Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

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Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
discuss and debate the following question:  If you were a member of a new constitutional convention--like the one meeting in and prior to 1787 but meeting today--what specific changes would you suggest to the Constitution to make it better?  Why?  

As part of this assignment, look at the changes suggested by one of your peers and try to work through--in another, second post to the forum--the full ramifications for the change your peer suggests.  Challenge their basic ides, their evidence, or the effects of the change they suggest..  


This exchange is a tough one.  Feel free to do external research on the net or by discussing the questions with friends, peers, and family.  If you use someone else's idea, cite it in such a way that your readers can track down those you are reading.  For instance, if you quote or use an idea you found online, in one of the readings for the week, or in another discussion of the Constitution, cite it by including a link back to the original.

Steve
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Antonio Lewis
One specific change I would make to the Constitution is how we wage war.  Well, actually I wouldn't change it because I believe that Congress should vote on whether to wage war and the President should act as Commander-In-Chief.  I feel that this needs to be better enforced however.  Lets use the crisis in Libya for instance.  I feel that it is only right that the U.S. helps the citizens of Libya, but President Obama requested that the U.N. allow the U.S. to bomb Libyan tanks.  Are those acts not considered acts of war and therefore wouldn't the President need permission from Congress?  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe the President already had received the "o.k" and I just didn't hear about it.  If the President did not need the permission of Congress, does that mean the United Nations can overrule the U.S. Constitution?
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Sha Trent
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I would look at the electoral college, as I feel that is it no longer a necessity in our country.  The electoral college was allegedly necessary in 1787 when it was established, due to the founding fathers' distrust of the people (common and otherwise) to make significant decisions as to whom should run the country. Presently, the opportunities that afford all of the citizens of this country to acquire education, provide many the knowledge and interest to understand and wholly participate in significant political decisions.  The access to the internet, media sources and other FREE outlets of accessibility are available to everyone (more or less) and many prominent and popular issues are debatable amongst citizens, enabling them to form their personal opinions and beliefs.  And because changes were necessary to allow women and blacks to vote, the changes should be made to ensure that these voters votes are counted. The voting rights have changed enormously and everyone's vote should count free and clear. If ever there is an even split, a revote should take place or perhaps even having two presidents...now that's probably TOO interesting a thought, but the thought happened. :-)
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Sha Trent
In reply to this post by Antonio Lewis
As you're the only other person to post and I agree with you, I find it EXTREMELY difficult to challenge what you said, because I think that you're head on. Honestly, I must confess that I'll have to do some homework regarding that aspect of how the government works (Congress, United Nations & POTUS), because I'm only aware that the president has certain procedures to declare war. And since I'm not 100% on the particulars, wouldn't feel comfortable explaining my 'points' as there aren't any...
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

kevcon27
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
It's taken me almost two days to come up with my answer to this question.  I'm going to jump out on this one.  I would make an amendment that gave the Government more power to enforce educational and national standards.  It would protect the environmental protection agency, and the department of education.  This would be put forward with many other new social, intellectual, and policy reforms.  

  My opinion is founded on the following beliefs.  If we as a nation are to compete in the new global economy and be a leader in the free world we need national standards.  Democracy is naturally born out of intellect and the persuit of truth.  The founding fathers intellect was truly radical for its day.  Today we need to continue to foster the idea of debate and discourse in all forums political, social, theological...etc.  I believe that allowing states and counties to continue to control local education will continue socioeconomic disparities we see in our society today.  We can look at the history of the local educational system.  This is well documented by Michael Pacione in The City: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences.  Two researchers from the University of Virginia tracked that in the early 70's 38% of the metroplitan population lived in Richmond by 1990 only 23% were still there and thse numbers continued to decline.  This lead to the counties of Henrico and Chesterfield becoming the major hubs of population and employment.  This happend because of "white flight" this is were the more afluent white familes moved to the counties to protest desegragation.  Prior to desegratgation the poorer people lived in the counties.  The schools in the city which were the pennicle of their day are now arcaihc relics full of the disinfranchised.  The counties though saw sharp growth and large monatary gains in the tax base.  This leads to people in the counties having an advantage over those in the city and leads to socioeconomic segratgation.  This will cripple us a nation if the masses are allowed to become ignorant and disenfranchised. We can also look at the democratic revolutions in the middle east.  I would say its the influence of education and spreading of democratic idea through popular media(our chief export). As we enter the global market we would be wise to invest in those who will have to inevitablly defend this light in the dark.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Ben Morgan
In reply to this post by Sha Trent
Sha, I am not picking on what you feel by any means, rather I am going to try and play a little devils advocate. Yes, when the electoral college was first created, it was due in fact to a distrust of people. I understand where you are coming from. I do. Why do we, as citizens, even bother to vote, if ultimately it comes down to the voices of a few selected people?
I think that first we need to look at who those selected people are. From my understanding, your beliefs and argument fall hand in hand with how our government actually works, or attempts to work. If we take a look at the 'electors' we will see that they are actually voted in people by non other than....us! The electoral college was taken from the idea of the Holy Roman Empire date as far back as year 962. It was princes from within states in fact who were elected and expected to carry the vote of their people when voting for their nations king. This same concept is carried over now. As a state, we are the ones responsible for voting in our electors. Every vote is heard, just in a disconnected way. As you yourself said, "The access to the internet, media sources and other FREE outlets of accessibility are available to everyone (more or less) and many prominent and popular issues are debatable amongst citizens, enabling them to form their personal opinions and beliefs." If people did their research I think they would see the electors votes are truly the votes that they themselves voted in.
Secondly, how do you believe the people of today are different than the people back then? I see a lot of the same problems. I am not singling anyone out, but their are some stupid, unlearned, careless people out there who throw votes out for reasoning such as ethnic background, looks, age, etc. Is it a bad thing to in a sense filter those votes through the already present electoral college? If someone was to feel so strongly about it, this is the United States of America, pursue becoming an elector if it means that much to them.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Sam Coleman
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I agree for the most part that if anything should be done away with it is the electoral college; although I do follow the notion of a representative government, I believe in this case the system is outdated if not obsolete, and the president election should be determined by the popular vote. Other than that I think the Constitution is pretty well worded and has allowed for change despite it's age. It is the model off which many governments have based their own, and I also don't see a popular demand to alter it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Nina
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I have to say that I completely agree with Sha Trent about how the elector college is not necessary in today’s society. The fact that, yes technically we do vote for the people who serve the elector college although they are people just like us and can and will vote for whomever they feel best for president and not always serve the people by choose what the people truly want. I have been taking a United States History class which has been discussing the making of our Constitution from the 1700’s. Honestly I might be making a far stretch but we as a nation have had dramatic changes since back then and I feel that the whole Constitution could go through a major update. The comment that Sam Coleman made about how “if it’s not broken why fix it” but I feel that before something does “break” why not stop it before it does? I don’t feel like we should be living our America lives still based on the beliefs and perspectives of men that formed and creators of our country, whom did a great job and start for the future of America. (I know this might sound pretty bad, but this is just my option) We live in a completely different world from back then, which makes me feel like we should live by a different more modern Constitution based on the people today and our “now” society. I am not saying that everything has to go out the window but definitely re-evaluated and tweaked a little. America has been ready for a new change which should start with our Constitution.    
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Roland Simmons
I have trusted our Constitution and I believe that our Constitution does not need fixing. I also agree with Nina that although the people who made the Constitution in the 1700s still applies today in our society. But our nation has taken a drastic change since back then. And I agree if we reevaluate and maybe tweak a little we could create a change in America that needs improvement. I do believe that the popular vote would be more efficient in choosing our nation's president.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Courtney
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I might be going out on a limb here, but I am proposing that no changes be made to the Constitution. I have thought long and hard about this question, as well as options that others have proposed and have decided to stand my ground on this one. I do understand and realize that the Constitution was written in the 1700s, but it is the backbone of America. If we start changing the Constitution, I feel that nothing good can come of it. Other countries strive to be like the United States of America for many reasons. One main reason is because of the Constitution and our democratic government. As far as the Electoral College, as there been a lot of debate about it, I think that should stay as well. The members of the Electoral College are voted in by the people, so the voting is still done by the people as in a democratic government.  
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Cynthia
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
I think the US Constitution and constitutional issues are never ending.   If I had the power to make changes or add something to the constitution, my choice would be to limit the terms of congress. Amendment number 22 limits the President of the United States to two terms.  The reason I think that congress should have limits, is because the average term is around ten years.  Even though most presidents are not worthy of more than two terms, congressmen stay around a lot longer. I think that with anything time changes and people tend to get stuck on mind sets. I think with newer representatives, comes newer ideas.  I really don’t see this being a bad thing because of the world changing so fast nowadays.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Cynthia
In reply to this post by Courtney
Agreed.
What should be changed is the seriousness of the population about the current situation and future situation of the nation especially for their families.
People should have more interest and take it serious their right to vote as well as making the right decisions. In America voting is optional, most of those who are complaining about the current situation did not move one foot to go out and vote, fulfill their duties as citizens, while another nations are at war trying to acquire these rights.
Some changes are important, of course, as the change of some parliamentarians to modernize, but not radicalize the parliament.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Keith Vertrees
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
The twelfth amendment (which superseded Article II, Section 1, Clause 3) establishes the method for electing the president, but leaves the method mostly up to the states. Over time, we have established the primary system enabling the parties to organize and present a rational ballot to the American public. There is an issue with this, however. This process is not regulated by the constitution, only by caucus rules, therefore states continuously set earlier primary dates to gain influence in the nomination and candidates focus on these early primaries to take advantage of the bandwagon effect.

This causes some significant issues. The time of the primary is greatly compressed, which means that concentrated advertising may have a much larger impact on results. Additionally, candidates forsake states with later primaries as they see them as less important. Voters are not given enough time to learn enough about the candidates before they must vote in their primaries.

I believe the constitution should have included language establishing a method of diversifying the timeline involved in electing the president. The behavior that must be avoided, front loading the primaries, could be avoided by having pre assigned primary slots that are randomly filled by a lottery. Additionally, the states would only be determined 30 days prior to each actual primary date. These two measures would ensure that states are unable to front load, and that candidates can't simply spend all their campaign funding in the first few states, as important states could pop up at any time.

This specific issue has been raised by many, but I found Larry J Sabato's perspective from his book "A More Perfect Constitution" to be the most interesting. He believes that another constitutional convention should be help to update the constitution. Language that reflects our nation's political system should be added, as much of that is absent from the constitution given that system has formed over the last two hundred years.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Keith Vertrees
In reply to this post by Cynthia
Cynthia, while I agree emotionally, I have to disagree intellectually. One of the major issues with both houses is that everything is very hard to do because of all the procedure, negotiation, and complexity. If we have constant turnover the efficiency of an already slow system would be non-existant. I'm not saying that life long senators are a good thing, but imposing strict term limits is not the solution.

Perhaps, instead, there should be term limits and appointment criteria for subcommittees. Experienced legislators would need to rotate between subcommittees every few years. This allows them to gain experience dealing with the position, but not gain uncontrolled influence over legislative processes.

Cynthia wrote
I think the US Constitution and constitutional issues are never ending.   If I had the power to make changes or add something to the constitution, my choice would be to limit the terms of congress. Amendment number 22 limits the President of the United States to two terms.  The reason I think that congress should have limits, is because the average term is around ten years.  Even though most presidents are not worthy of more than two terms, congressmen stay around a lot longer. I think that with anything time changes and people tend to get stuck on mind sets. I think with newer representatives, comes newer ideas.  I really don’t see this being a bad thing because of the world changing so fast nowadays.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
In reply to this post by Keith Vertrees
Keith,

Excellent analysis and great job with this assignment.

Steve

Stephen Brandon, PhD
Professor, Composition and Rhetoric
J. Sargent Reynolds Community College
Richmond, VA 23221
[hidden email]
[hidden email]

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what
it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners
or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
-Kenneth G. Wilson, usage writer (b. 1923)



On Sat, Apr 9, 2011 at 9:09 PM, Keith Vertrees [via General Assembly Online Discussion Forum, ENG 241, Spring 2011] <[hidden email]> wrote:
The twelfth amendment (which superseded Article II, Section 1, Clause 3) establishes the method for electing the president, but leaves the method mostly up to the states. Over time, we have established the primary system enabling the parties to organize and present a rational ballot to the American public. There is an issue with this, however. This process is not regulated by the constitution, only by caucus rules, therefore states continuously set earlier primary dates to gain influence in the nomination and candidates focus on these early primaries to take advantage of the bandwagon effect.

This causes some significant issues. The time of the primary is greatly compressed, which means that concentrated advertising may have a much larger impact on results. Additionally, candidates forsake states with later primaries as they see them as less important. Voters are not given enough time to learn enough about the candidates before they must vote in their primaries.

I believe the constitution should have included language establishing a method of diversifying the timeline involved in electing the president. The behavior that must be avoided, front loading the primaries, could be avoided by having pre assigned primary slots that are randomly filled by a lottery. Additionally, the states would only be determined 30 days prior to each actual primary date. These two measures would ensure that states are unable to front load, and that candidates can't simply spend all their campaign funding in the first few states, as important states could pop up at any time.

This specific issue has been raised by many, but I found Larry J Sabato's perspective from his book "A More Perfect Constitution" to be the most interesting. He believes that another constitutional convention should be help to update the constitution. Language that reflects our nation's political system should be added, as much of that is absent from the constitution given that system has formed over the last two hundred years.


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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Dr. Brandon
Administrator
In reply to this post by Keith Vertrees
Cynthia and Keith,

One of the many assumptions one learns to make in studying literature, history, rhetoric, etc. is that the authors knew what they were doing.  There is built in inefficiency in our system.  We debate endlessly.  Factions curry favor.  Every factions looks to "play the system," while leaders try to do what is right and needed for the common good.  If one assumes that the founders knew people pretty well, then one can assume they could have come up with a less muddled and messy system.  There's a French literary critic who once argued for the value of muddles for inclusion of more voices in decision making.  I've long since come to the working conclusion that the founders meant for our decision making process to be messy and for the good leaders--the ones willing to compromise factional interest for the good of all--to emerge from the mess.  The muddle acts as another check and balance against factions.  In thinking back, the times when the most mischief seems to have been done to liberty were times when Congress or Senate was in the same hands as the Executive.

Steve

Stephen Brandon, PhD
Professor, Composition and Rhetoric
J. Sargent Reynolds Community College
Richmond, VA 23221
[hidden email]
[hidden email]

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what
it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners
or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
-Kenneth G. Wilson, usage writer (b. 1923)



On Sat, Apr 9, 2011 at 9:18 PM, Keith Vertrees [via General Assembly Online Discussion Forum, ENG 241, Spring 2011] <[hidden email]> wrote:
Cynthia, while I agree emotionally, I have to disagree intellectually. One of the major issues with both houses is that everything is very hard to do because of all the procedure, negotiation, and complexity. If we have constant turnover the efficiency of an already slow system would be non-existant. I'm not saying that life long senators are a good thing, but imposing strict term limits is not the solution.

Perhaps, instead, there should be term limits and appointment criteria for subcommittees. Experienced legislators would need to rotate between subcommittees every few years. This allows them to gain experience dealing with the position, but not gain uncontrolled influence over legislative processes.

Cynthia wrote:
I think the US Constitution and constitutional issues are never ending.   If I had the power to make changes or add something to the constitution, my choice would be to limit the terms of congress. Amendment number 22 limits the President of the United States to two terms.  The reason I think that congress should have limits, is because the average term is around ten years.  Even though most presidents are not worthy of more than two terms, congressmen stay around a lot longer. I think that with anything time changes and people tend to get stuck on mind sets. I think with newer representatives, comes newer ideas.  I really don’t see this being a bad thing because of the world changing so fast nowadays.



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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Kendall
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
As of now, I am not sure of something that I would change in the Constitution. I feel as it was written then, for us to live by now. However, they probably didn't imagine that we would be where we are today. I'm sure there are changes that need to be made, that would benefit our current times, but I am unaware of what they would be. I do believe that the government makes poor decisions at times, but so does everybody.
If I HAD to pick something to be altered in the Constitution, I would say the 7th Amendment which is trial by jury. I think that if for some reason a situtation comes up where re-examining a previous case would help a current case, then it should be allowed. I understand the person has that right to not be tried again, however, in an extreme case such as abuse or murder, I do think that it should be allowed to open the case again and review them.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Jeff
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
At first I agreed with the idea of limiting the terms a congressman can have, but immediately after reading that Keith explained that the experience received helps with legislation and getting things done.  He proposed the rotating of sub committees, and I agree with that.  The suggestion of waging war was also mentioned.  I believe the constitution should stay the same in regards to the procedure for waging war, but as the recent bombing in Libya is considered illegal by many since it wasn't voted on by congress, I think the procedure for investigating an unjust war should be enforced.  Like the Virginia constitution, I believe the U.S constitution should have law against the government spending money it doesn't have, and force D.C to balance it's budget.  
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Kristi Kesler
In reply to this post by Antonio Lewis
Antonio, I think this is a great proposal! On top of everything you included....would it not hurt to have the people's thoughts and feelings on waging war before our government dives right in! (which seems to happen often)  I hear everyone surrounded me fuss about the vast numbers of American lives that are wasted because our government decides to stick their nose in every other countries business....isn't that our choice? Isn't that our tax money that is paying for all this?  Looking at all the tea parties and the discussions going on it seems like it would be fair to the American public to have a say as far as where and how our money and family members lives are spent.  Granted a majority of our military is home but think of how many child births were missed because their fathers were overseas...think of the upbringing of older children many parents are missing our on because again they are overseas...we should have a vote...we risk our lives and spend our money, I beleive we should have a say....even if it's a small one.
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Re: Week Twelve: Improving the Constitution

Kristi Kesler
In reply to this post by Dr. Brandon
Interesting conversation today at work and it was actually regarding applying changes to the constitution....the debate came up as to Obama's birth certificate.  We were debating whether we found that one of our presidents was found to have been born in another country...would it really matter?  If the president is doing a good job...who cares where he was born? Does being birth in another country make you any different than us?  If your a current U.S. citizen does it matter that you were born elsewhere?  I think no.  If you can do your job...just like anywhere else in the United States...you cannot discriminate against birth places, race, or religion....so why does the presidency matter?  To a point, I can understand it.  Fear of a leader like Stalin or Hitler coming in to run the U.S. with foul intensions....but we the people voted him/her in...what does it matter? The other checks/balances in our government should supposive "keep" the president under check...right?  Interesting.  Figured I would just through that in there....possible change to the constitution?
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