Just like everyone else. Amending The Constitution is really, really hard, therefore talking about Amending The Constitution is really, really easy. That’s why so many people talk about it all the time.
Candidates for political office, especially for the presidency, face two main imperatives: convincingly express their political ideas, and do it with the proper level of I-mean-it. Amending The Constitution is particularly handy for this. This is what I believe and I believe it so strongly that I’m going to initiate the long, arduous and uncertain process to alter the very document that our nation was founded on!
The best part is, Amending The Constitution is so arduous and uncertain that nobody will ever blame you for failing to do so. No follow through expected. That’s not a criticism of Perry or anyone else (hey, I want to amend the thing too), it’s just a fact.
Still, when I hear somebody talking about Amending The Constitution, I always gotta figure whether I agree or not. I have several criteria, but one is way more important than the others: will it increase the power of the federal government, or decrease it? I consider these possibilities as hate it, and don’t hate it, in that order. And any proposal to Amend The Constitution has to clear this hurdle, or the Official Mister Pterodactyl Stamp of Approval ™ will not be forthcoming.
Here are seven changes that Perry has suggested he’s on board with, in his book or in various public appearances. Let’s see:
1. Abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution.
Neutral. The function of the courts doesn’t depend on the method by which their members are replaced. And I kind of like the second method mentioned – “have judges roll off every two years based on seniority.” Every president would get to nominate the exact same number of SCOTUS members (per term), and it would be easy to keep track of how many nominations for lower courts were being gamed by Congress.
2. Congress should have the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a two-thirds vote.
Increase. And an enormously stupid idea. The Court’s role is to be a check on the power of Congress, not a check on the power of Congress except when Congress really, really means it.
Note for later: I’ve often heard people complain about an unaccountable judiciary. What’s the difference between ‘unaccountable’ and ‘independent’?
3. Scrap the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.
Decrease. It would mean a lot of new scheming to raise revenues in other ways – fees, capital gains tax, value-added tax, et cetera – and probably create pressure for tax increases at the state level as well. “He became so powerful, the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power, which eventually, of course, he did.” This would expose the small-government fakers.
4. End the direct election of senators by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment.
Neutral. If you’re a little light on the issue, here’s the Wikipedia page. Going back to the original method might not produce a better Senate, but it wouldn’t produce a worse one, and might have the additional effect of lessening the influence of political parties and lobbyists. Explaining how I got that idea would take a much longer post than this.
5. Require the federal government to balance its budget every year.
Neutral. But tricky.
6. The federal Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman in all 50 states.
Increase. And probably an example of campaign-mode politicking on Perry’s part. While courting the Tea Party he said nice things about the Tenth Amendment; while speaking to the Christian Broadcasting Network, he didn’t. So which is it? I hope the former. We’ll see.
7. Abortion should be made illegal throughout the country.
Increase. See #6.
That’s three increases (two outright statist, one appeal to populism), three neutrals that depend largely on manner of implementation, and only one decrease. All nothing more than political posturing, no doubt. Disappointing, otherwise.
Amending The Constitution is still way harder than talking about Amending The Constitution. I hope they talk about Amending The Constitution a lot in the pretend debates.
I don’t have an ending for this post, and I know it.