Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Think about the Constitution through the lens of the future

One of the few things that current-day conservatives and progressives might agree on is that our nation’s constitution is broken. Instead of being able to point to constitutional mandates, we scramble over the shards of a deeply divided political discourse and attempt to find our way on important issues like abortion, the place of the electoral college, rights for women, the intention of the second amendment, gerrymandering, climate issues, taxation, budget deficits, and much more by resorting to executive actions, patchwork legislation, and judicial review. And all the while, the constitution becomes more brittle and moth-ridden.
Of course, it is possible to revitalize the constitution by amending it, but it’s hard to imagine getting past today’s hyper-polarization to agree on anything that could be approved by two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, and three-quarters of the states. One doubts that the sky would still be blue after running that gantlet.
Is it then even conceivable that the United States of America might overcome the present-day political climate and fashion an amended constitution we’d want our grandchildren to be proud of, live under, and wish to defend?
For the sake of argument, imagine a “Constitutional Convention for the Twenty-First Century,” peopled by well-intentioned representatives from a truly balanced range of constituencies, charged with reviewing the current constitution from top to bottom. The convention’s job would be to propose constitutional amendments that further the mission laid out by the Preamble: “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
Since today’s imperfect union would doom any such convention concerned only with today’s pressing issues, charge the convention with primary consideration for tomorrow’s more perfect union. Force it to think only of the nation’s future, of a hypothetical time beyond today’s political divisions. Mandate, perhaps, that any new amendment recommended by the convention would only take effect thirty, forty, or fifty years after ratification, or at some point beyond the partisan horizon. Would that not make it easier for the citizens of this nation to focus better on our posterity’s right to the noble dictates of the Preamble, a goal that surely we can all agree upon?
As a nation, we seem to have forgotten the constitution’s essential charge to provide for our grandchildren. The future is a integral part of today’s job. Let’s be about it.
Dale Cockrell
Lincoln

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