States should address Constitional dilemmas
To the Editor:
Eric Thuma, in his January 21st column, appears to be stating the case that Americans consider revising the Constitution, based on a book he recently read.
While I am waiting on a copy of Prof. Sabato's book to arrive (yes, I am going to read the book), I am still compelled to address some items.
I believe Mr. Thuma should stick with his original proposition—revising the Constitution is, indeed, a dangerous proposition. The 'Founding Fathers' did not do "a pretty good job with the document." They did create a foundation for people to help ensure they could live free, in their sovereign states, with a strictly limited federal (not national) government to provide for common defense of these principles. They did recognize the possibility that the system might need to be amended, and included the provisions for doing so.
Most of the problems that Mr. Thuma/Prof. Sabato claim that need to be fixed, are not issues requiring constitutional revision. Most of those issues are, in fact, the responsibility of the individual states to address—not the federal government. Let's look at some of these.
The framers of the Constitution did not provide for direct election of Senators; this was to provide a check against the popular election of the representatives to Congress (recognizing the will of the majority is not always 'right') per Article 1, Section 3. Senators were selected by the state governments (who were ultimately elected by their own, local populace). The remedy to this issue is to repeal the 17th Amendment, and return the selection of Senators to the state legislatures.
Neither did the framers intend for the popular election of a President. The last thing they wanted was another 'king,' which is why the president was to be elected by electors as described in Article II of the Constitution.
The assumption of unprecedented and unintended powers truly began in the mid 1800s—under the guise of 'saving the union,' by Abraham Lincoln, with the ultimate result of destroying the states as sovereign entities. The appropriate remedy to this is to strictly enforce the Constitution. To do so requires that the right of secession be recognized and respected (how, after all, were the 13 Colonies able to become 13 States?). Three of the colonies (Virginia, Maryland and Rhode Island) expressly reserved the right to secede as a basis for ratifying the Constitution.
The Constitution was never intended to address items like Sabato's 'hot-button issues.' Real issues are already addressed in the Constitution (such as the 2nd Amendment); otherwise they are the business of each state's government (thanks to the 10th Amendment). Further, a real return to the Constitution would render the 14th Amendment (the Reconstruction Amendment) invalid.
The only item that might merit serious constitutional consideration is to require a balanced budget, but even that has little or no meaning when the items that America is choking on are considered off-budget,' such as Social Security.
As an alternative, I would recommend reading "The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution," by Kevin R. C. Gutzmann.
Chris Burkland, Almont
January 28, 2009