Time to Fix Our Government

Like most Texans, I grew up as a huge football fan. I not only attended every game of my beloved Tigers when I was in high school, but, since I attended college while living at home, I continued to go to the games for a few years after I graduated. I don’t remember much about any of those games after all of these years, but one thing has stuck in my memory like a fly in gorilla glue. It was a cheer (it later became a song by Daphne and Celeste) that our cheerleaders only used during their practices as a joke. (How would I know what they did at their practices? My little sister was on the squad.) It was very rude and VERY hilarious. It went like this:

U! G! L! Y! You ain’t got no alibi. You ugly! Hey, hey, you ugly!

As I sat down to write this post, it popped to mind for good reason: this election has been ugly. And not just the election, but our politics has been ugly and grows uglier every day. Not just run of the mill, politics as usual ugly, but failing republic, I can’t believe we have fallen this far, what the heck do we do now ugly. U!G!L!Y!

Let me make it clear: the problem is bigger than just the campaign or the election disputes. It’s the entire train wreck we call politics featuring massive levels of distrust, lies, corruption, anger, fear, manipulation, and conspiracy minded paranoia. We have become a people so divided along party lines that many pundits write with serious concern of a possible civil war. Friendships have been lost, and families torn asunder by the increasingly ugly rhetoric used, not just by politicians in campaign ads, but by every day citizens on social media or even in person. Even Churches have been affected. This is tearing us apart.

So how did we get here? Many want to blame individual politicians, or the parties, or the “mainstream media”, or… the list goes on. But while there is plenty of blame to go around, focusing on any of these persons or groups accomplishes nothing, because the real problem isn’t any of those things. (At least, not entirely.)

The real problem is that our system, that beautiful system created by our founding fathers, is broken. Not irreparably broken, but broken nonetheless.

When our founding fathers birthed this nation in the late 18th century, they did so within the context of the norms of their time. The result, our Constitution, was an inspired document that revolutionized the whole notion of how to govern a country. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than anything else available at that time and has served us well for almost 230 years. Yay, founding fathers!

But now, the context has changed. The world has changed, our nation has changed, technology has changed… our context is vastly different. The problem is, that our Constitution hasn’t kept up with the times. Not only were there some inherent flaws obvious in the original document even at the time it was drafted, but there have been changes in our context that have exposed weaknesses that could not reasonably have been foreseen at the time. Consequently, we, as a people, need to identify the sources of our current disfunction and address those issues in the manner thankfully provided by the founders: Constitutional amendment (and possibly Federal law).

With that in mind, I offer you the following list of problems accompanied by my suggested solutions:

  1. Problem: The electoral college exists to a large extent to accommodate slavery and, in our current context, results in an electoral system that all too often results in minority rule.
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to end the winner takes all awarding of state electors and instead, like Nebraska, have electors awarded in proportion to the popular vote within each state.
  2. Problem: Gerrymandering
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to require that redistricting be carried out in every state by a bipartisan commission with equal numbers of each party on the committee.
  3. Problem: Life long term of SCOTUS justices.
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to set a term limit on justices, using rotating terms (like Senators) so that every president is guaranteed the opportunity to appoint at least one per presidential term. (Might require some special provisions for replacing a justice in the event of death.)
  4. Problem: Senate stonewalling of presidential appointments.
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to specify:
      1. The maximum amount of time the Senate has to confirm or deny a nominee is 30 days. If at the end of those 30 days, no action has been taken by the Senate, then the appointment is automatically approved. If the confirmation is ongoing, an additional 15 days would be allowed.
      2. A cut off time for the permanent appointment of a SCOTUS seat before the end of a Presidential term. (No permanent appointment if a vacancy opens in the last six months of a Presidential term. A temporary replacement might be provided for to be replaced when a new President has been elected and confirmed after the new Senate is empaneled.)
      3. That two thirds of the Senate must confirm the appointment with no filibusters allowed.
  5. Problem: Citizens United SCOTUS decision resulting in huge amount of dark money in elections.
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to specify
      1. That Corporations are not allowed to contribute to political parties or candidates.
      2. That money going to PACs must be entirely reported, regardless of the sum.
      3. That money spent by PACs must be entirely reported, regardless of the sum.
      4. That contributions to PACs must be capped in the same way that contributions to candidates are.
  6. Problem: The corrupting influence of money in politics
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to specify
      1. That all office holders must relinquish all holdings in corporations, public or private, including all stock and may not own interest in any corporation, public or private as long as in office
      2. All Federal office holders must release their taxes every year
      3. All Federal office holders, as public servants, must disclose all financial transactions and accounts held for the entire time they are running for or holding office. The discovery of any transactions or accounts not disclosed will automatically result in removal from office.
      4. All meetings with any private citizen or foreign agent to discuss policy or petition must be recorded and the recording maintained until at least 2 years after the end of service
      5. Cap the amount of money that can be spent on a single campaign and set a standard rate that can be charged for campaign ads per media form.
  7. Problem: Federal campaigns last too long, causing elected officials to spend too much time fund raising and campaigning
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to specify that all Federal elections will last no more than 4 months, with 2 months for primaries, with all primary elections held on the same Weekend (both days) nationwide, and 2 months for the general election.
  8. Problem: Election day isn’t a national holiday
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to move Federal Elections to the 1st Weekend of November with polls open on Saturday and Sunday of that weekend.
  9. Problem: Inconsistent state voter registration laws.
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to define uniform voter registration requirements.
  10. Problem: Lack of consequence for Emoluments Clause or Hatch Act violations
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to create a bipartisan Congressional tribunal, with equal representation from the House and Senate and from all parties that must conform to a very strict definition of a Hatch Act violation that meets once a month to review any allegations, having the power to remove any violator, except the President, from office. A violation by the President will result in an automatic Bill of Impeachment being submitted to the full Senate.
  11. Problem: Voters locked into a “lesser of two evils” political system
    1. Solution: Amend the Constitution to require ranked choice voting in all states. This will allow voters to rank a third (or fourth, or fifth) party candidate as their 1st choice without feeling like they are “wasting their vote” by taking their support away from one of the main party candidates. Since ranked choice voting always results in the candidate with the greatest overall support prevailing, this will allow for alternative parties to flourish while still allowing voters to feel confident about the repercussions of their vote.
  12. Problem: Lack of definition around “interim” presidential appointments.
    1. Solution: Pass a Federal Law severely limiting the term a non-confirmed official may exercise authority. (May need to amend the Constitution requiring that all nominations for Senate confirmed appointments be submitted with 30 days of the office becoming vacant.)

These 12 problems are the minimum list of things that absolutely must be addressed for our citizens to regain confidence in our government. I have little doubt that implementing these 12 suggested solutions would largely restore faith in our government by making it more transparent, more responsive, and more accountable to “We the people”.

Granted, there are plenty of other problems that could certainly use some attention, but if we don’t address these 12, we may well be doomed to the fate of Rome.

I welcome your comments and suggestions. We the people can fix these problems as long as we are willing to work together to get it done.

About Joel Hall

Onward through the fog!
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1 Response to Time to Fix Our Government

  1. carla elliott says:

    Joel, you’ve done a lot of thinking! Your ideas are well-thought-out and so logical. Hopefully, we’ll see change. I’d love for election day to become a National holiday. 🙂

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