I’ve got a magical book sitting on my desk.
Many people would say it’s a useless thing to have around. A bundle of pages lying around doesn’t do anything. Except that it does.
Whenever I start to feel like it’s time to retreat to the jungle–or, equally uselessly, crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head–I look at that little pamphlet, and I feel better.
Not because the document makes the world appreciably better, but because it reminds me of all the people who aspire to improve the world. There are still millions of people who believe we can do better. Who don’t wait for a benevolent deity to cure the world’s ills. Who don’t use the name of that same deity to shore up their claim to be the ultimate pinnacle of humanity.
That’s a hefty burden for forty pages of not-very-dense prose to carry. But it works. The power of the word. Pen versus sword. All those cliches.
You know where I’m going with this, right? The book is, of course, the American Constitution.
And with the citizens of Alabama voting for their next Senator today, I’m keeping my book close at hand. For reassurance.
Moore’s comment that he thinks it would solve a lot of problems if we threw out all of the constitutional amendments after the tenth has gotten a lot of press. Most of it’s focused on the voting rights and slavery amendments. But the rest of them are significant, too.
Number 11, among other things, ensures that state laws can’t overrule federal laws. I don’t need to list all of the laws that forces various states to acknowledge, do I?
Number 12 defines how the President and Vice President are elected. Whether you believe the Electoral College is a good idea or not, Amendment 12 lays out the rules. Number 23, by the way, allows residents of Washington, D.C. to vote in presidential elections.
Thirteen is the one that bans slavery, Fourteen defines who is a citizen, and Fifteen grants citizens the right to vote. Nineteen adds women to the status of voting citizens. Twenty-Four forbids the government from charging citizens to exercise the right to vote and Twenty-Six sets the minimum voting age to 18. As I said earlier, these are the ones that are getting all of the press.
Amendment 16 allows the Federal Income Tax. Like the Twelfth, opinions differ on whether it’s a good thing.
Amendment 17 defines the rules under which senators are elected and how they’re replaced. In short, it’s the Seventeenth Amendment that’s giving Mr. Moore his chance to join the Senate.
Eighteen bans the sale and import of alcohol. You may have heard about Prohibition–it didn’t work out, and the Twenty-First Amendment repealed it. Which is, of course, your guideline if you disapprove of Twelve, Sixteen, or any of the other amendments.
Number 20 defines the presidential term of office and lays out the rules covering what happens if the president-elect dies before taking office. Number 22 prevents anyone from serving more than two terms as president. Anyone wonder why Mr. Moore wants to get rid of that rule? Number 25 lays out the order of succession in case the president dies in office.
And then there’s the Twenty-Seventh Amendment. One of my favorites, actually. It prevents Congress from giving themselves a pay raise whenever they want. No law that changes their pay scale can take effect until after the next election.
Some important stuff there, huh? The cliché is that you can’t tell the players without a scorecard. But you also can’t tell the game without a rule book.
I got my rule book from the ACLU last year. They’re still available. You’ll have to buy ten at a time, but it’ll only set you back about $22 including shipping. Per copy, that’s about half what you’d spend on a program at the ballpark.
Buy a set and share ’em with your family and friends. Because we can all use a little reassurance these days.