Constitutional Amendments that Would Strengthen our Nation

  Scott Slayton | Contributor | Monday, September 12, 2022
Constitutional Amendments that Would Strengthen our Nation

Amending the Constitution is supposed to be hard. Changing our governing documents requires a broad consensus. This ensures that while there are disagreements on fundamental issues, everyone agrees on the rules of the game.

Repeal the 17th Amendment

In the days before the 17th amendment, state legislators chose United States Senators. Many people rebelled against the idea because it created the impression that Senators were chosen by politicians rather than the people. The 17th amendment, which my favorite President, Theodore Roosevelt, campaigned for, put the election of Senators directly in the hands of the people.

The founders envisioned the Senate as an austere body of serious debate that was unshaken by the passion of the masses. It was to be fundamentally different from the raucous House of Representatives, which faced reelection every two years. Since the passage of the 17th amendment, the passions and whims of the electorate have given us many unserious people serving as United States Senators.

Handing the power to choose Senators doesn’t completely take power away from voters. We elect the state legislators who choose the Senators. However, it does put the choice directly in the hands of people who understand the seriousness of government and who are able to screen out the kinds of unserious candidates that our polarized republic is producing. Furthermore, it has the added benefit of making citizens take their state legislative elections more seriously.

Institute a Maximum Age for Elective Office

The Baby Boomers, a generation who were born in the 18-year span between 1946-1964, served seven terms as President. The nearly three decades of Baby Boomer Presidents were followed by a President born in 1942. We live in a gerontocracy, a society ruled by the elderly. The President is 79, the Speaker of the House is 82, the Senate Majority leader is 71, and the Senate minority leader is 80.

Sometimes a generation gains power and refuses to give it over to the next. They nurse grudges developed over four decades of power and refuse to think past the next election since they don’t have to live with the long-term consequences of their actions.

There is a minimum age of 25 for serving in the House of Representatives, 30 for the Senate, and 35 for the President. Since the minimum age exists, what would be the harm in enforcing a maximum age? My recommendation would be to put an across-the-board cap at the age of 70. You can serve after beginning your eighth decade, but you cannot be elected anymore after your 70th birthday. This would force one generation to pass power to the next and ensure that the people making the laws have to live with the consequences of their legislation.

Increase the House of Representatives with Each Census

Until 1913, the size of the House of Representatives changed with each census. The 1929 House Reapportionment Act capped the size at 435 representatives. The 1930 census counted 120 million Americans, but since then, the size of the country has ballooned to more than 330 million. This means that each Congressman represents over 700,000 people. This makes the House less responsive to the needs of the people and less representative of the people.

The House of Representatives has to expand. There are several ways this could be done. One idea that has been put forward is “The Wyoming Rule.” Under this plan, the House of Representatives would grow, so the representative-to-population ratio is never larger than the population of the least populated state. In the 2020 census, Wyoming reported 576,850 people. Under this rule, the number of representatives would rise until the ratio came down to approximately one representative for every 576,000 people.

A larger House of Representatives means better representation for the people. This would also lead to more votes in the electoral college for large states, which mitigates some of the calls for a National Popular Vote.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Artisteer

Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”