I love political science, and so for fun I decided to draft a modified version of the US Constitution to better reflect the new issues of a modern era. This project was not intended to be disrespectful to the current Constitution, it was meant as a tribute following in the same patriotic spirit.
The name comes from Gaius Gracchus, one of Ancient Rome’s greatest progressive reformers along with his brother, Tiberius. The header image for these posts comes from my love of rabbits. I thought a white rabbit would be an interesting symbol for a grassroots movement as a nod to Alice in Wonderland (“follow the white rabbit”), also rabbits eat grass (so grassroots), and are individually weak yet good at multiplying into something greater.
This is merely a first draft, and I’d love to get feedback for how to improve on it if anyone has any suggestions they’d like to share.
I thought perhaps it might be interesting, or helpful, to see my writing process and the ideas I eventually decided against in the course of writing my rough draft on Constitutional reforms. Let me know in the comments if you think any of these might be worth reinstating in a later draft.
The policies here written in BOLD are the ones I’m still seriously considering putting back in. The others I’ve pretty much completely moved on from.
- Out of all the rejected ideas in this list, this is the one I still like the most, and may still include in a future revision.
I wanted to incorporate an element of real true deliberative democracy in the Constitution, because I believe that too much of the voting in Congress today is rushed and purely along party lines.
The specific application would be based on the Iroquois Confederacy. I thought about dividing the Senate up into 10 clades of Senators from 5 states. These groups of 15 Senators would discuss problems to be solved and/or prospective bills, talking through every possible solution, and come to one with as near-unanimous support as possible. Then the process would begin again as 10 clades of 5 states came together into 2 “super-clades” of 25 states. Then these new groupings would internally deliberate on their findings, compromising if necessary, and come to as-near a unanimous decision as possible. Finally, both halves of Congress would come together and do the same.
I reluctantly decided to leave this out due to its complicated nature and the potential for an extremely slow, possibly incapacitated Senate. It could also lead to watered down bills that had to be compromised so much in order to pass so many filters that they’re useless. But like the “Delegative Demarchy” method for electing the Curiate (see point #3 below), I still really love this idea in theory.
Instead of divvying up Congressional committee positions by patronage and seniority, the Tribunes with relevant knowledge on the bill/subject would themselves pick Senators/Septigents who also had real knowledge on the topic, that they felt they could work with. Then the Tribunes and chosen Senators/Septigents would independently research the topic at hand and possible solutions to put in the bill. Then they would come together, discuss their findings, and come to a consensus. This consensus would be presented to Congress as a whole for a vote. I also really love this idea, and may still end up putting it in to future drafts.[^This idea has since been put back in.]
- My original idea for the nation-wide proportional representation vote for the Curiate was a lot more complicated and involved. This one is going to take a lot of space to write out and I’m not sure how well I can describe it. For awhile, I wanted the three Houses of Congress to be determined by different systems, technocracy by merit for the Tribunate, representative democracy for the Senate and a system I invented which I call “Delegative Demarchy” for the Curiate. It would have been somewhat of a cross between Delegative Democracy (itself a cross between Direct and Representative Democracy) and Demarchy used in ancient Athens, where members of legislatures were determined randomly among the population.
The plan was that every voting-age Citizen would immediately by registered for the Demarchy/lottery system. The voting would be for party preferences via re-weighted range voting which would determine the proportion each party would eventually hold in the Curiate. If a person did not want to be selected to be in the Curiate, there would be an empty space on the ballot they could write-in and thereby delegate their chance of being chosen to someone else. Individuals with more delegated votes in their favor would (of course) have a higher chance of being selected. Additionally, I also played around with the idea of a test on policy issues, international relations/geopolitical issues, history, economics and political science as part of the ballot. Voters could forgo participation in this test and their chance of selection would therefore be lessened. However, taking part and getting a better score exponentially increased ones chances of themselves (or those of their delegated replacement) getting selected. Previous government service and completion of higher education would work in a similar manner as well, raising ones chances of getting selected or giving more weight to their delegated replacement.
What I wanted to do with this idea was destroy political dynasties and go back to the old way of average Americans reluctantly putting aside their private lives for the cause of their country and serving a spell before returning home. I wanted that principle, yet still done in such a way to favor intelligence and dedication to politics at the same time. I scrapped this idea in my rough draft mostly because it was too complicated to explain, I see some potential scenarios it could go wrong, it would be too hard/too messy to prove experience, there’s the problem of who controls what’s on the tests and who gets picked in the lottery process, inconveniencing voters and therefore discouraging voting in general, and I doubt the idea would be popular. I believe this would be a great system for choosing the lower house in theory but in practice there are too many ways it could fail.
- I also considered having the lower House be composed of 6,000~7,000 people. It would not have been the 1: 30,000 ratio that even the Anti-federalists thought wasn’t representative enough, but it was at least a compromise in that direction. The problem is having that many people in one assembly, even if they’re not physically together (internet/skype type services could allow Representatives to work from home and still see what’s happening in real time) would almost certainly be too chaotic in terms of having that many people able to interject and/or propose legislation, much less agree on votes.
- As a possible compromise between the 7,000 and 700 member lower house, I thought of a fourth house in Congress (or, more accurately, a two-tiered lower house.) The 7,000 would be determined via “Delegative Demarchy” as described above, and its members called Quaestors. They would proactively seek out the opinions of the common Americans, compile their wants and needs in a coherent fashion and then present them to Congress. They could also propose legislation to be voted on but only if it was already approved by a majority vote within the pool of Quaestors themselves. I backed off this because I thought it would make Congress too volatile, also their job was already covered by Citizen Petitions/referendums and the American Citizens Forum. Plus it would be 7,000 more paychecks to go around.
- I also considered not only retaining the VP, but also having them, the President and Consul share Executive power equally as a Triumvirate. This would have been losely based on the Swiss model of a small directory of 7 executives. However, the idea of 3 people able to constantly contradict, undermine and confuse each other made me drop that idea very quickly. If they had to discuss each decision and act via a 2/3 consensus, the problem would be a slower executive, defeating their ability to react to emergencies.
- I considered the idea of the Directorate (Consul’s Cabinet) being able to impeach the President. I nixed that idea because it seemed like the potential for abuse was too great if the Consul and President didn’t see eye to eye. The former may ask his Cabinet (who would naturally be closer to him) to expel the President in favor of a weaker or more malleable one.
- I initially wanted the Curiate and Senate to have to justify their vote on the floor if they went against the advice of the Tribunate. I took that out because, while voting against expert council isn’t usually a good thing, in some cases it may be. And I wouldn’t want anyone to be bullied for their vote, even if it’s the “wrong” one.
- I was going to make the entire Directorate counter-sign all Executive Orders. This would have the same problem as #6, plus the idea that the Consul would then have an incentive to oust good Directors due to not seeing eye to eye on a single decision.
- I thought about giving the Tribunate the power to line-item veto legislation. These changes could be undone via an override, however if the President also vetoes the same legislation then the override cannot bypass both veotes, so the Tribunate-altered bill would then become law. I scrapped this because it would make the Tribunate too powerful and potentially too politicized. Also this seemed like too complicated of a process.
- I thought about having the President require a counter-signature by the Consul or a member of the Directorate to veto legislation. But this would make vetoing legislation extremely hard since the Consul spearheads the process. It would also incentivize the Consul to pick Directors for political purposes rather than merit.
- I initially conceived of the Directorate as a Directorial-Executive system similar to Switzerland.
- I thought about reverting back to the Senators being appointed by State legislatures.
- I thought about allowing the Directorate to propose legislation. But this would blur the executive and legislative branches too much, and negate one of the Tribunate’s powers.
- I thought about having a hierarchy of speaking order in each house of Congress, similar to the Senate in Ancient Rome where ex-Consuls and ex-Praetors spoke first. I eventually bailed on this idea when I thought about how it would allow entrenched dynastic politicians to unfairly dominate the proceedings while giving the newer members almost no opportunities to speak.
- I initially envisioned an ombudsman and/or the Attorney General and/or the Justice Department being part of the Judicial branch. I eventually thought giving the Judicial Branch an active arm would make it too powerful, and potentially politicize it further. I kept the ombudsman but instead gave it to the Citizenry as the Prefecture.
I seriously considered using the Missouri plan of having a non-partisan commission pick judges and/or Ombudsmen and/or Tribunes based on merit. I narrowly changed my mind when I thought it took too much power from the President (an elected official at least) and gave it to a shadowy unelected group with the potential to be just as corrupt or partisan in their decisions only with no check from the people themselves.
[^This idea has since been added back in.]
- I thought about standardizing State governments in the Constitution: A Proconsul as the executive, a Centuriate (Council of 100) as the higher chamber of the State legislature, and the Popular Assemblies as the lower house. I decided dictating a government structure for the states went against one of my goals for the Constitution in giving them greater autonomy (including a way to peacefully secede.)
- I thought about a provision where if a law has a 20% approval rating over a sustained period (3 years) it is immediately repealed. I went back on this when I considered that taxes or similar laws may be unpopular but necessary for the greater good.
- I thought about not only recognizing national state of emergencies, but allowing the Directorate to operate autonomously for a six month period at a time with extraordinary powers. The checks on this would be the President, who can declare the emergency over, and after relinquishing emergency power the entire Directorate must stand in Federal Court to defend their actions. I decided this had too great of a potential to be abused if the President was in cahoots with the Directorate, or if they used their powers to dismantle the political infrastructure itself.
- I thought about provisions where if a single magistrate’s popularity fell below 20% for an extended period they must resign. And if Congress’ collective approvals are below 20% they are dismissed and new elections held. I eventually decided this would be too volatile.