Second American Revolution: Part One-Chapter 1 ~ The Historical Problem w/ our Constitution & its Consequences:

by faithgibson on December 5, 2017

Crowd-sourcing our Democracy:
A historic flaw in our US Constitutional
and its Contemporary Consequences:

Linked Index to all “Second Revolution” posts and stand-alone essays in this series

https://tinyurl.com/y7zb8xpz

Part One ~ Chapter 1 

In elementary school, we were all taught that our American democracy was the very best government in the world AND that it’s foundation rested squarely on the American people themselves.

Adults that we admired – relatives, religious leaders, teachers and college professors — repeatedly told us that we were so lucky to be living in the United States, where ordinary adult citizens were the beating heart of the democratic process – no kings, no dictators, no tyrants, no anarchy, no catastrophically failed-state for us as Americans!

The bedrock of our democracy is free and fair elections for federal office. This provides a trusted and dependable mechanism for ordinary people — that is, We, The People — to choose smart and responsible leaders to vouch-safe our national government.

As children, we listened to the adults around us as they talked about the important role that national elections played. Despite the time and trouble that often involved, they put those ideals into action by going to the polls and casting their ballot. As adult citizens, the vast majority of us have faithfully followed suit.

Collectively we strive to make the best possible choices – candidates that verbally committed to defend the country as a whole and fairly represent, guide and protect the interests of all the people in their district, regardless of party affiliation.

E PLURIBUS UNUM

Once elected, federal officials are required to take an oath of fidelity to our Constitution by swearing to protect and preserve our national unity and guard our country against threats both foreign and domestic: E Pluribus Unum. After being officially sworn into office, our elected leaders are constitutionally required to represent the interests of America and Americans as a whole.

And regardless of which political party actually wins, we grant these elected officials full authority to govern all of us, even if we couldn’t or didn’t vote, or voted for the opposing party. This also applies to presidents, who are both Commander and Chief of our military and the supreme leader of all Americans, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or political persuasion.

And no matter which party or candidates win, we have collectively agreed to abide by the legal outcome of all elections and leave any electoral dispute to the Courts and Legislatures.

This is ‘the American Way’.

For two-plus centuries, ordinary Americans have faithfully honored our tradition of self-governance in all the ways personally required of us. We vote, pay our taxes, serve in the military, send our loved ones to fight in foreign wars, and contribute to political campaigns.

But that is not the end of the story for us when it comes to our personal lived experience of our democracy and the hollowed-out relationship we have with the central power of our federal government in Washington, DC.

Unlike what happens in Las Vegas, what happens in Washington – decisions by elected and appointed officials – do NOT stay in the District of Columbia. Federal policies and laws all have consequences that travel out across the country to affect every citizen and every resident, young or old, black or white, Republican or Democrat, whether we individually supported or agreed with these policy decisions or new laws.

My daughter Shawn and her husband Jeff ^O^

Sharp differences btw our democratic ideals and our lived experience of democracy

As adults, we have always depended on our democratic system to work as it was described in our history books and civics classes, and yet our personal experience is so often an unpleasant surprise. As ordinary citizens, we discover that as soon as each federal election is over, we don’t actually have any additional avenue of direct influence over the workings of the very government or any opportunity to participate in shaping national policies.

In an ironic way, having no real influence over what happens in Washington is very democratic, as it applies equally to all ordinary Americans, irrespective of our age, gender, ethnicity, income level, whether we live in urban or rural areas, own a gun or not, are religious or not, conservative or liberal.

Once we have cast our votes, virtually all ordinary Americans – i.e. the NOT rich or famous — experience ourselves as being put out to pasture. Once we have voted, Washington has no further use for us until the next elections roll around and so we become officially irrelevant to the democratic process.

@@@ Misdirected angst makes the situation much worse as we direct our anger at each other

As contemporary Americans, we don’t realize that our collective frustration and angst originated in a nerdy 200-year old constitutional problem that no living person knew about. As a result, we’ve collectively fallen into the regrettable habit of blaming the “other”. Each side of the political divide genuinely believes the country’s problems are the fault of “those” (other) people, i.e., anyone who belongs to a different race, religion, ethnicity, economic status, sexual identity, political party, etc., is seen as ‘evil incarnate’.

The other obvious target for blame are people associated with hot-button issues such as emigration, evolution, uppity women, anyone on the other side of controversies such as women’s reproductive rights, climate change, fossil fuels, 2nd amendment issues, our criminal justice and prison system, etc. This is a long list because some political operatives purposefully create controversies to sew discord and division between people who would not otherwise have seen themselves as political enemies.

This situation is also described by psychologists as “Lets you and them fight”. In these cases, a third person or group provokes an argument btw two other people or groups and then stands back and cheers both sides on in an increasingly bitter battle. The use of diversion as a strategy is also purposefully employed by pickpockets and con men.  

Misdirected angst makes it seem normal for men to blame women and women to blame men. This free-floating anger also become fodder for inter-generational conflict, as Baby Boomers to find fault with Gen Xers, who pass it on to Generation Y, who either blame the younger Milleniums or turns their criticism back on to Baby Boomers

Hard-right and even moderate Republicans continue to be absolutely sure that Democrats are responsible for all our country’s problems, while Democrats are equally convinced that all fault lies with Republican conservatives.  This misdirected anger only makes a bad situation worse. Rep. Marco Rubio summed up this difficult problem up when he remarked that:

“It’s impossible to govern a country where half the people hate the other half.”

Brown vs. Montgomery School Board ~ the start of a post-apocalyptic America

No one disputes the political divisiveness that began with the Brown vs. Kansas School Board decision in 1954 or that in more recent years has moved on the equally problematic idea that our virgin continent (“sea to shining sea”) is not endless. In recent decades, more and more American have begun to think in terms of ‘running out of space’ — affordable and habitable land. For Americans, it’s not space but job opportunities, as ‘outsources’ exports more and more jobs to low-wage countries or these jobs are taken by over by “foreigners” who emigrated to the US.

In addition, many Americans are also afraid that our historic status as a majority white, English-speaking country will actually become the ‘melting pot’ that we have always described ourselves to be.

@@@ Emigration was the original the bedrock of the American colonies; new arrivals were called “settlers” (instead of ‘immigrants’) and this steady stream of newcomers was indispensable to populating the frontier, settling farms, peopling our cities and providing workers for industry and commerce. As a result, emigration was seen as a precious commodity, but now the topic of newcomers is as divisive as race and slavery were two centuries ago.

But despite the deepening political divide of the last 70 years, the vast majority of ordinary American citizens, liberal and conservative alike, continue to experience our supposedly ‘democratic’ system as, for mysterious and inexplicable reasons, leaving us out of the picture. This seems crazy.

But the even more maddening aspect of this conundrum is that we secretly think that it must be we who are crazy, since the entire public discourse insists that ordinary Americans are both the backbone and beating heart of our democratic process.Sadly, we and our loved ones don’t share that experience, or as the McDonald’s commercial doesn’t say “we aren’t feeling the love”.

Like a big blue elephant in the middle of the room, absolutely no one is talking about this big and important issue. The talking heads on our cable news channels just echo the talking points for the political party they favor. But no one on the national stage actually has any answers other than to do more of the same (i.e. party in power) or to do the opposite of whatever is being done now (i.e. the party out of power). Neither national party is giving us viable answers, just more re-cycled rhetoric and non-stop fund-raising as if more and more money would automatically provide more and better political wisdom.

Yes, we as citizens are entitled to vote, serve on federal juries, join the US military, and send our loved ones off to fight and die in foreign wars. Yes, we can donate time and money to political campaigns and attend Town Hall meetings held by our elected representatives.

Our constitutional right of free assembly allows us to volunteer with political campaigns and groups working on issues of social justice, so we can tutor kids in an after-school program, teach ESL, volunteer at a local hospital, join Toastmasters, Daughter of the American Revolution, or a private gun club.  We also can join a citizen group trying to influence public opinion on hot-button issues such as immigration, evolution, crime, climate change, gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights, gun safety, voting rights, etc.

Our right of free speech authorizes us to call our elected officials and send them letters and emails. Our right of free association means we can visit their offices in person, and if that doesn’t achieve our stated goals, we can lay down on the office floor and refuse to leave. We can even get arrested as a constitutionally-sanctioned act of civil disobedience in order to demonstrate how incredibly important the issue is to us.

Our constitutional right of assembly also means we can join a political demonstration outside on sidewalks, streets, and parks, as we mill about carrying placards and bullhorns. We can get a couple dozens of like-minded individuals (or even a couple thousand) to march down miles of city streets as we express our mounting and urgent dissatisfaction with “politics as usual”.

We can even organize a massive event like veterans of the first World War’s famous “Hooverville” in 1928, the millions of Americans who demonstrated in the 1960s and 70s against the war in Vietnam (only later to be proven right!), the Occupy Wall Street encampment in 2011, or the Women’s March down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC January 21, 2017.

We do this because we’ve been firmly (but incorrectly) convinced that political ‘activism’ is an effective tool — the big ‘gun’ of citizen participation in our democracy. But history very clearly tells us that all these efforts — the non-violent equivalent of “blood, sweat, and tears” (as well as treasure) — changes nothing unless the ‘Powers That Be‘ decide for themselves that it is in their interest to do so.

Desperate Measures  

Once American citizens have exhausted the list of constitutionally-approved freedoms and utilized the ultimate act of political expression — civil disobedience in which they often have to dress up in face paint and bizarre costumes and humiliate themselves to get the attention of the press  — there are only two choices left, neither of which are appealing and only one of which is lawful:

Unfortunately, the only constitutional option is to give up, give in and surrender to obvious defeat, while hoping that somehow, someday things will magically improve on their own.

Having exhausted the entire spectrum of lawful options, our only other option is unthinkable — insurrection — i.e. acts that legally constitute treason.  This is more than merely unacceptable.

For patriotic Americans living in a world-class democracy, this is an intolerable problem that must be acknowledged, boldly addressed and ultimately fixed. Begining with the Revolutionary War, Americans have fought time and again to have a representative government that always included the consent of the governed and where every man, woman, and child counted equally, and every citizen was to have an equally effective voice.

For that system to be judged as functional, we must be able to have a voice in the federal system without being required to dress up in outrageous costumes and act like idiots in order to get a simple and sincere message across to our elected and appointed officials in Washington and have them respond in a thoughtful and timely fashion. 

Constitutionally-sanctioned Citizen Participation:

By themselves, the constitutional freedoms noted above are all core values of our “free country”. Like Americans everywhere, I assumed these freedoms equated to a substantial role for its citizens, and the exercise of these freedoms would exert substantial, appropriate and on-going influence over the daily workings of the federal government.

This is part of why democracy is so enticing and exciting — the idea that “we are all in it together”.  Aren’t Americans and their elected and appointed officials all working together for common goals and the common good?

In relation to the federal government, these enumerated freedoms are described by historians and constitutional scholars as a mechanism that provides equal but dispersed power to the people to counter-balance the otherwise ‘unchecked’ and overwhelming power of government entities. As history has proven again and again: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Without the equalizing force of We, The People, unopposed power becomes increasingly concentrated; soon it is autocratic, eventually dictatorial and inevitably, abusive of its citizens. 

But on closer inspection, it’s clear that the exercise of these constitutionally-enumerated ‘freedoms’ have little or no direct impact on the actions of the central government in the nation’s capital. After all exercise of free speech, freedom of assembly and association and acts of civil disobedience have concluded, the crowds have dispersed, and the trash is picked up by city workers, you can’t tell we were ever there!

As citizens, our activism is very much like sticking one’s arm into a bucket of water – when you take your arm back out, the water instantly closes over the space and there’s no trace that you were ever there. Washington, DC merely tolerates these ‘outbursts’ like an exasperated parent tolerates the tantrums of small children. In this case, the power structure of the federal government just goes back to its ‘business as usual’ as if nothing had happened.

The constitutionally-defined role for US citizens

As Americans, we can:

  • Pay federal income taxes to fund the central government in Washington, DC
  • Serve on federal juries
  • Join the military and/or send our loved ones off to fight in foreign wars
  • Contribute money to national election campaigns
  • Vote for candidates running for federal office IF we are so moved and IF voter suppression efforts did not lock us out of our franchise — the right US citizens to vote in federal elections

Constitutional Silence ~ What it doesn’t say is the missing piece

What’s missing from the list above is a mechanism or activity that would provide a role for citizens to directly and consistently influence the federal government as it functions on a daily basis under the control of elected and appointed officials.

This problem is not “constitutional” in the sense of what the US Constitution says, but rather what it does NOT say; it says nothing that identifies an on-going role for Americans beyond voting every 2, 4, or 6 years.

As a result, Americans can NOT:

  • Recall a seated member of Congress for “conduct unbecoming”, no matter how outrageous the acts or omissions, even though we were the very people that elected them in the first place. 
  • Initiate impeachment of the President or a Supreme Court justice for corrupt or incompetent behavior or unconstitutional acts. 
  • Directly elect the president, since our Constitution put the final decision in the hands of the Electoral College (over which we also have no control or even consent), as demonstrated recently in the 2000 and 2016 elections.

Something really is wrong!

Reading these comments, you may realize that the frustration so many of us are feeling is not because we are irrational malcontents: Something really is happening that goes against the grain for us as ordinary citizens living in what is supposed to be the most democratic and influential country on the planet.

We are right when we think that something is seriously wrong with a democratic country where everything is so politically out of control. As noted by Rep. Marco Rubio, “half of the American population hates the other half”. And yet both of those ‘halves’ share the same frustration and anxiety because we all feel impotent and irrelevant when it comes to the workings of the central government in our nation’s capital. The seat of our federal government might as well be on another planet. 

Since we don’t realize that the actual source of these problems is a constitutional fluke, we blame our dissatisfaction with the dysfunctional nature of the federal government on the other side of the political divide. Instead of the mutual cooperation and Yankee ‘can do’ enthusiasm that we used to think was our American heritage, the dominant feature of democracy has become hostility and division. If we allow this to continue unchecked, it could become our undoing. 

Legislating “under the influence” of the Political Donor Class:

In order to have a federal government that is functional, we need a number of ‘corrective’ laws that so far are conspicuously absentWithout consistent citizen participation to hold the line and off-set the persistent influence of the donor class (corporate lobbyists for the rich and famous), many of the laws passed by the US Congress fail the ‘common sense’ test by benefitting everyone BUT ordinary citizens. 

A prime example of a federal law that we need but don’t have, is one requiring members of Congress to actually read (from beginning to end) all pending legislation before being eligible to vote on the bill. We can see how important this is by imagining for a moment that our U.S. Supreme Court Justices we allowed to legally rule on cases they hadn’t read.

Another badly needed new law would prevent legislators from secretly making changes, additions or deletions to a bill in the middle of the night before a floor vote scheduled for the next morning.

And what about big corporations and the uber-wealthy who keep their billions in profits in ‘off-shore’ tax shelters in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and other legally untouchable places? Were ordinary Americans to deposit paychecks or cash in the Cayman Islands, the IRS would be the first to tell us we owed income tax on 100% of the money.

So why does the US Congress have entirely different rules for the uber-wealthy?

In the wake of 9-11, the US Congress enthusiastically, successfully and with bi-partisan support passed laws that made it impossible for terrorist groups to legally raise, launder or disperse money in the US. Why aren’t these same ‘extraordinary’ measures, and the steely resolve that motivated it, applied to corporations and the uber-rich to stop them from taking the profits they made doing business with the American people and salting this wealth (which came from us!) in untouchable off-shore tax shelters

Other urgent issues:

  • Militarization of local police
  • Reform of the criminal justice system
  • Immigration reform
  • Fix the student loan debacle
  • Rethinking “Citizens United” decision
  • Effective aid to Puerto Rico
  • Ending the political gerrymandering of election districts
  • Passing a new Voting Rights Act to replace the original, now gutted 1964 VRA
  • Improved gun safety 
  • Affordable Healthcare
  • Addressing Opioid Crisis
  • Infrastructure maintenance, repair, upgrades and modernization
  • Services and retraining for displaced workers, especially in areas suffering from the twin tragedies of high, often inter-generational unemployment combined with high level of addiction and deaths from opioid use (particularly the “Rust Belt” and inner cities, whose life-threatening problems have long been substantially ignored by both Republican and Democratic parties

Why fixing this problem is so important at this particular time in our history

Clash of the TITANS: USA & the Russian Republic

In addition to irreconcilable divisions over race, religion, gender, economics, ethnic identities, immigration, women’s reproductive rights, etc, our country is also facing the aggressive and disruptive intrusions of foreign governments – particularly the interference by Putin’s oligarchic Russian regime via an aggressive cyber warfare that threatens all of our democratic institutions.

When this is combined with the dysfunctional nature of the central government in Washington, DC — US Congress, executive branch and incremental stacking the federal judicial system and Supreme Court with activist justices who are appointed for life — we can easily see that our way of life and even the foundations of our modern civilization is in extreme danger.

We need to know exactly how and why our democratic institutions have become so insulated from the American population that our personal experience is disturbing similar to living in colonial America under the rule of King George in the 1700s.

While American citizens living on the North American continent have the right vote in federal elections, we have no more political power than the Puerto Ricans. When faced with to local or state problems greater than we as individuals and NGOs can effectively deal with, we also must come to Washington, hat-in-hand, fight to even get into the office of government officials to petition, and at times beg, the federal government to do its job. If we fail, there is no lawful recourse.

Surely this is not “the American way”. 

Who’s to blame? Answer: no one, but the problem still has to be fixed by us!

This is not the fault of any political party or any currently elected or appointed federal official. As Americans, we all equally inherited a system created more than two centuries ago by our Founding Fathers, one that was purposefully designed to ‘protect’ the federal government from the domestic threat of ‘factions’ and mob rule, as well as the meddling of its own citizens, who they thought could not be trusted to make important decisions affecting our democracy.

What is true is that no one is to ‘blame’ except for ourselves, and only if we fail to become informed about these problems, or being informed, we refuse to use that new understanding to become an agent of political change.

What is needed is principled action designed to bring us back together and help heal the divisions between us.

Only then can we make American democracy what it ever should have been – a robust and sustainable form of government that can encompass the entire political spectrum, as well as universally respecting human rights as an honorable and “Shining City” that sets a good example by ‘walking its talk’.

Having a moral compass that points to true north means we can never unilaterally give away someone else’s human rights. Other people can never be thought of, or used, as merely the means to our own ambitions. In the context of our democracy, this is both uncivilized and ultimately politically unsuccessfully.

Making Our Founding Fathers Proud: Harmonizing politics and ethical responsibilities 

At least as envisioned by me, human rights for Americans includes the issue of civil rights, voting rights, climate change, pollution, energy efficiency, walkable cities, universal access to affordable healthcare (including unfettered access to women’s reproductive services) and the right to our personal sexual identity.

American Flag ~ strips made from US currency and the stars represented by coins

It also includes a more fair and efficient federal government, which means promoting (instead of suppressing) federal voting rights. Eventually, we must switch to a system of federal financing for national elections in order to reduce corruption and bring an end to ‘pay for play‘.

This would also open the electoral field up to ordinary people (not just the famous and uber-wealthy) who have a passion for public service.

In that regard, I believe the “Citizens United” decision by the Supreme Court is fatally flawed and must eventually be reversed.  It’s illogical and repugnant that the same constitutionally-protected right of free speech should be bestowed on corporations as if they were live human beings and that it should be considered ‘constitutional’ for them use profits that originated with us as their customers to influence our state and federal elections.

When we buy groceries, toothpaste, a computer, cell phone, new car or pay for internet services, the Citizens United decision allows the profits generated by those sales (i.e. our money) to be used by corporations to exert enormously disproportionate influence over our electoral system and the workings of the federal government. This has resulted in a ‘pay for play‘ system that, in essence, is making us vote by proxy against our own interests.

The biblical verse that forbids “cooking a kid (i.e. baby goat) in its mother’s milk” applies to this circumstance, since it is our own money that is being used against us and causing us harm in order to benefit the executives and shareholders of these corporations.



After getting over the shock of all this new information, I am convinced that, as thoughtful and informed Americans, we can wrap our mind around the historical flaw in our constitution and its harmful consequences. 
Then We, The People will be able to come together and do whatever is necessary to fix these problems. 

Taken together, this is the Second Revolution of the Mind that I spoke of in my opening remarks (Overview & Intro).

Tiny URL for this post –> https://tinyurl.com/y7zb8xpz

I hope you will continue with the 2nd chapter of Part One.

@@ Last edited 02-26-2018 @10:06 pm @@

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