February 2, 2011

Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 27 and Last!

Hatched by Dafydd

There are but two amendments left. Neither is long enough to be an entire post; still, I struggled to concoct a rationale for lumping them together.

I thought at first that I could call them the "contemporary" amendments; but I realized I based that appellation solely on the fact that these are the only two whose passage I personally marked, the only two ratified during my conscious political life. That seemed a bit too narcissistic, even for a fellow with an ego the side of a planet (and not just any planet; I refer to the Jupiterian gas giants).

I agonized for days, hunting for a justification that would pass muster. Well, hours. All right, all right, you've got the thumbscrews on me: I had agonized for two or three minutes when something occurred to me, plausible enough to finish out this monumental project (the longest series of connected posts ever to appear on this blog, whoopee).

The 26th Amendment extended the franchise to 18, 19, and 20 year olds; while the 27th provided that if congressmen raised their own salaries, at least one election must intervene before they could collect it. Each amendment was touted as a quick'n'easy cure-all for huge, complex, and deadly serious problems (youth protests and congressional corruption); so I have dubbed these last two the panacea amendments...


The Panacea Amendments

Amendment 26 - Voting Age Set to 18 Years. Ratified 7/1/1971.

1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment 27 - Limiting Changes to Congressional Pay. Ratified 5/7/1992.

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

The 26th Amendment was enacted and ratified against the backdrop of those halcyon days of the Vietnam War, protests, hippies, Yippies, acid rock, psychedelic drugs, biker thugs, and CIA bugs. Timothy Leary had just run for governor of California, with huge support by teenagers and 20-somethings, against Democrat Jesse Unruh and Republican Ronald Reagan (Reagan won). A small fraction of the youth population hallucinated that we were on the verge of a mind revolution to end all revolutions -- and all traditions and "the Establishment" itself.

(In one freakshow I recollect, protesters surrounded the Pentagon and attempted to (a) levitate the entire building using Transcendental Meditation, and (b) exorcise the demon they imagined was imprisoned within that "pentagram." Heavy, man!)

It was the "tune in, turn on, drop out" generation: Tune in to what's really happening, turn on to the joy around you, and drop out of your destructive terrestrial brain circuits, is how Leary described it. The watchword was "never trust anybody over thirty," passionately believed by all those loyal sychophants who had supported the 50 year old Leary for governor in 1970.

The ostensible reason for expanding the franchise was glib and smug: If a man is old enough to be drafted to fight in a war (proponents argued), he's old enough to vote, dadburn it!

But while superficially persuasive, the argument actually breaks down, logic-wise:

  • Americans had been drafted into wars for decades without having the franchise. Why now?
  • Girls couldn't be drafted at all; does that mean they shouldn't have a vote?
  • Why no corresponding amendment to standardize all official age-based discrimination? If you're old enough to be drafted, aren't you old enough to be president, be elected to Congress, receive Medicare, and get drunk?

Having been there at the time, and having followed the debates with great interest (I wasn't yet 18, but I could do the math), I can tell you that the buzz on everyone's lips was that "Youth," the "good" side of the generation gap, would save the world... and that meant Youth must have its say.

I believe that was the real motivation for the 26th Amendment, the idea that if only teenagers were given the right to vote, then all would be peace, love, freedom, and happiness. Paradise on Earth, theirs for the asking. And Youth wanted it all... not now, man -- yesterday! Dig?

Youth got its way; the amendment was enacted in Congress, and exactly 100 days later was ratified by the thirty-eighth state -- North Carolina, yipe! -- joining the other twenty-five amendments to the United States Constitution.

It was the fastest ratification of any of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, by a long shot; but we're still waiting for our seventy-two virgins.

For the last amendment, the 27th, the panacea aspect should be readily apparent. In a frumious effort to weed out "corruption" in Congress -- a worthy goal, no doubt -- all attention was somehow misdirected to the absurdity of congressional paychecks... as if that were the real problem, that the politicos received too high a salary.

How convenient: Rather than talk about corrupt congressmen who sold their votes and their committee chairmanships to lobbyists for millions of dollars in campaign contributions, we focused obsessively on congressional pay raises. Yeesh.

So the heavily Democratic Congress, feeling intense heat over the House Banking scandal ("Rubbergate") -- where members of Congress (mostly Democrats) casually wrote bad checks on the House "Bank," knowing that the federal government would pony up the money -- cleverly siezed upon an ancient congressional amendment, shouted "Squirrel!", and threw it to the states. They hoped to defuse the anger at them by prohibiting something entirely different from the crisis du jour, and far removed from the real corruption. (The blowout election of 1994 showed how perfectly that scheme worked.)

The amendment was first enacted through Congress in 1789, but it never could get ratification by 3/4ths of the United States, as required; ratifications kept dribbling in, but not as fast as new states were added to the Union. By the time Hawaii became the 50th and last state (so far), the amendment needed 38 ratifications -- but only had eight. Hey, 170 years, and just thirty states to go!

(Nobody seemed to realize that Kentucky had ratified the amendment in 1792; they thought only seven had done so, with 31 to go. The discrepency was discovered only after the amendment was ratified in 1992.)

By the time Rubbergate broke, many more states had ratified the amendment; but it was still two states short (or three states, as everyone at the time thought). Then, over the course of a single week -- starting just three weeks after Rubbergate broke -- five states ratified the amendment, in the middle of which spurt it was certified as a part of the Constitution, a scant 202 years after being passed by Congress -- the slowest ratification, by a huge margin, of any of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

And as any fool can plainly see, forcing congressmen to ride out an election before being able to raise their own salaries has completely ended the culture of corruption that used to permeate Washington D.C. Voilà! It's so easy!

Panacea; it'll cure what ails ya...

And that's all, folks, the entire United States Constitution, including all amendments to date.

That's all she wrote.

All verses in the Lizardian Constitutional Collection:

  1. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 1 (Preamble)
  2. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 2 (Congress; House, part I)
  3. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 3 (House, part II)
  4. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 4 (Senate, part I)
  5. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 5 (Senate, part II)
  6. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 6 (General congressional admin stuff)
  7. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 7 (Legislative process and enumerated powers)
  8. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 8 (Limitations)
  9. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 9 (The prez -- who does he think he is?)
  10. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 10 (What would a president do?)
  11. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 11 (Judiciary)
  12. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 12 (States, part I)
  13. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 13 (States, part 2)
  14. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 14 (Amendment; supreme law of the land)
  15. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 15 (Ratification rules and signers)
  16. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 16 (Amendments: Bill of Rights, Amendments 1-4)
  17. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 17 (Bill of Rights -- Courtroom Amendments 5-8)
  18. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 18 (Bill of Last Rights 9 and 10)
  19. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 19 (Amendments: Suing other states, president vs. vice president)
  20. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 20 (Amendments: Abolition of slavery)
  21. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 21 (Amendments: States prohibited from infringing rights)
  22. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 22 (Amendments: Racial voting rights)
  23. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 23 (Amendments: Wilsonian-Progressivism I)
  24. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 24 (Amendments: Wilsonian-Progressivism II)
  25. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 25 (Amendments: Rooseveltian amendments)
  26. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 26 (Amendments: Camelot amendments)
  27. Let's Read the Constitution Day! - verse 27 (Amendments: Panacea amendments)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 2, 2011, at the time of 12:00 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Dick E


Thank you for running this series.

Over time, I have often read the Constitution in bits and pieces. But I am sorry to say I have never taken the time to read the entire document from start to finish, in order. You have forced -- forced -- me to do it. I had no choice in the matter.

Thank you, Your Scaliness.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 2, 2011 9:43 PM

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