Forgotten Amendments   Leave a comment

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The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th.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.

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