. It allowed DC residents to vote for President. It shouldn’t have been necessary. It seems self-evident that DC residents ought to be allowed to vote like all other citizens, but it became a political football that required Constitutional amendment. I’ve already said I would be in favor of a comprehensive replacement amendment that covered all the voting issues. I’m planning on a article about voting in general at the end of this series, btw.
We know I’m skipping the 18th Amendment because it was already repealed by the 21st, right? The only thing I have to say about it is that Prohibition was another Progressive-era lunacy that led to the rise of organized crime and its unholy alliance with the big-city Democratic machines and labor unions.
So, we’ve reached the 19th Amendment and I’m a woman, so we don’t need to discuss this, right?
Actually, we do. First – all humans are created equal and all American citizens should have had the vote from the beginning and … hey, there were localities and some states that allowed women to vote before the 19th Amendment. Did you know that? Plenty of towns and counties allowed women to run for and hold public office. New Jersey constitutionally permitted women to vote from 1776 to 1807. The Liberty Party of 1848 nominated Lucretia Mott as Vice-President. Portions of the Republic Party advocated unsuccessfully for the inclusion of women’s suffrage in the 15th Amendment. Many western states granted women suffrage upon statehood. Wyoming acknowledged women’s right to vote in 1869. Many Eastern states followed the example of the Western states. In fact, most states had already acknowledged some degree of suffrage by 1920 when the 19th Amendment passed. Women’s suffrage would have come as a natural result of states’ rights, which makes you wonder why an amendment was considered necessary. A case might be made the slaves (or former slaves) could be denied the vote based on the Constitution, but the US Constitution did not specifically deny women the vote prior to the 19th amendment. It was state laws that denied them suffrage and those laws were changing to a point where more than half the states allowed women to vote by the time the 19th passed. When I see something like that, I have to wonder … what else was going on that has been lost to revisionist history?
Personally, I’m down with the 19th Amendment. My only issue with it is that far too many of my gender vote with their feelings rather than their heads. Barack Obama won both of his elections on the strength of the women’s vote. What is up with that? Are we as a gender really that stupid?
I doubt a convention of the states to propose amendments would end women’s suffrage, just as it would not end black suffrage, suffrage for 18 years olds or the DC vote. Some ideas just make so much sense under the “all men are created equal” banner that you wonder why folks didn’t “get it” from the very beginning. I still think the “voting” amendments might be combined into a single amendment that would make it much clearer than the current ones do.
This post requires that you think.
Is the federal government more responsive to your needs?
Is your state government more responsive to your needs?
Here in Alaska, we have a long history of federal abuse of authority. Although US Representative Don Young is pretty accessible to his constituents, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich are not. Why should they be? Their votes in the Senate are bought and paid for by Outside interests. Alaskans give very little money to them and what we give is swallowed up by those other donations.
Which speaks to the 17th amendment to the US Constitution. Prior to its passage, Senators were selected by state legislatures. State legislatures are, at least in Alaska, drawn from local candidates. I knew Tammy Wilson personally before I voted for her. He’s out of the Legislature now, but I went to high school with Jay Ramras. Pete Higgins is my dentist. I know the Interior delegation and I hope the voters know the other delegations from around the state.
So, the question is … do I trust these people that I know personally to select the senators to represent Alaska in Washington DC or do I trust BP, Conoco-Phillips, the Trial Lawyers Association, and the owners of Rustoleum more? Right now, that second group is in charge of the Senate election in Alaska for 2014. They will decide if Mark Begich continues to not-represent Alaska interests in DC or if someone else will do. The reason they’re in charge is that voters tend to not bother with doing their own research for candidates. They vote for whomever comes on the television more often or produces the most interesting sound bites. It’s a lousy way to select someone to represent Aaska in DC for the next six years, but it’s the way it is.
We could change all that and put people in charge who have time to research the candidates and who can be held accountable if they select someone who doesn’ t represent us. Moreover, before the 17th amendment was passed, the state legislatures had the authority to recall senators who didn’t appropriately represent their state’s interests.
Repeal the 17th! It’s the right thing to do. Remember, the Senate is never going to vote to change what lines their pockets so nicely, so a convention of the states to propose amendments to the Constitution is the only way we repeal this and bring governance back to the state level where is will be much more controllable.
Kick the big corporations to the curb and take back the Senate.
Back in Poli Sci class in college (Carter was president), we started out the 101 course in September with a rousing discussion of why Carter’s conciliatory manner overseas was going to rebuild our credibility around the world. We spent a week talking about it and everybody agreed that Carter really understood foreign policy.
Then November rolled around. For the young among us, November 1979 was when the Iranians stormed the US embassy in Tehran.
Wow, how quickly the mighty fall!
Reagan became president and immediately started his “peace through strength” foreign policy, which my professors and fellow students were convinced would usher in Armaggedon.
My senior year, as a Poli Sci minor, I took a foreign policy seminar. What I learned was that the liberal president — who had been a diplomat to Africa in the Carter administration — was impressed by what that policy had accomplished with our credibility worldwide. He still didn’t agree with how Reagan had accomplished it, but he admitted that the world was a safer place for Americans because of it.
My takeaway? Sometimes conventional wisdom isn’t all that wise.
Originally posted on tomfernandez28's Blog:
(Free Beacon) – The Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin joined MSNBC’s All In Monday to discuss the United States’ response to the crisis in Ukraine, saying that President Obama’s options are more limited because his administration has lost credibility around the world.
“When you take out all the breathy rhetoric, when you take out all the ad hominem attacks, [the criticisms] boil down to this: the Obama administration has lost credibility around the world,” Rogin said.
“Their reactions to a host of revolutions especially during the Arab spring have been seen as ad hoc and very hard to understand,” Rogin continued. “They have ruined relationships with allies with the lack of consultations.
The 17th Amendment made the Senate more democratic … and that has not been a good thing. The second Progressive Era amendment provided for direct election of senators. That sounds good, right? Not so much. It has led to the massive expansion of federal power over the past several decades, for one thing.
The United States, in case you were asleep in Government class during the five minutes in which the teacher covered it, is not a democracy. We are a constitutional republic. Many of our strengths lie in our undemocratic institutions. Took a look at the Supreme Court. Is that a democratic institution? Heck, no! They’re appointed for life, not elected every 4-6 years. Look closely at the Constitution itself. It requires any changes to its structure to have the consent of a supermajority and it contains the Bill of Rights, which is an explicitly counter-majoritarian component of national law. Strong protections for free speech and religion, the right to bear arms, due process, privacy and the right to a jury trial are triumphs of minority rights. Liberty, not democracy, is America’s highest idea.
Thus, the American system was deliberately designed to balance power between the various branches of government, guaranteeing individual rights against majority rule and protecting the people from tyranny whether we liked it or not. The United States government was arranged as a permanent bulwark against federal encroachment. “Changing times” wasn’t an acceptable justification for the undoing of this system in 1913 and it still isn’t. Wilson-era progressive philosophy aside, the federal government was not intended to be a wholly separated layer of government. It was meant to be intertwined with the states to such an extent that it could not ride roughshod over their interests without strong opposition.
As James Madison resolved during the debate over the Bill of Rights:
The state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operations of this Government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power, than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a Federal government admit the State Legislatures to be sure guardians of the people’s liberty.
Madison made clear in the Federalist Papers, in order to defend the vertical checks and balances that allow America’s federal system to function, senators would be “elected absolutely and exclusively by state legislatures.” The House is the people’s representative body. The Senate was supposed to represent the states. Lest the federal government “swallow up the state legislatures,” George Mason insisted to his fellow convention delegates in Philadelphia, “let the state legislatures appoint the Senate.” The delegates backed him unanimously.
It makes no sense to argue that returning to the original arrangement would “take away” the “rights” of the people than it does to maintain that not being able to vote directly for Supreme Court justices violates our democracy. Everything has its place! The Senate was not designed to indulge popular sovereignty. Although it’s been a while since the original intent of the Constitution was recognized, the states are not regional departments of the federal government. The architects of our Constitution hard-wired the state legislatures into the documents structure, so that states would have a working mechanism by which to resist the expansion of federal power.
The 17th Amendment short-circuited that. The states lost their place at the federal table when the Senate became another House of Representatives. Federalism was deeply damaged and “all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things,” is “drawn to Washington as the center of all power” (Thomas Jefferson). Returning the selection of senators to state legislatures would help to focus citizens’ eyes locally, where they belong.
The primary argue for the 17th Amendment in 1913 was a reduction in corruption. Money was said to be rife in politics; direct elections would stamp it out. Lobbying by big business was staining the republic; direct elections would cut the buggers off at the knee. The small constituency that a senator served effectively gave him tenure; an amendment would make the body competitive. Senates were exhibiting extreme moral turpitude; the rigors of direct election would make them moral.
Did we get what we wanted by taking a machete to Madison’s handiwork? There is more money in politics than ever before; direct elections have served only to cut out the middleman between lobbyists and politicians; senators rarely lose their seats; and Ted Kennedy killed a woman and got away with it. Need I elaborate?
In retrospect, the amendment failed to accomplish what was expected of it, and in most cases failed dismally. Exorbitant expenditures, alliances with well-financed lobby groups, and electioneering sleights-of-hand have continued to characterize Senate campaigns long after the constitutional nostrum was implemented. In fact, such tendencies have grown increasingly problematic. (CH Hoebeke, Humanitas, 1996)
The 17th is a testament to overarching modernist hubris – an embrasure of temporary over the permanent. Sadly, it benefits those who would be required to amend it, so the only chance for it to be repealed/amended is a Constitutional convention. Ain’t democracy grand?