As much as some people like to tout themselves as equal parts scholars and defenders of the Constitution of the United States, few would deny that there are elements of the Constitution they would gladly change if the opportunity presented itself. When we look at the political discourse of modern times, one might wonder if it's only a matter of time -- perhaps
even within the next two generations -- before the Constitution of the United States is completely overhauled from the ground up, replaced by a new document that more adequately represents the times we're witnessing today. What might this new document, "Constitution 2.0," contain? Assuming all sides of the political theater could come together and compromise for the best interests of the American people, and assuming the new Constitution would respect a populist message while also assuring minority opinion wasn't overturned, what sort of language might this new Constitution tout?
The Constitution was penned in a drastically different era; the United States has changed in just about every sense conceivable in the 228 years since the end of the American Revolutionary War. The population of the United States was a little over 5 million people in 1800. In 2011, It's nearly 309 million, meaning the population has multiplied nearly 62 times since the days of our Founding Fathers. The cobblestone walkways and mucky thoroughfares of yesteryear have been almost entirely replaced by paved roads and well-set sidewalks. Relying entirely on horses and other animals for transportation, agriculture, and other uses has become a mere novelty in the modern age, with machines capable of doing anything an animal can do with greater efficiency and less risk. The printing press has evolved in unfathomable ways, and even that is becoming archaic in this, the modern information age, where newspapers are becoming obsolete thanks to websites like the one you're visiting right now. And all of this says nothing of the radical shifts in the social climate since those times, particularly in the past century.
Few people know this, but the Constitution wasn't actually the first document we observed in the United States. The Articles of Confederation (and Perpetual Union) came decades earlier, and was recognized by our government until the Constitution took root. Nationalists deemed the document as insufficient in granting Congress enough power to properly act. Contrary to the "smaller is better" rhetoric we hear from modern Conservatives in today's politics, the government then was deemed too small and powerless in those days to cope with the various issues of the day. The Constitution was developed in an effort to broaden the power and scope of the Federal government, as Congress deemed it necessary.
If we were to replace the Constitution with a modernized document that more adequately represents the age we're living in today, how might that new document differ from the original? That all depends on the people writing it... well, typing it, anyway. The new document would undoubtedly need to be written with both liberal and conservative viewpoints observed equally, and anyone unwilling to stay true to that principal would need to be asked to leave the room, because partisan hacks have no place deciding the future of the United States. To put this another way, the new Constitution couldn't be written until the very dynamics of debate in Washington changed considerably.
When we discuss the Constitution being changed, most of us really mean the Bill of Rights being changed. Some conservatives believe the Separation of Church and State should be stripped from the first amendment (if they're even willing to recognize it at all). Meanwhile, some liberals (myself included, if I'm honest) believe the second amendment's language regarding the right to bear arms needs a dramatic overhaul to represent proper regulation. These issues would need to be addressed, amidst others, using the most rational language and moderate views imaginable.
Not everyone would be happy, however. I, for one, would expect the new Constitution to contain Roosevelt's Second Bill of Rights, protecting the American people from corporate interests and ensuring a living wage, adequate health care, and other such elements that many believe should be rights, not privileges. To expand on that idea, it should put forth efforts to ensure social equality for all races, genders, sexual orientations, and other groups, with no religious dogma sullying the freedoms of the American people, and protecting everyone at the Federal level, so that States cannot run roughshod over any group. I would want the new Constitution to strictly incorporate lobbying reform, campaign reform, and government oversight. Obviously, if I were to single-handedly write the new Constitution, some people would love the changes, while others would despise them. That's a two-way street, and
the new Constitution would need to acknowledge that.
Do you think the Constitution could use a modern overhaul? If not, why do you believe the Constitution is timeless, and why do you believe it adequately works in modern times? If you'd like to see it replaced, what changes might you desire the Constitution to undertake? What would this new Constitution look like? Please feel free to weigh in!