Note: As part of a (currently hypothetical) platform for John Fial as a candidate for the 2020 Democratic Nomination for President, this page serves as one of the two main campaign platform webpages, with ideas and examples for constitutional amendments. For the other pages, see www.johnfial.com/campaign/ .
Amendments are often divided into two types: the political, or ethical/moral amendments, which rule on what we believe to be right and wrong, permitted or prohibited in our society; and the procedural, which deal with the functions and rules of government.
- Congressional Term Limits
- Supreme Court Justices: Even Number
- States in Union: Maximum Number
- Mandatory Sunset Provisions
- Limit on Length of Laws
- Presidential Restrictions:
- Age Maximum
- No Presidential Families
- Senators excluded from Presidency (must resign and/or waiting period)
- Remove Birth Requirement (increase required years of citizenship to 2-3 decades)
- Shirtless Health Advice (in jest)
- Political Amendments:
- Balanced Budget
- Corporate Personhood
- Equal Rights Amendment
- Firearm rights (2nd Amendment revision)
- [Electronic] Search & Surveillance (4th Amendment revision)
We have not made a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution since 1971.
My belief is that over 90% of regular Americans would be willing to seriously consider most of these ideas. Per Article V, it only takes 2/3 (66%) of both houses of Congress to begin the amendment process. While some are controversial and would stimulate passionate, involved debates, the below ideas are good starting points for constitutional amendments.
The procedural amendments, such as term limits, tend to be less controversial, and are placed first for that reason.
Procedural / Legal Amendments
Congressional Term Limits
This is the most obvious amendment: term limits for Congress, especially Senators. That most of us would support this is as undeniable as that most politicians would reject limiting their career potential. The only debate is the number of terms/years we’d agree on limiting terms to:
No member of Congress may serve more than four total terms, or three subsequent terms in either chamber. Additionally, no current members of Congress are eligible for the Presidency, and former members of Congress must wait four years to be eligible.
The latter restriction forces serving members of Congress to focus on their service, rather than neglecting their existing duties and cannibalizing their fame to fight each other for the Presidency. This transitions us towards the next amendment idea.
No Presidential Families
Our “founding fathers” would be disappointed in career politicians and aghast at presidential families. If term limits would prevent career politicians, a constitutional amendment could easily solve the latter problem. Here is an example:
Only one person per family shall ever serve as President. "Family" includes parents, spouses, siblings, children, and other members as defined by the Congress and the Courts.
We should also consider:
- Adding a maximum Presidential age (perhaps 65, 70, or 75 years old),
- Excluding sitting Senators from campaigning for the Presidency (resignation or a “waiting period” required), which would prevent the Senate being used as a career “stepping stone” for the Presidency,
- Adding the Presidential ‘Partner’ to the line of succession (somewhere), such that we take more seriously the familial/personal relationship of Presidnetial candidates, and
- Removing the U.S. birth requirement (but changing the U.S. residency requirement to 2+ decades).
8 Supreme Court Justices
The Supreme Court was never designed or intended to “break” ties or have the power it does today. I have the greatest respect for this branch of the federal government, because it is the best of the three led and influenced by facts, science, and truth. As such, and as the other two branches have weakened, the Supreme Court has “picked up the slack,” and has become the branch that actually gets things done. But a constitutional amendment could shift power back towards where it belongs — in the hands of the people, through the legislative branch:
The Supreme Court shall, upon the next justice's death or resignation, be reduced to 8 members and shall remain an even number of justices. In the event of a tie decision, the Court may recommend new legislation to Congress. Congress shall have a maximum period of one year to formally pass further legislation on the issue, after which the President may take executive action to break the Supreme Court's tie decision until Congress' legislative clarification.
Sunset Provisions Required
A “Sunset” provision means, legally, that a law will cease to be effective after a certain date (unless renewed). Like a constitutional amendment requiring some measure of brevity of new amendments, acts, and lower laws, a sunset amendment would require all future Acts of congress to ‘sunset’ after some amount of time, whether a year or a century.
While a sunset provision would create more work for future Congresses to renew desired laws, it also forces them to update older laws to modern times, while eliminating the work required to remove out-of-date laws still needlessly “on the books.” Such a mandatory amendment is a debateable idea, but what we gain is worth the extra legal and mental work.
Number of States in the Union
Congress is not a decisive body of lawmakers. It is a slow moving gaggle without direction or a system of prioritization, and it has lost a sense of compromise for the common good. Worse, Congress is too many people. Our federal vs. state governments should allow for individual state experimentation with law and policy, whereby the best ideas are the most effective, adopted by other states, and eventually, the federal government. Yet with such an excess (fifty) of states, this rarely happens. North American states should likely combine to between 10-20 states, and the extra number is a good “buffer” in case other nation-states on Earth wish to petition the United States to join the Union. This latter scenario is likely to happen later this century, especially if we can restore our economic and leadership supremacy.
We should begin combining state governments into larger, more powerful states if we are to survive the century as a United group of States, and simultaneously rely on and embolden local government more than these new, larger states.
The number of States in the Union shall not exceed twenty-five, nor senators fifty.
If we are to survive the century, we will eventually also either add a third house of Congress, or (the better idea, in my opinion) convert the House of Representatives to a system of full digital representation of citizens, rather than personal representation. For example, each million people might digitally “vote” on propositions and laws, using web- or mobile-based systems, and simple majority votes would form a single yes/no vote for that “House representative.” Human Senators would remain, and as fewer senators would represent fewer states, would have the individual power they now lack.
Political / Moral / Ethical Amendments
No one is ever going to be satisfied with a formal bill — or worse, a constitutional law! — on an issue that has divided humanity since before the United States existed. As such, it is of the utmost importance that we discuss abortion. All sides will be disappointed, but this seems a reasonable proposal:
No state shall make a law prohibiting abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, or permitting abortion in the third trimester unless deemed medically necessary in an urgent emergency. State laws may prohibit, permit, or ignore second trimester abortions.
Shirtless Health Advice
Anyone may provide health or nutritional advice, free or paid. However, advisers and health care practitioners should have excellent health, as evidenced by their physical bodies. As such, upon the request of the patient, all such practitioners are required to remove their outer garments (lab coat or similar and shirt) but not undergarments, in front of patients.
Better than hundreds or thousands of pages, right?
Voting Age -or- ‘Civil Rights Package’ at Age 14-18
The voting age should be lowered.
The voting age shall hereby be lowered to sixteen (16) years.
Personally, I believe most teenagers will remain ambivalent and not vote, as is their right. Still, those educated, passionate teenagers who now deserve the right to vote cannot now do so. Most of the country might criticize this idea, pointing to the immaturity of youth, which seems valid at first consideration. But we are likely even more immature much further into our twenties than ever before, yet we retain the right to vote once we pass the eighteen-year age threshold. At least with a lowered voting age . If we were allowed to vote at 14+, I suspect there might be a lot of “noise” on “social” media and internet-based polls which would never materialize, because teens failed to actually take advantage of their new ability to vote.
The better idea, in my opinion, is to make a civil rights “package” when a teenager is mature enough to earn the rights, which cannot ever after be repealed. Such rights would include:
- Right to vote in all elections
- Right to consume and purchase alcohol and other legal drugs, as valid under existing laws for adults 21+
- Right to sexual freedom
- Right to full adulthood, work, and manage one’s financial and legal identity
The difficult debate would center on how to decide when to give this rights “package” to the teen. By law it would be granted to all teenagers at 18 years old as a last resort. But the purpose of the law would be to allow parents or other caretakers who personally know each teenager to grant the above rights to the teen when legitimately earned. In hindsight, most of us would likely say that we gained the “maturity” for this-or-that aspect of adulthood at various ages, probably extending well into our 20s or even 30s. But forcing teens, parents, and caretakers to engage on these issues — When am I an adult? When am I responsible enough to do this or that? — would prove a massive national benefit. It would surely challenge us, but those challenges would result in significant cultural growth.
[July: 7th: Added abortion draft 1, supreme court draft 1.]
[16 June: Added shirtless doctor law idea.]
[4 Apr: Named section 1, edited.]