This semester, we’ve been discussing documents relating to the American Founding in my Social Sciences 2 class, and I asked both my classes: “Should we tear out and start fresh?” There was widespread discomfort with the idea, mostly based in the fear of who would be tasked with writing the new Constitution. I understand that fear, but I think that a lot of the pitfalls could be avoided by means of a ratification process — if the New Founders knew that a two-thirds majority of all American citizens had to approve it, that would presumably keep them from enshrining fetal personhood as a Constitutional principle, for instance. Even in the worst case where the CEO of Goldman Sachs simply dictates the form of the document, I assume the most crazy and unworkable aspects of our system — the recognition of a weird form of quasi-sovereignty for the states and the anti-democratic Senate — would be eliminated just for the sake of simplicity. (I would note that as difficult as amending the Constitution is in any case, state sovereignty and the Senate are two aspects of the Constitution that are nearly impossible to effectively amend away because of clauses stipulating that no state can be involuntarily deprived of equal representation in the Senate. Hence any state that held out and didn’t ratify an amendment to introduce equal representation would still get as many senators as California — and I can’t even imagine the logical paradoxes that would arise with any amendment proposing to do away with the Senate altogether.)
At the same time, I’m reminded of what Bruce Rosenstock has told me on more than one occasion when this topic has come up: the saving grace of the American political system is that the founding document has the status of Scripture, and one should never throw that away. If you attempt a reboot, all bets are off. (I’m paraphrasing — if I’m misconstruing, hopefully he will show up in comments to more accurately portray his views.)
What do you think, dear readers?