Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What's next for the U.S. Constitution?

Monday marked the 225th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States, publicly unveiled in Philadelphia amid considerable fanfare. As Americans think back on the last two and a quarter centuries, we should also think ahead by the same amount. What will and what should the Constitution look like 200 years hence? Or if that seems too mind-bendingly futuristic, what will and should it look like in 2020 or 2121?

The most powerful portents of the future are to be found in America's existing state constitutions, the proverbial laboratories of American democracy. These 50 documents have converged to form a distinctly American model of governance — call it "American exceptionalism," if you like. For example, unlike the regimes in various democratic countries around the world — England, Germany, France, Israel, India, Australia — almost all 50 states follow the same basic formula, featuring ratified written constitutions, bicameral legislatures, chief executives who look remarkably like mini-presidents and robust bills of rights enforceable in ordinary courtrooms.

Indeed, the Philadelphia Constitution of 1787 to which we wish happy birthday was itself built upon state constitutional templates. Various elements of judicial independence drew upon state antecedents, as did the U.S. Constitution's basic commitment to trial by jury.

So much for the past 225 years. Let's now think about the next two centuries. How could we spruce up our founding documents based on changes the states have made to theirs?

Many states have term limits for state legislators and also allow voters to recall corrupt or incompetent state lawmakers in certain situations. This invites us to think hard about whether the federal Constitution should provide similar checks against Congress. Or consider the fact that no state has an upper house in which each county has two seats, regardless of population. Perhaps the Senate could be changed to be more proportionate. Consider also the way that the states elect governors — directly by the voters, one person, one vote. If the federal Electoral College is so good, why does no state closely follow it? Let's scrap it. And if naturalized Americans like California's Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michigan's Jennifer Granholm can be trusted to serve as governors, why not amend the federal Constitution to allow them to run for president?

Amendment-minded Americans should imagine ourselves today as representatives of 22nd-century posterity, tasked with the challenge of framing just rules for that society. As modern American constitutionalists focus obsessively on the deeds and words of 225 years ago, shouldn't we spend at least some time thinking about what we want two centuries into the future? Much of American constitutional law remains to be written.

Comments
Forecast: Potential tropical system threatens to drench already soggy Tampa Bay area

Forecast: Potential tropical system threatens to drench already soggy Tampa Bay area

Flood warnings have been extended for the Alafia River in Lithia and the Little Manatee River at Wimauma as the National Weather Service continues to monitor a broad area of low pressure that has a building chance of developing into a tropical system...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Baseball: A look at this week’s region final games

Baseball: A look at this week’s region final games

All games are tonight at 7 unless noted.Class 8AStrawberry Crest (18-8) at Fleming Island (12-13-1): The Golden Eagles started their season by losing six of seven and they also had an eight-inning tie. They ended the regular season with four straight...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Saturday was Jacob Kosinski’s big day. His whole family, many from out of town, saw the Charleston, South Carolina, student graduate from his Christian-based homeschool program with a 4.89 grade point average and the coveted honor of summa cum laude....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Watch: Baboon escapes crate at Texas airport; officers corner him

Watch: Baboon escapes crate at Texas airport; officers corner him

SAN ANTONIO — A baboon on his way to a South Texas wildlife sanctuary escaped his crate and kept officers busy for two hours at San Antonio International Airport. Officers shot the baboon named Dawkins with a tranquilizer dart. The ape got loose Mond...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police tweet that a teen was arrested shortly after a Baltimore County police officer's slaying, 3 others are sought

Police tweet that a teen was arrested shortly after a Baltimore County police officer's slaying, 3 others are sought

Police tweet that a teen was arrested shortly after a Baltimore County police officer's slaying, 3 others are sought
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida education news: Teacher action, bullied students, school safety and more

Florida education news: Teacher action, bullied students, school safety and more

TEACHER ACTION: Many Florida teachers have questioned why educators in other states have taken bold actions to advocate for better school funding, while here the moves have been more muted. FEA vice president Fed Ingram seeks to tap into that se...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State You’re In: Fiction can become fact, as Woolworth placard in Tampa shows

State You’re In: Fiction can become fact, as Woolworth placard in Tampa shows

TAMPA — History can easily be distorted. If wrong assumptions are made and repeated often enough, falsehoods have a way of becoming "fact.""It happens," said Andy Huse, a librarian with the University of South Florida Special Collections Department. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Game 7 for Lightning, Capitals; shoppers begin Publix boycott; pair pitch bipartisan ticket for governor; meet TV's Black Lightning

The Daystarter: Game 7 for Lightning, Capitals; shoppers begin Publix boycott; pair pitch bipartisan ticket for governor; meet TV's Black Lightning

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.   • Today’s forecast? If you guessed more rain, congratulations. The forecast calls for scattered showers in the morning and then numerous showers in the afternoon with is...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Congressional leaders to review information on Russia probe

Congressional leaders to review information on Russia probe

Top FBI, Justice Department officials agree to "review" highly classified information from Russia probe with congressional lawmakers
Updated: 2 hours ago