CATEGORY: The New Constitution

The New Constitution: Amendment I – representation and proportionality

The New Constitution

Amendment I

No political party representing at least five percent of the electorate shall be denied direct representation in the legislature. All legislative bodies shall be comprised proportionally according to the populations represented and all elected officials shall be selected by direct vote of the people.

Rationale

American politics is built on a two-party system, despite the fact that there are arguably ten (or more) distinct political cohorts in the country. What results is a dynamic wherein coalition building is conducted at the party level and the wishes of these constituencies routinely fail to find expression in the legislature.

A system of proportional representation assures that these voices are heard on the floor of the Congress.

Further, the Electoral College introduces inequities into the process of electing the chief executive. Four times in our history (1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000) this system has installed in the White House a candidate who earned fewer votes than his opponent. There may have been a justification in the eyes of some during the 18th century for allowing one person’s vote to count more than another’s based on simple accident of geography, but there is no reason whatsoever at the present time why this should be so.

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Index: The New Constitution Series

16 comments on “The New Constitution: Amendment I – representation and proportionality

  1. This would be quite revolutionary for America; setting up a system that is close to what takes place in many countries ( such as France, where I grew up ).
    Just wondering, Samuel, will your hard collective work on reviewing the American constitution be promoted outside of this blog ?
    Is there any attempt to lobby with Congress to try to implement change 0or at least provoke some thinking ?

    • I’m hoping that people will share through their networks, and I have a political network of my own that I’ll be trying to activate to support this. Not sure how optimistic I am with that crowd, but we’ll see. Since I’m a culturalist, not a politics insider, I get ignored a lot. Which only causes me to disengage more. In any case, I’m coming at this with nothing but low expectations…..

  2. Well your ban on tactical niggling certainly changes the way one looks at this. But I will note that this is particularly curious in light of the fact, if I remember correctly, that many of the founding fathers were opposed to pollitical parties altogether (which lasted almost until the ink dried on the constitution).

    So, if I understand correctly, this switches the political divisions (at least at the federal level) from geographic divisions to ideological. That’s one hell of a frame switch coming out of the gate Sam. Basically I think it is a fascinating idea and it might be fun to see if there would eventually be a breakdown in the parochialism and tribalism we see today and watch it morph into another kind of tribalism or, to get really optimistic, to have everyone really examine what they believe.

    I’m going to have to ponder this a bit but, basically, anything that strikes at the two party system is a friend of mine.

    • Fnay: I certainly wouldn’t call it a ban on tactical niggling, so much as an observation that there are going to be places where I ask for patience because the answer to a question is on the way. The last thing I want to do is squelch discussion from intelligent folks (although if dumbasses keep their thoughts to themselves I’m okay with it). :)

      Your observation on the founders hating parties is well taken. I’m not sure I see a practical alternative to organizing things, though. But maybe someday we’ll reach the point where the very idea of parties is rendered moot because we’ve found a better way. Not betting on that, mind you, because parties are an incredible tool for accumulating and aggregating wealth and power. Still, a boy can dream.

      You’re also correct in the frame shift, although I wouldn’t necessarily argue that the mechanisms today are regional to the exclusion of ideological (especially since the Reagan years). Still, stay tuned, because before all is said and done you’re going to see more whacks at certain kinds of regionalism. :D

      • Don’t get me wrong, I think you observations on tactical niggling are exactly right. With you first ammendment it is easy to go to “how would you do this?” but I kept telling myself, “no tactical niggling”. Forced me in a completely different direction. It is an excellent rule for this series; stick with it. It won’t restrict discussion from intelligent folks.

        “You’re also correct in the frame shift, although I wouldn’t necessarily argue that the mechanisms today are regional to the exclusion of ideological (especially since the Reagan years).” I always thought Johnson’s observation (not to mention his action) was one of the more remarkable in American history when he noted the “We have lost the South for a generation.” when he signed the Civil Rights Act.

  3. Alright, I’ll play along and ask the most obvious question. What about the problem of the majority of the population living in a few states. Obviously, if we went simply by popular vote, New York and California would rule the nation and politicians would pander to their desires and needs with all other states along for the ride. Is that just something you’re willing to accept?
    As for allowing other parties to the party, I’m in.

    • “States” is an artificial locus. There are places in America where if you move out of the house you live in and into one that’s 50 yards away, your vote all of a sudden counts more. Further, the power of states stems directly from the decision to empower South Carolina’s (and other Southern states, but SC was the main agitator) “right” to own slaves.

      If we get past state’s rights – and this document will do that in spades when all is said and done – a citizen’s rights and privileges will no longer be a function of geography. And the way I see it, there’s no rationale for parceling out rights inequitably based on which side of an artificial line you live on.

  4. You don’t do justice to this amendment in your rational and if these are for the general public to mull over, you should ready explain how it is different than our current government in your rational section.

    This would change the US system of government from a Republic to a true Democracy, which would actually be news to a lot of voters that we are a Republic. States would no longer elect representatives; we would hold national elections. This makes sense for all the reasons you state and in addition, the representatives states send to Washington rarely vote for their states needs; they vote the party line on national issues. You know, we already have national elections to a certain extent when millions of out-of-state dollars are poured into elections a “key” states.

    So call it what it is, this amendment makes the US a representative democracy or at least I think that is what it calls for. Political Science was not my strong suit at Wake.

    • Will – a couple of comments. First, no, the rationale statements aren’t (and aren’t going to be) terribly lengthy. I’ve written about most of these issues at some length, and in this context I really want to state the amendment and offer a brief comment on what it is and why. If I’m having to go as deep as you’re suggesting I’m probably not doing a very good job in the first place. And I do want to trust the reader here – most folks who pay any attention at all to this series are smart enough to see what I’m doing.

      As for the democracy vs republic thing, I REALLY don’t want to give anyone an excuse to reduce any piece of this discussion to a cheap label. Is the New Constitution a shift toward “pure democracy”? Maybe, in places. But I wasn’t thinking in those terms as I developed it and I’m not starting now.

    • I don’t think this is a move towards true Democracy so much as a modernization of the republic. The structure of the republic was skewed from the outset by difficulty of travel/communication, slavery, and extreme class consciousness. That structure has only changed in terms of suffrage, though perhaps it’s worth noting that one of the few times a third party entered the fray seriously led to the ending of slavery.

      Democracy has only ever existed in Athens, and most of us have an incomplete understanding of that. There were only two elected positions in Athens: general and water commissioner. All the other public posts were were filled with a jury duty like selection process.

      But the intent is clearly democratic insomuch as it is designed to open up the political playing field to more voices.

  5. Long, long ago in a land far, far away I served in the Peace Corps in a West Aftican country. The local villages there functioned in what could be described as a pure democracy. Trust me, you don’t want to go there.

  6. The only problem with this is you could end up with a governmental system like Italy. Very democratic, but often unstable. That makes long term political decisions nearly impossible, especially in a rapidly changing world. Lastly, the 5% cut is pretty low. With the current deadlock in Congress, imagine how much worse it would be if every right-wing TP type group got seats. Suddenly, you have a coalition of far right groups who want to end civil rights, or whatever, and you are stuck with it.

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