Friday, September 21, 2012

Our Shrinking Constitution

In our post two days ago, "The Fall of American Democracy: Conservative Victory," commented on a " f(inding)...that the United States was in significant danger of failing to even be a democracy at all."

The report cited what Conservatives have imposed on the American people in an effort to win by criminal fraud what they can't win by facts and logical arguments.

Restrictions on voter registration
New laws making it tougher to conduct voter registration drives
Increased voter registration requirements
The purging of voter files
Disenfranchised due to felony convicti
Voter identification requirements that make it harder for minorities to vote
Decreased opportunities for early and absentee voting
How minorities face longer wait times than white voters
Stricter voter registration and identification requirements

In a complementary article by called "U.S. Constitution Losing Influence as Model for Other Nations," the article notes:

"Once the standard by which new governments modeled their own public contract with citizens, the U.S. Constitution is losing its appeals with other countries, particularly regarding human rights.

"Three decades ago, it was estimated that 160 nations had modeled their constitution after that of the United States.

Today, however, 'constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall,' according to a new academic study appearing in the New York University Law Review. 'Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s.

'The turn of the twenty-first century, however, saw the beginning of a steep plunge that continues through the most recent years for which we have data, to the point that the constitutions of the world’s democracies are, on average, less similar to the U.S. Constitution now than they were at the end of World War II.'”

"The authors of the study, David S. Law and Mila Versteeg, cite several reasons for the change, including:

· The U.S. Constitution “offers relatively few enumerated rights. While the catalog of rights found in other constitutions has steadily grown, the laconic U.S. Constitution has not added any rights at all over the last century.”
· “Among the relatively few rights that the U.S. Constitution does contain are provisions that happen to be rare at a global level. One is the Establishment Clause: today, only about one-third of the world’s constitutions provide expressly for a separation of church and state.99 Another is a right that is now so rare that it has become practically sui generis—namely, the right to bear arms. The only other constitutions in the world today that still feature such a right are those of Guatemala and Mexico.”
· “The U.S. Constitution is, instead, rooted in a libertarian constitutional tradition that is inherently antithetical to the notion of positive rights.” For example, whereas more than 90% of the world’s constitutions insure women’s rights, the issue is not addressed in the U.S. Constitution. Likewise, the vast majority of constitutions insure the right to social security, health care and food, these are not considered protected rights in the United States.
· The U.S. Constitution, the oldest still in force in the world, is extremely difficult to amend (only one amendment in the last forty years) is considered obsolete for newly emerging democracies.

In a complementary article at the by Adam Liptak, "‘We the People’ Loses Appeal With People Around the World," Liptak's take:

"Sure, it is the nation’s founding document and sacred text. And it is the oldest written national constitution still in force anywhere in the world. But its influence is waning.

"In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that 'of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.'

"A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. 'The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,' (according to the study)."

"The rights guaranteed by the American Constitution are parsimonious by international standards, and they are frozen in amber. As Sanford Levinson wrote in 2006 in “Our Undemocratic Constitution,” “the U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today.” (Yugoslavia used to hold that title, but Yugoslavia did not work out.)

Sheeplets Out of Step

"Americans recognize rights not widely protected, including ones to a speedy and public trial, and are outliers in prohibiting government establishment of religion. But the Constitution is out of step with the rest of the world in failing to protect, at least in so many words, a right to travel, the presumption of innocence and entitlement to food, education and health care.

"It has its idiosyncrasies. Only 2 percent of the world’s constitutions protect, as the Second Amendment does, a right to bear arms. (Its brothers in arms are Guatemala and Mexico.)

"The Constitution’s waning global stature is consistent with the diminished influence of the Supreme Court, which 'is losing the central role it once had among courts in modern democracies,' Aharon Barak, then the president of the Supreme Court of Israel, wrote in The Harvard Law Review in 2002.

"Many foreign judges say they have become less likely to cite decisions of the United States Supreme Court, in part because of what they consider its parochialism.

"'America is in danger, I think, of becoming something of a legal backwater,' Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia said in a 2001 interview. He said that he looked instead to India, South Africa and New Zealand.

"Mr. Barak, for his part, identified a new constitutional superpower: 'Canadian law,' he wrote, 'serves as a source of inspiration for many countries around the world.' The new study also suggests that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.

"The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against 'such reasonable limits' as 'can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.'”

Decades ago, Conservatives conspired to call a Constitution Convention, but when polls found that a super-majority of them believed that freedom of speech and other sections in the Bill of Rights, the clamor for the convention stalled.  But after criminalizing Conservatism a new Constitution Convention must be called.  Several of the Founding Fathers noted weaknesses in the Constitution, the lifetime terms for the Supreme Court judges with no specifics for impeachment for one; clauses discouraging the ability of individuals to amass extreme amounts of wealth; elimination of the so-called "right to bear arms;" specific language mandating the separation of church and state; and a section promoting "virtue" in our government - "virtue" defined as the preference of "good" over greed, of protection of all of our citizens over laissez faire capitalism.

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader."

Margaret Fuller.  American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate
associated with the American transcendentalism movement and the first
full-time American female book reviewer in journalism.  Her book, Woman
In The Nineteenth Century, is considered the first major feminist work
in the United States.  (1810-1850)