In this activity, we were walked through the many developments congress typically would experience while deciding how to pass or “kill” different legislative amendments. More specifically, we were asked to personally travel through stages of consideration for a previous legislative issue from 1999; which proposed amending the bill of rights to make flag desecration illegal. Political influences and public citizens both for and against the bill, asserted their personal sentiments on the issue through phone calls, meetings, and townhall gatherings. Supporters of the bill were denouncing a supreme court’s ruling allowing citizens the right to burn American flags. This ruling incited a resounding rage amongst a majority of the Nation’s population; who now adamantly protested this decision by demanding legislative action be taken immediately. Further defending their position, they emphasized their disgust by patriotically defending the millions of men and women that have fought and died for our country who had taken offense to this sort of behavior. The bills nay Sayers on the other hand, disputed the validity of the projected bill by pointing out the constitutional violations it could impose on the first amendment allowing all Americans the right to free speech; and in this case even political speech.
From the initiation of this project, my opinion remained steadfast with the opposition. My conclusion was grounded on the confidence provided by the Bill of Right’s ability to endure the test of time; which has continued to sustain American liberties and principles just as it always has since its inception. Karen Albright, made the first arguments defending my belief when she said, “we have been through multiple wars and even a great depression, all without having to compromise the bill of rights.” Just as she explained, regardless of current events, never in our history has the bill of rights needed to be altered; why start now? White House spokesman Rob Nelson then explains, even the president dislikes when the flag is burnt; however, he is still opposed to the revisions to our country’s amendments, because of its infringement on free speech. If we allow the government the authority to restrict political speech against government power; then adversely, we will be exposing ourselves to endless possibilities for more perilous limits being forcibly imposed by government authorities. Consequentially, we will only be endangering the whole unique beauty of freedom that democracy has historically continued to provide since our very beginnings.
One of the most important jobs of Congress is to vote on progressive legislation, while sequentially still safeguarding what Thomas Jefferson coined as, “our inherent and God given rights”; regardless of popular demands made amid whatever chaos that may be occurring during present day events. Even though most people were advocating for the Flag amendment to pass, they were not able to see beyond their own bias of outrage to see the ramifications that could have befallen on our personal liberties if such an amendment had passed. For the majority, flag burning appears to be an act of contempt to those serving our country; however, some believe it is purely a form of political expression that can easily gain media attention; forcing government leaders to finally hear their voice. Luckily, although the bill passed in the house, it did not make it passed the Senate, and the first amendment still to this day remains protected as it should be.
The next segment of this activity was over the many complaints American’s have vocalized over the years regarding the shortcomings of political leaders. Criticizers believe our government officials should be able to perform quick decisive actions, but without arguing or “selling out their principles”, all while pushing the legislative will of the majority. However, these demands being made by the public are completely unrealistic, contradictory and defy the very purposes our government was initially designed for.
The first of these unrealistic demands, is the call for swifter actions for legislators when deciding on regulation. We must take into consideration that our country is vastly diverse, and each district across this country is represented by elected officials to be the voice for their people. Quick legislative action would result in the ruling majority utterly invalidating the opinions of minority groups. The writers of our constitutional processes specifically designed our government to be slow. In James Q. Wilson and John J. DiIulio’s book American Government, they state, “Madison and other farmers recognized that congress, as a representative body designed to protect the public’s interest while balancing the competitive views and interest of the citizenry would normally proceed slow.” (DiIulio, 2001) They go on to explain it was the forefather’s intentions to shut down or postpone “popular” legislation, rather than “speed it along.”
Another notably contradictory fallacy made by the public, is that Congress spends more time arguing and bickering which they believe muddies the whole legislative process. According to the book Republic on Trial, “The farmers of the constitution believed that in representative democracy, conflict is necessary to avoid the concentration of power in any one place in the government.” (Alan Rosenthal, 2003) Again, as stated before, as a diverse country our representatives number one job is to represent all the views of its people, not just the majority. With the varying ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds that make up our society, debate is a necessary evil that is tied to the job. If we want to continue living in a democratic nation and not under the oppressive rule of a dictator, then this is something that needs to be clearly understood.
Finally, the public’s criticisms regarding politicians who compromise their values when conducting certain legislative issues, completely contradict the two previous grievances all together. How can you logically demand our government stand firm on elected principles without bickering while also respecting time constraints for more efficient policy making? These standards the public is expecting for our leaders, are simply unrealistic and absurd to say the least. Without Compromise, legislation would be even more substantially drawn out; which we have seen over the last few years with the Obama administration trying to pass the Affordable health care act. Compromising legislation has been occurring since 1787, when the constitution was amid being ratified. Without compromise, we as a country would again fall apart as we once did which was exhibited by our tragically divided country during the Civil War era.
Ultimately, while the public criticizes the conduct of congress from the outside looking in, and thus negatively casting harsh judgements upon our representatives, we need to step back and put ourselves in their position. People need to understand the intentions of most representatives is to meet all the grueling demands that are made of them. However, some public condemnations need to be reevaluated. I can’t stress enough just how important educating society on the historical background of our country’s original designed is. It is crucial to our nation’s continued success for the critical majority, to finally stop the finger pointing, and begin appreciating the structural dogmas in which our founders implanted into our constitution for our own safeguarding from an all-powerful tyrannical government.
In this last segment of the signature assignment, I was directed to compare the Textbook version of lawmaking to the new Dynamic legislative process being openly practiced today. Textbook lawmaking is the constitutionally directed and well-structure steps that were once essential when passing a proposed bill deliberatively through congress to make new laws. Dynamic Legislation is the new way of describing how proposed bills have now unconventionally began to transition from the once structural standard given by our forefathers, to a now unorganized, unofficial calamity in which bills skip through the process, loosely interpreting doctrinal procedures laid out in the founding documents of our government. One of America’s most acclaimed constitutional contributors Alexander Hamilton, once ardently proclaimed his position on unconventional legislative procedures encroaching on constitutional guidelines, as should be completely invalidated by government officials; yet, it was Hamilton who also helped divide a nation politically by favoring more liberal approaches to interpreting the laws; such as what we are seeing done today, rather than the more strict adherence to constitutional policies believed by political figure Thomas Jefferson . As a direct result of Hamilton’s belief to loosely evaluate the law, current society is now plagued with problematic deviances being executed by our legislative representatives on a regular basis. The once vetted and ostensibly allocated directives laid out by the constitution for lawmaking measures, are now being entirely abandoned surreptitiously with opprobrious and unethical schemes as a way to manipulate Hamilton’s doctrine of loose interpretation, and to skip through certain processes at their own leisure which they may find inconvenient. While I do agree as a progressive country, we must be open to change, I also know our governmental architects built this nation with the sustainable principles intended to be “for the people, by the people.” The new dynamic way of unorthodox legislation, strategically replacing textbook law-making, has created a system of elected representatives insidiously overstepping constitutional mandates deliberately placed to check and balance government power. While swindling politicians artfully maneuver through our legislative halls, gross eccentricities are being practiced meeting legislators own specific agendas; meanwhile the foundational truths in which they swore to honor are fading fast, becoming nothing more than an unfulfilled, unrealized dream once held dear and near to the hearts of our founding fathers.