I suppose my grandmother was right; it is a pretty peculiar question.
While speaking with her last week, we happened to stumble across the subject of politics, and during the course of lamenting Bill White’s lackluster, well ... everything, we reached the subject of the Constitution. Not fully considering the breadth of the question myself, I asked my grandmother, if she could, what amendment she would add to the Constitution.
Her first response was a resounding, “I don’t know. I’ve never thought about that before.” And this piqued my interest.
Exactly 223 years ago today, the Constitution was signed by a group of rebellious and insightful politicians. Since that day, the document has been amended, studied and, perhaps most notably, fought over.
In the interest of the ongoing fight for our rights to party and otherwise thrive, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to spend the week leading up to Constitution Day asking people I encounter what constitutional amendment they would add if given the opportunity.
My cashier at Littlefield Patio Cafe gave the question some thought before politely hinting at the fact that I was holding up the hungry line.
Kevin, the man who came to my house to install the Internet, had no constitutional proposals to offer me either, but he did note that there was a minor infestation in our basement. Perhaps the Constitution could provide us with some Raid.
In fact, the vast majority of individuals I asked were unable to give me a concrete answer. I think this is likely due both to being caught off-guard and, to a larger extent, the tremendous scope of the rights that our constitution already grants.
But a few people were able to offer some suggestions.
Aaron Walther, a philosophy senior and, most notably, the Texas Travesty’s candidate for student body president last spring, surprisingly did not propose adding more grease to the machine, although our continuing economic futility perhaps indicates we could use it.
Rather, Walther proposed that we eliminate the electoral college — legislated by the 12th Amendment — and have the president and vice president elected via popular vote.
Interestingly, conservative pundits such as George Will have recently called for the elimination of the 17th Amendment to achieve the exact opposite means. The 17th Amendment allows citizens to elect their state’s U.S. senators, as opposed to the previous practice where state legislatures elected their state’s U.S. senators. One argument behind eliminating the amendment is that it would prevent corrupt governors (ahem, Rod Blagojevich) from appointing a new senator for a nominal fee in the event that a standing senator leaves office. Of course, if the 17th Amendment were repealed, by the next day voting districts would be so gerrymandered that state maps would look like a game of Risk.
One friend proposed a constitutional right to privacy, something that may be addressed by the courts and Congress given the amount of information available today at the click of a button.
Another friend proposed for there to be an amendment with an inclusive definition of marriage, as a heterosexual and/or homosexual human couple. He also included polygamy in the mix, although he admitted that dividing up one’s estate for such an arrangement would be a legal headache.
My personal favorite recommendation was for legislation that would provide government-mandated free cookies, because if there’s one thing this country is lacking, it’s cholesterol and early-onset diabetes.
To my disappointment, however, not a single person I asked proposed a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana. Come on, Austin, we have a reputation to maintain.
Perhaps an ambitious politician could group the cookie amendment with one that legalizes pot, essentially killing two birds with one stone. I’m looking at you, Ralph Nader.
But alas, after being presented with several thoughtful and entertaining recommendations, I found myself going back to the response my grandmother gave to me as we got off the phone: “Thinking of new amendments is interesting, but the most important thing is that we practice and fully acknowledge the constitution we have today.”
<em>Treadway is a political communications senior.<em/>