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December 12, 2011

More on Perry's Amendments

I wrote yesterday that Governor Perry has proposed eight constitutional amendments so far. This is not unusual.

Even when you include the Equal Rights Amendment, conservatives have been much, much more likely than liberals to propose amendments to the Constitution for the past thirty or forty years. For example, some version of a human life amendment has been batted around for almost forty years. A flag desecration amendment has had attention off and on since Reagan's presidency. A federal marriage amendment has been on the GOP's radar since at least 2002, when the first one was formally introduced in the House. The Tea Party-inspired resurgence of a balanced budget amendment is only the latest revision to get widespread attention.

Also, we are presently in the middle of the third-longest period between constitutional amendments in the history of the country. The last amendment to be ratified, the Twenty-Seventh, was ratified by the states in 1992. But, in fact, modern amendments are even more remote than that seems. The Twenty-Seventh Amendment was submitted to the states for ratification in 1789. It just took 203 years to get it done. The most recent amendment that was actually proposed and ratified shortly thereafter was the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which gave 18 year-olds the right to vote in 1971.

So there is quite a bit of built-up interest in making some changes. Liberals like to cluck about conservatives, "constitutionalists," "originalists," or whatnot who want to amend the Constitution, as if the amendment process wasn't a part of the initial plan for our country. They're also conveniently ignorant, apparently, of the Eleventh and Twelfth Amendments, which were proposed and ratified within the lifetimes of the Founders and with their participation.

Many of Perry's amendments aren't outside the mainstream at all. The balanced budget amendment, the human life amendment, the federal marriage amendment, repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, and repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment are all long-standing conservative goals. Perry's remaining ideas---abolishing lifetime tenure for federal judges, giving Congress a veto over Supreme Court decisions, and allowing organized prayer back into public schools---are a bit out-of-the-ordinary, but not so much that they should be dismissed without considering the problems that have impelled Perry to propose them.

While we're thinking about constitutional amendments, how about a second look at a Federalism Amendment?

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:33 AM

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