Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘state’

The Libertarian Party’s Quest for Ballot Access and The Sin of Onan

In Activism, Candidate Endorsement, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Libertarian Politics, Libertarian Politics 2008, Local Politics, Politics, Republican on February 3, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Onan… spilled his seed on the earth, lest that he should give seed to his brother.

Ballot access is a major goal of the Libertarian Party, so much so that we seem to be more concerned with keeping or gaining ballot access for whatever election is next rather than with any Libertarian actually winning in whatever election is before us today. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballot_access) Ballot access seems to have become that tail that wags the dog in third-party politics. Yes, it is important to have our candidates on ballots, but doing that should not come at the cost of using our resources, time and efforts to actually get Libertarians elected to higher offices than city councils, county commissioners and Justices of the Peace.

Without actually quoting any specific messages or e-mails to me by others, I will say that when I have asked my state Party Leadership for Party help with my own election, I have been told that, rather than focusing resources on any specific race, they don’t want to show “preference” for any candidates or any particular races because “it wouldn’t be fair”. I was told that “with 193 races, we can’t play favorites”. I say that it is because of attitudes like that which have resulted in NO major or significant election wins in almost 40 years. When election results are tallied, we crow about how significant we are because Libertarian candidates got 5% of the vote here and 7% of the vote there. Getting 5% of the votes in an election is still losing that election.

The reason I used the infamous line about Onan is that what we are doing as a Party is “spilling our seed on the earth” instead of creating any actual elected officials. I have a feeling, in fact, that Libertarians have been telling each other for so long that is it so important to view the percentages of our loses as victories that I think that there will be a lot of anger, resentment and even hatred showered on the first Libertarian to actually win a notable office. In Irving Janis’ ground breaking book on ‘Groupthink’, he tells us this story:

Twelve middle-class American men and women wanted to stop smoking, and attended weekly meetings at a clinic to discuss the problem. Early in the sessions, two people stood up and declared that cigarette smoking was an almost incurable addiction. The group agreed. The, one man stood up and said “I have stopped smoking and, with a little willpower, so can the rest of you.” Immediately, the other group members began to abuse him verbally, and the meeting ended in chaos. The following week, the dissident stood up again and said that he could not both attend all of the required meetings and stop smoking; so he had returned to smoking two packs of cigarettes as day. The other members welcomed him back into the fold with enthusiasm but no one mentioned that the original purpose of the group was to help each other stop [emphasis in original] smoking. Their new aim was maintaining the status quo at any cost.

I think that, deep down in their subconscious minds, the leadership and long term activists in the Party have become so inured to losing elections that they have accepted a cognitive dissonance in which they delude themselves that they are accomplishing great things by simply showing up to the ball, as it were. Ballot access in NOT what we need to be working for; getting Libertarians elected to significant offices IS what we need to be working on. We HAVE to “fertilize some eggs” and then nurture them maturity, so to speak. If we do not and cannot accomplish that, then what the Hell good are we to America, our states and our communities?

Maybe the Libertarian Party’s candidates NEED to be spending time standing in front of the local Wal-Mart and grocery stores collecting signature to get ourselves on ballots. Maybe we need to be holding open meetings to let people who aren’t Libertarians talk to us instead of holding rallies that are only open those who already think like the rally organizers do. Maybe we need to create “Election Coordinators” to be officers on, if not paid staff of, both our state and our national executive committees? Maybe we need to start from the ground up, do the necessary work, and use the necessary resources to get electable candidates INTO office. Maybe we need some humility instead of fancy offices in Washington. We do not need to attract the rich and powerful even though doing so makes us proud of ourselves; we need to make it where everyday people can walk in off of the street and ask us who we are and what we stand for.

Onan spilled his seed on the earth because he did not WANT to make his brother’s widow pregnant with his child because it would then be his brother’s child instead of his own. The Libertarian Party is spilling its seed on the earth and, whether or not we admit that don’t really want “progeny”, that is the reality that comes with distributing our resources far and wide without there being any chance of those resources paying off for us in the end. We throw our seeds on “rocky barren places where they can find no purchase”.

The current Libertarian Party Bylaws state that:

The Party is organized to implement and give voice to the principles embodied in the Statement of Principles by:

(F)unctioning as a libertarian political entity separate and distinct from all other political parties or movements;

(M)oving public policy in a libertarian direction by building a political party that elects Libertarians to public office;

(C)hartering affiliate parties throughout the United States and promoting their growth and activities;

(N)ominating candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States, and supporting Party and affiliate party candidates for political office; and,

(E)ntering into public information activities.

Notice that the bylaws say that the method authorized by the Party to move public policy is BY getting Libertarians elected to public office. Without getting Libertarians elected we, by our own words, cannot try to move public policy simply by existing as a Party. In addition, the burden of “chartering affiliate parties” falls on the organization itself, NOT upon the people. It is a requirement of our bylaws that the Party itself create (a pre-requisite for chartering, I assume) the affiliate parties. Simply hoping that people will come to US and want to form local Party affiliates is neither effective nor in line with what our bylaws say. As with an elected candidate, the burden is on us, as a Party, to earn the votes / support of the people. It is not THEIR responsibility make things easy for us. By the way, note that maintaining ballot access is NOT one of our stated purposes.

In Texas, the charter for our state Party says that the State Executive Committee will be composed of the elected state Party officers and two representatives from each of our state’s 31 Senatorial districts. That means that there should be 62 district representative members sitting on our state Executive Committee. Instead of 62, there are (according to the available information on the LP of Texas website, http://lptexas.org/content/state-leadership) only 19, with only 6 of the 32 districts being fully represented by two members. This means that only 13 out of 31 districts have ANY representation on the Executive committee at this time and that ALL of the current representatives on the LPTEC are from high population areas of the state. Not a single representative member of the LPTEC speaks for rural area or even moderate population centers.

Like the government of the State of Texas, it seems as if both the National and, at least, the Texas Parties exist simply because they have existed and they function on nothing more than their own small inertia. As one of my political heroes, Pat Paulsen, said;

Vote or get off of the pot.

I have said before that, until we get serious about ACTUALLY being a contributing part of the American political scene, until we actually manage to win some real elections we have become and will remain nothing more than a lunatic fringe wandering in the wilderness telling ourselves that we matter. So, I ask every Libertarian and libertarian who reads this to ask themselves one simple question… “Will I be content to just “spill my seed on the earth” again this year?

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”

© Copyright 2010 by Rhys M. Blavier

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225+ years of The American Experiment.

Constitutional Oaths and A Plea to President Obama

In Barack Obama, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Protest, Republican, US Government on January 30, 2010 at 1:25 am

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

This simple thirty-five word Oath of Office is specified by The Constitution of The United States as the one, single oath which much be taken by every person who will serve this nation as our President. After this oath is taken every four years, however, no one seems to ever pay much attention to it, but it is important enough that it is the ONLY oath spelled out word for word in The Constitution. There are also only two specific obligations it places on a President; to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” to the best of their ability.

While no other oath is specified in The Constitution, it DOES state in Article VI, clause 3 that:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

For other federal officials, including members of Congress, it specifies that they “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this constitution.” By federal statute, the oath which must be taken by all members of The House of Representatives and The Senate, as well as by The Vice President, members of the Cabinet, and all other civil and military officers and federal employees other than the President is:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

The taking of oaths by all other federal officials in addition to the President dates back to the fourteen word oath created by the first Congress in 1789 (“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support The Constitution of the United States.”), but the current wording is based more on the oaths written during The War Between the States which were intended to allow treason charges to be leveled against those who supported the south or didn’t support the Union.

The first Congress also specified in The Judiciary Act of 1789 the oath which would be required of all federal judges in the United States:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution, and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

In fact, federal judges are currently required to take not just one, but TWO different oaths:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _____ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

And:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Federal statute specifically states that this second oath “does not affect other oaths required by law.”

Within the military forces of The United States, the oaths required of both officers and enlisted men are statutory and are prescribed in Section 3331, Title 5 of the United States Code. The oath which officers are required to take is:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

While enlisted men are required to take this oath:

I, _____ _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

An important distinction between the oaths required of officers when compared with that required of the enlisted ranks is that the oath taken by officers does not include ANY provision to obey orders. While enlisted personnel are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice to obey LAWFUL orders, officers in the service of the United States are bound by their oath to disobey ANY order that violates The Constitution of the United States.

As far as I can tell, these are all of the oaths required by our federal government for any person who is in any way obligated to serve The United States of America (I am obviously not aware of any secret oaths which might exist within the shadowy corridors of secrecy which our country tries to keep hidden from its citizens). I am also not including the oaths taken by the National Guard or officials of the various states, counties and communities as doing so could fill a small book, needless to say, all of those oaths must meet the same Constitutional requirements as these federal oaths do.

At this point you are probably wondering why I have spent almost a thousand words just to tell you want the different United States federal oaths are. It is very simple. OATHS MATTER! Whether we pay attention to them or not, our Constitution requires them and many people take them, which means MANY people are BOUND by them. Now, as you read through them, you might have noticed that there is only one thing which they ALL have in common (aside from all being very short). I’ll give you a minute to look back through them in case you haven’t noticed it yet.

Every single oath proscribed by or contained within The United States’ Constitution and/or federal statue, EVERY one, obligates the taker to preserve, protect, defend, uphold, support and/or administer justice agreeably to The Constitution of The United States, not the nation, not the people, not the business interests, not any person, concept, idea or entity other than THE CONSTITUTION itself. Furthermore, where any of the oaths mention enemies, it specifies enemies foreign AND domestic, ALL enemies of The Constitution, not enemies of the nation or the people but of THE CONSTITUTION. Thus, by my personal interpretation (and, I assume, that of everyone who demands a strict, literal interpretation of The Constitution), while the economy, national security, foreign, etc. are important concerns of our federal government, as provided for WITHIN The Constitution, the SINGLE most important duty of the President and every member of our federal government is to ensure the health of and obedience TO that constitution. ALL other considerations come after that one and NO duty or obligation is higher than it.

Every time I hear our President say that he “wants to look forward”, I want to cry. We cannot look forward or move forward by ignoring the past. What he is trying to do is build a wonderful new house upon a foundation that is very badly damaged. In such a case, it doesn’t matter how well you construct the house, it will not last because it must have a solid foundation. In fact, the bigger the house, the more important the integrity of the foundation is. Oaths matter, but so do the principles demonstrated by those who take those oaths. No matter what words we might choose, words are not actions and principles are demonstrated by our actions. A principle is only a principle if it is something you do even when it is difficult, inconvenient or could cause you, yourself, damage. If principles only required us to do things when they are easy or convenient, when there is no real cost associated with following them, then EVERYONE would be principled. Principles DO matter and what is shown to us by a person’s very real actions is what tells us what their principles truly are, not the words they tell us.

Therefore, I call upon Barack Obama, the 43rd President of the United States to uphold his constitutional oath of office and preserve, protect and defend The Constitution. I call upon him to repair the damage done to our constitutional government by past administrations and officials, elected and appointed. I call upon him to define what his powers are as President under The Constitution and to specifically repudiate those which are not consistent with the provisions of The Constitution, including the power to single handedly declare that he will not obey and uphold laws or treaties enacted by Congress simply because he doesn’t like them or to claim dictatorial powers to dispense with constitutional provisions (like habeas corpus, cruel and unusual punishment, right to speedy trials, legal advice and hearing all evidence presented against the accused.) upon his own whim. I call upon him to publicly repudiate the entire concept of The Unitary Executive and acknowledge the Constitutional invalidity of all exercises of such by ALL Presidents going back to the administration of Harry Truman. I call upon him to investigate and prosecute all officials and officers of The United States, in every branch and department of The United States who have ever done harm or damage to The Constitution, including by refusal to abide by legal and treaty obligations, up to and including war crimes committed within The United States and/or in the name of The United States by anyone in or working on behalf of The United States, up to and including former Presidents and Vice Presidents of The United States.

 To Mr. Barack Obama, 43rd President of the United States, I would like to personally say this:

Mr. Obama, I know that you were elected to be President of The United States for many reasons… our economy is bad and people thought you could fix it; our national reputation is tarnished and people thought you could improve it; we needed hope for the future rather than fear of it and people thought you could give that to us; and for so many other reasons both important and trivial. However, there were many people in this country, including me, who voted for you because our Constitution and our constitutional government have been horribly damaged over the course of the last eight years, if not over the last quarter of a century, and we believed that you could and would work quickly and aggressively to fix it, as well as to prosecute and punish those guilty of violating their own oaths to it and of doing harm to it.

No damage has EVER been done to our Constitution by any EXTERNAL enemies of our nation. Those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001 might have hurt our nation and killed our citizens, but they did not hurt our Constitution. The same is true of Timothy McVeigh and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. He attacked the people of the United States but he did not threaten or harm our Constitution. No external enemies of our nation ever did any damage to our Constitution in the 50s, 60s or 70s. All of that damage was done by domestic enemies who were attacking The Constitution from within… McCarthy, The House Un-American Activities Committee, J. Edgar Hoover, the Nixon Administration and many others. No damage was ever done to our Constitution by the Soviet Union or ‘international communism’ but rather by those Americans who thought that the Soviet Union was so dangerous that they had the right to violate our own laws as well as our Constitution. But in fear of communism, many threats to our Constitution result from the actions of our own Congress and administrations from Truman to Reagan. No foreign enemy has EVER harmed or even threatened our Constitution over the entire course of our history as a nation, but many domestic enemy have, and they have done so while wrapped tightly in the flag of and holding the symbols of The United States, going back to at least 1798 with The Alien and Seditions Acts. America may have been threatened many times in its history by enemies foreign and domestic, but no threats to our Constitution have ever come from external forces attacking us, they have ALWAYS come from our own internal rot.

I know it will be difficult to do. I know that it will cause political problems and turmoil. I know that it could precipitate a political civil war within this country. I know it would detract from other areas which you need to address, such as our economy. None of that matters however. The oath you took obligates you to do this. It isn’t a choice, it is a duty, and no one gets to pick which duties they will fulfill based on which ones are more difficult or unpleasant than others. Remember though, you are the person who is charged by the Constitution to execute the provisions of and laws according to it. In the end, your most important legacy will not be our economy, our wars, or our energy policies, or our healthcare system; those things are all transitory. In the end, your most important and lasting legacy will be what you demonstrate to the American people about what our Constitution and our constitutional government really mean. There is no one else, Mr. President, except you upon whose shoulders this duty falls. Please, do not let our nation, no, not our nation, please, Mr. President, do not let our CONSTITUTION down. I don’t think we can survive if you do.” 

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas 

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

How I Think The Constitution Can Be Fixed (Part III [a]: Article I – The Legislative Branch)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on June 1, 2009 at 1:35 am

Congress, The Legislative Branch of The United States of America was, as ‘the people’s house‘, intended to be the most powerful of the three branches of government created by The Constitution… a ‘first among equals‘, as it were.  Of the 4,543 words of The Constitution, the 2,312 words of Article I constitute just over half of the total (50.89%).  Unlike Article II (The Executive Branch) and Article III (The Judicial Brach), Article I deals very much with the actual workings, duties, powers and authorities of Congress.  A primary reason for this, I assume, is that the founders had a long history of experience with operating a working, functioning Congress or Legislature.  They also had more trust of a strong legislative branch than they did of a strong executive branch.

The first representative legislative body established in the American Colonies, in fact, in ANY of the British Colonies, was Virginia’s House of Burgesses, which was created in 1619… 170 years before the creation of Congress under The Constitution.  Before and during the Revolutionary Period, ALL of the American Colonies had functioning state legislatures and, at the national-level, the first Continental Congress had been called in 1765.  Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress ran the nation with a VERY weak Executive, who was appointed by Congress itself to preside over ‘A Committee of The States‘.  The delegates to the Constitutional Convention well understood what a legislative branch could do, although, prior to The Constitution, members of Congress for any state were appointed by the legislatures of that state.  As such, apportionment by census and direct elections of the members of The House of Representatives was their great experiment with a representative legislature.  Members of The Senate, of course, continued to be appointed by each state’s own legislature until the passage of Amendment XVII, which was ratified in 1913 (although some states had been providing for the direct election of their Senators by the people of those states as early as 1907).

It was never the intention of the founders to create a permanently ruling political class.  They envisioned men, who would, for a short period of time, leave their private lives, take up the burden of public service for the good of the nation and then go back to their private lives.  This idea was only one of many visions of theirs that did not survive our national transition from our ‘first generation‘ to our ‘second generation‘ [see ‘Part I‘ of this article for an explanation of my theory of the first and second generational effects].  Many Americans have the mistaken belief that the founders created a two-party system.  This is patently false, but still many of our children are taught it.  The founders tried to create a NO-party system, with the idea that individual members of Congress would band together is short-lived coalitions for each separate issue that came before them.  This is another idea which not only did not survive our nation’s first generation; it did not survive the Washington administration.  This is probably the biggest reason that party politics dominates our government, because The Constitution did not provide any guidelines for or controls / limitations upon them.

Several of my suggested changes will be attempts show how I think that we can restore the founders’ original concept of public service to our government, and show a way to end or, at least, make it more difficult for the continuation of our professional and permanently ruling political class.  These suggestions will be made to try to minimize the amount of time elected officials have to spend in their continuous cycle of staying elected, to maximize their learning curve and effectiveness in office, and to reduce their susceptibility to the corrupting effects of long-term office holding.  They will also have a goal of wanting to breaking the stranglehold which the two major parties have on our government, at all levels, as well as minimizing the power and effect which those at the extreme ends of any political spectrum have on our government.  This is crucial if we are to return our government to a rational level of moderation.

As a general change for ALL elected offices, no one would be allowed to campaign for one office while they are holding another.  If people think that such an allowance is necessary, they could be allowed to run for as MANY offices at one time as they want, but they have to be campaigning on their own time (they, of course, could only accept election to one office if they should win more than one election at the same time… if they do win more than one, though, maybe they should have to pay for any special elections which they necessitate by winning an office they have intention of serving in).  Since all elected officials are elected to serve their constituents by doing a specific job, and not to spend their time on that job trying to keep their current job or trying to get a new one at our expense, once a public office holder is officially a candidate for any national office (the point at which they start raising funds or operating a campaign), they will be REQUIRED to immediately resign any elected office, at ANY level, that they might hold at that time.  This would also help keep the lengths of campaigns down to more reasonable amounts of time as elected officials would be less likely to give up an office in their hand too long before they run for the office in the bush that they want to seek.

Section 2 of Article I lays the groundwork for the composition of The House of Representatives.  Paragraph 1 of Section 2 sets the term of office for members of the House of Representatives at 2 years.  I would change this to 6 year terms, with one third of The House being elected every three years and a one term limit.  This would allow an on-going House with regular turnover and without the turmoil of having to elect ever member of The House and recreating itself every election cycle.  Former Representatives could be elected to additional terms by the people of any particular state that they have served when they have been out of The House for the length of a full term between each term.

Paragraph 2 sets the minimum age for eligibility for election as a Representative at 25.  I would lower this to 20, although with the requirement that being a Representative is a full time job (i.e.  – if someone is a student and is elected, they would have to leave their studies for the duration of their term of office).  We allow citizens to vote at age 18, we let them serve in our military, we require them to pay taxes (which they have to do at ANY age when they earn any money), etc., there is no reason that citizens of that age should not be allowed to elect Representatives of their own age range if they are able to.

Paragraph 3 of Section 2 deals with apportionment of Representatives among the various states.  As we have seen all too frequently, the abilities of modern computing to pinpoint every voter has given the supposedly forbidden practice of gerrymandering an even more frightening and insidious power than it has had in a long time.  That same computing power can allow us to create congressional districts that are of the most compact size and even shape as possible without ANY regard to the politics, or any other discriminating factor, of the citizens of any particular district.  Every state has corners and edges.  All that would have to be done is to program the same computers to start at each corner and create evenly shaped and compact districts as they work in towards the middle of each state.  Alternatively, the first district could start in the middle of a state and work outward.  This would still allow for differing proposals, depending on starting points and merging points, but the test would still be which proposal presents the most precise and evenly shaped districts possible.  Basically, if districts can be created within a smaller or more compact area of a state, you go for the most compact districts possible.  This would not only prevent the parties from manipulating districts in the way that is most advantageous to them, it will prevent them from creating both ‘safe‘ districts (which protect members of either party), and ‘reservation‘ districts (which isolate and limit ethnic voting power overall to specific limited areas).

Paragraph 3 also provides for the total number of Representatives the House.  Its original provision of “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative;” has been modified by legislation passed in 1911, which capped the total number of Representatives in The House at 435.  One man, one vote‘ was NEVER an intention of the founders (as seen by their plan of equal apportionment of Senators, the guarantee of at least one Representative from each state, and the fact that Congressional districts must be fully contained within their home state) because it was never their desire to allow high population areas to dominate the government at the expense of the rural areas by the simple fact of having more people.  However, it was also not their intention to let rural areas have excessive power by limiting the numbers of Representatives to be divided among the more populous states.  As was seen when Alaska and Hawaii entered the union (the total number of members in Congress was temporarily increased by one for each state UNTIL the next apportionment, at which time it was returned to the 435 Representatives level), the current total is seen as a hard and fast one which is not increased by the admission of additional states.  As a result, with each shift in population and a theoretical continuous expansion of the numbers of states in the Union, the single Representative for the states with the smallest population increase in their own proportional power within Congress.  To counter this, I would propose that the total number of Representatives be equal to ten times the total number of states.  This would mean that every time a new state is admitted, ten Representatives will be added to the total number of Representatives in The House.  Right now, that would result in a total of 500 Representatives, with 50 being taken by guaranteed representation for each state and the other 450 apportioned according to state population sizes.

Paragraph 4 deals with vacancies within The House while Paragraph 5 creates the office of Speaker and allows for The House to create and choose its other officers.  The only change I would make here is that ANY officer of The House (or The Senate) has a responsibility to the nation, as a whole, as well as to their own district’s constituency.  As such, ALL officers of The House or The Senate, from any party, must equally accept feedback, requests, petitions, etc.  from anyone within the nation as they do from anyone within their district.

Section 3 of Article I deals with The Senate.  Paragraph 1 sets the length of term for a Senator at six years.  As with the House, I would increase the lengths of their terms of office to twelve years, with a limit of one term and the passage of a length of time equal to one full term before they can be eligible to run again within their state.  For those of my readers who have caught some of my specific wordings, by the way, these limits would only apply to a candidate in a single particular state if they want to run again in that state.  If someone thinks that they can just pack up and move to another state to get elected again, they would be welcome to try it.  I would love to see the spectacle of hordes of former Congressmen moving constantly between states while trying to convince the voters of their ‘new‘ home states that they are not carpetbaggers who are only looking out for themselves rather than for the citizens that they purport to serve.

Paragraph I also sets the numbers of Senators from each state at two.  I would increase this to three for each state so that every state will have an election turnover of one Senator for every equal third of a term (i.e.  – every four years), which is what is dealt with in Paragraph 2.  Paragraph 3 sets the minimum age of a Senator at 35.  As with The House, I would lower this age by five years to 25 in order to increase the chances for better representation of the younger population of the nation.

Paragraph 4 of Section 3 deals with the role of The Vice President as the President of The Senate.  While I will deal with the larger issue of the office of Vice President when I discuss The Executive Branch, the primary constitutional duty of a Vice President is to be President of The Senate.  This office needs to be a functional part of our government.  [Please see my article on ‘The American Vice Presidency…  Graveyard of the Constitution’.]  While I would still give The Vice President no vote in The Senate except in cases of ties, I would give the office political power in The Senate equal to that of The Speaker in The House.  I would also give The Vice President the freedom to address The Senate under the same rules as any Senator, but with the provision that they must temporarily give up the Presidency of The Senate while speaking on the floor, and maybe with the additional restriction that they must ask the permission of The Senate to be allowed to speak to it from the floor.

Paragraph 5 of Section 3 provides for the creation and selection of other officers for The Senate, including The President pro tempore.  My biggest issue with how Section 5 is fulfilled is that The President pro tempore, the third person in line to the office of President of The United States, has become a meaningless ego job which is simply given to the oldest, most senile member of the majority party.  This Constitutional office needs to be held by the person elected by the whole Senate to be its Floor Leader.  Tell me, honestly, would you have wanted to see a 99 year-old Strom Thurmond succeeding to The Presidency?  What about an 84 year-old Ted Stevens?  Or a 92 year-old Robert Byrd?  The President pro tempore should be the Senator who is leading the legislative agenda on the floor of The Senate, not the one singing ‘I’m a Little Teapot‘ with the Spectre of Death.

 

(This article will be continued in Part III (b), which will continue discussing Article I of The Constitution.)

Rhys M.  Blavier
Romayor, Texas

 

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

 

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier
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Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

HOW I THINK THE CONSTITUTION CAN BE FIXED (Part I: The Problem)

In Activism, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Corruption, Courts and Justice System, Democracy, Democrats, First Amendment, Human Rights Abuses, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, Second Amendment, US Government on May 20, 2009 at 7:12 am

I have said many times over many years that I think that The Constitution of The United States is broken.  I have recently been asked to give specific examples of what I mean when I say that.  This is, of course, a very fair question to ask.  To answer it, however, I will both give some background information to help explain WHY I feel the way I do on this subject (which is the topic of this first part of this article) and, as I don’t think that it is helpful when people say what they think is wrong with something without actually offering any possible solutions to the problems that they see, I will also provide specific examples of WHAT I would specifically suggest to fix these perceived problems (which will be the topic of the second part of this article). I will do this by primarily suggesting how I think specific aspects or parts of The Constitution can be improved to better accomplish the goals of the founders.  Now, with my suggested changes, I will not be offering specific wordings for those changes.  I believe it would be pre-mature and a poor process to do so within the scope of this article.  I think that that there needs to be some agreement first about what changes should be made, then establish specific goals and objectives for those changes, as well as agreement on why a specific change should be made and what its purpose would be, and THEN, work on the actual wording to be forever enshrined in The Constitution.  For me, then, to actually propose specific wording changes at this stage in the process would be pre-mature.  In addition, I am rather… verbose… and I personally think that such wording needs to be as concise as possible.

Let me start by telling my readers why this topic interests me and why I feel I am qualified to write an article on this subject.  When I was a 16-year old kid in high school, I was able to get involved in several college student organizations at Texas A&M University.  This was a very unique period at A&M in the mid-1970s, which is what made this possible.  As a high school kid, I was still an outsider in those groups.  This allowed me to be an observer of the organizational group dynamics.  In one of the organizations, after I had been in it for a couple of years, there was a huge internal crisis which literally tore the organization apart.  This was the first time I ever got to experience what I came to call the ‘second generation effect’.

It was for this group that I wrote my first constitution, a 25-page thing that no one ever got to see because when I had completed it, it was stolen before I could present it.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t very a very good constitution, although I do not have a copy I can read to verify that.  What writing it began for me, however, was hobby of designing fictional organizations and writing constitutions for them that lasted well over a decade.  I would do this in the same way that some people do crosswords or jigsaw puzzles and, to me, the process was, and is, very much a logic puzzle.   Along the way I have written five to seven actual constitutions for real organizations and, because of what I watched happen in those groups I was part of while I was in high school discovered a desire to help other people create better organizations themselves. I eventually earned a Master’s degree that would allow me to work as a student activities / college union professional, which also provided me with the means to collect constitutions from all kinds of organizations from many different locations to study.  This has allowed me to see many commonalities, both good and bad, among those documents and helped me to formulate a guiding philosophy for designing and writing constitutions for ANY organization.  That philosophy is:

You can NOT, by definition, plan for the unexpected… but you are a damn fool if you do not prepare for the predictable.

In case anyone is interested, by the way, I think that my next project along this line will be to try to incorporate a city in the unincorporated area in which I live and try to create an actual ‘laboratory of democracy’.

The second generation effect is when an organization which has been created by people with a common understanding of why they created the organization themselves begins to have people who were NOT part of the organizational creation process reach a level where they begin to have a greater controlling influence on the organization than those who did create it.

When an organization is created, those who created it usually have a common understanding of the principles and processes they expect the organization to operate by.  Because of this mutual understanding, they are generally very minimalist about what they put into the organization’s founding document(s) or constitution because they think that more is unnecessary for the very fact that all of the original members have a consensus about those principles and procedures.  As a result, they leave those principles and procedures unspecified in the organization’s founding document(s).  Even where these people have differences with each other, they are actually bound together by their mutual understandings about the organization.  They simply don’t see how others who will come along later will not share those bonds and will not view the organization in the same way that they do.  This is what results in constitutions and founding documents which are what I classify as the ‘we create this group, and we will do things and we will be friends’ category of constitutions and founding documents.  This is also what I call the ‘first generation effect’.

So, why are the ‘first generation’ and ‘second generation’ effects important concepts when talking about our Constitution?  It is very simple.  I think that the founding fathers operated under the first generation effect when they wrote The Constitution.  Their common experiences with the separation from Britain, The Revolutionary War, and The Articles of Confederation created a common bond which unified them on a subconscious level.  Even with their many disagreements and differences, they were still bound to each other by what they had experienced in common with each other.

This period saw one of the most remarkable collections of great men and great minds in one place and one period of time in all of human history.  I still can’t figure out if history gave us this moment and gathering of mental giants, or if the moment and gathering of mental giants gave us history.  Which one is responsible for the other, I frequently wonder?  The result of their gathering in Philadelphia in 1787, The Constitution of The United States, is an amazing and awe-inspiring document.  In fact, I think that it has single-handedly shaped where the world has moved since it was created more than any other single document, philosophy, event, or person since then.  The downside of what they did in Philadelphia is that they had no other real historical examples which they could study, other than their experiences under The Articles, to see what would work and what wouldn’t.  They pretty much only had theories and ideas to use.  They also came up with a minimalist document that left much more unwritten and which would rely on their common understandings with which to fill in the gaps than it actually specified about the operation of the new government which they were creating.

In 1991, I was hired for my first job as a Director of Student Activities at a small, private liberal arts college in Illinois.  At this time, the Student Activities Board was an unconstituted committee of the school’s Student Forum.  I decided that the SAB needed to be a separate organization with its own constitution and I created a committee of students, faculty and staff to help design the organization and help write it’s constitution.  The Forum’s advisor was also the school’s government teacher and ‘expert’ on the U.S. Constitution.  One day, in passing, she stopped me and asked why the document I was trying to create needed to be as long as it was.  After all, she pointed out, the U. S. Constitution was only 4,543 words long (honestly, I remember it with her saying it was only 1,458 words long, which is the length of The Declaration of Independence and not of The Constitution but I will give her the benefit of the doubt by assuming she said the correct total).  I responded by telling her “Yes, and it isn’t a very well written document.  She got very angry and, without allowing me to explain to her what I meant, she stormed off.  She never again spoke to me civilly and I was terminated at the end of the school year WITHOUT getting my SAB constitution ever publically discussed or voted on, much less passed.

When I said that The Constitution was not a very well written document, I meant no insult to it or to the great men who wrote it.  I meant simply that they didn’t have the advantages of history which we have upon which to base their document.  NOTHING is ever as good as it can be on a first attempt (look at how much better The Constitution was than The Articles were), and distance is needed to see how things work (or don’t work) as desired, and what can be done to improve it.  I think that this is a necessary evolutionary process in any long standing organization.  I also never got to explain to her my theory of the second generation effect or how I think it illustrated the fundamental flaws in the document.

I think that there are many reasons that more things were not spelled out better in The Constitution.  One of them was the first generation effect of common understanding and fellowship.  Another was that the Federalists, under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton, did not WANT things to be spelled out better so that they could use the ambiguities of the document to argue that it said and meant things that it clearly didn’t.  As is common in history, those of a more liberal ideology will concede things to their political opponents in order to create a consensus while those of a more extreme conservative ideology will simply take those concessions as wins for their side and an indication of weakness for the other side, and will then proceed to try to use that point as a baseline from which to further advance their cause at the expense of those they oppose.  A defining characteristic of a liberal personally is individualism and efforts to strive for common agreement and consensus, while a conservative personality is more commonly seen as wanting unification among those who agree with them for the advancement of their agendas, suppression of individual internal disagreement and accumulation of power for their group.  (Please look for a future article to be written by me on the subject of groupthink, conformity and shame theory to further explain this claim.)

By the 1820s, the first generation of those who created our American constitutional government was mostly gone from the scene and the second generation was in control.  As I have personally seen in all too many smaller organizations, the second generation, not having had a hand in giving ‘birth’ to an organization does not feel limited by the voluntary constraints by which the members of the first generation operated.  A key aspect of the second generation effect is the rise of members who are more interested in their personal power than in the greater good of the organization.  These power-seeking second generation members will also look for weaknesses, flaws, loopholes, omissions and ambiguities within the governing procedures and document(s) of an organization to see how they can be utilized to advance their personal power or parochial interests at the expense of the greater good of the entire organization.  I also do not know how to test it, but I theorize that it is the very weakness and flaws in an organization’s founding documents which ALLOW the second generation effect to occur.  The better that things are clarified, and potential problems identified and provided for, the longer an organization can go on with unity and consensus.  I believe that it is the failures of the first generation to study more closely when they create their organization and better provide for potential problems in the future within their founding documents that is the cause of the second generation effect, and not the fault of those in the second generation.

In American constitutional government, this was seen in the rise of a professional political class; party politics holding dominance in the elected branches of government; party and regional (state) concerns being held as being more important by those elected officials than the greater good of the entire nation; and a desire for gaining and using personal power bases in order to control the functions of government at the expense of those who do not help the person wielding that power.

One last aspect of the generation effects is a blurring of the lines between and the convergence of common misunderstandings of the differences between and meanings of both ‘power’ and ‘authority’.  Contrary to common belief, the two ideas do not have the same meanings and, in fact, are completely separate concepts from each other. This is why they are both used together… power AND authority, like assault AND battery.  Authority is the RIGHT to do something.  Power is the ABILITY to do something.  While power and authority might reside together in some cases, it is much more common to have an exercise of POWER by a person or group who do not have the AUTHORITY to do what has been done, or a group or person who has the AUTHORITY to do something but does not have the POWER to accomplish the desired action (much like when the Supreme Court ruled against Andrew Jackson regarding the Cherokee Indian treaties with The United States and Jackson, supposedly, commenting in response that “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”)  Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and John Calhoun are all classic examples of second generation personalities.

Part II of this article will deal with the actual flaws, weaknesses and omissions which I see in our Constitution and my personal suggestions for correcting them.

 

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M.  Blavier
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Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.