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Open Letter to Today’s Americans, their Mayors, and their Governors

June 12, 2013

Our Congress Must Get an Up-Dated ‘Operating System’

And our States need to make it happen by national referenda!

Having lived in Washington, DC for almost 50 years, worked in the Executive Branch and dealt with the Congress for 12, and been exposed to international security affairs around the world for 30, we at NARPAC are still staring into the Capitol Hill headlights and wondering how much worse we will allow our political behavior to become.

Where is our moral outrage over the ever-shabbier actions and inactivity by members of Congress, so inappropriately protected by our outdated Constitution? Why should that seminal creed justify legislative performance that fails to meet basic ethical standards of modern business, from bribery to false advertising? Why are many lawmakers taking oaths to special interest blackmailers (viz., NRA, ATR) at odds with their oath of office?

Today’s Constitution still does not mention such key issues as democracy itself (viz., “one-voter-one-vote”), voters’ rights, or campaign abuses. Are we a democracy with only 65% of eligible voters registered, of whom only 15% turn out for primaries, 40% for off-year elections? Must we treat lobbyists, “PACs”, and corporations as individuals? Is loose money free speech? Should top Congressmen raise funds to buy the obedience of other states’ “representatives”? Why not establish honest campaign practices?

Should Congress be free to make up its own rules of conduct and twist the meaning of a “majority”? Should a 55/44 Senate vote be decreed a failure? Should a 26% House minority block new legislation? Should a 36/64 minority become a 60/40 majority by carving up voting districts? Should the Electoral College turn a 10% plurality into a 5% minority? Should only ten of our fifty states be politically significant in national elections? Should candidates get most of their funding from secret sources outside their district?

And does the Congress really have the right to ignore the various long-range global changes that, if ignored, can stunt, if not cripple, our county’s future prosperity? Doesn’t our Constitution require our leaders to look ahead and identify those major trends that can jeopardize the “general Welfare…and Blessings of Liberty…..for ourselves and our Posterity?” Why should we sacrifice our future to political expedience -- or ignorance?

Should only 18 Senators speak for half our people, and none for just our burgeoning metro areas? Should Congress be able to stymie Presidential appointments for years while its own bills become law if the President doesn’t react in ten days? Should they get away with not enacting a federal budget for several years? Shouldn’t some impartial authority provide reliable info on the content of, and ways of adopting, new legislation? Couldn’t our public school system help public awareness of political/legislative activity?

Why deify our Founding Fathers with the prescience to write an immutable document that would be fully applicable 226 years later, including language from a document 99 years older than that (the 1688 British Bill of Rights)? Nothing remains the same: from government style to social conscience, or from building materials, communications, power sources, weaponry, transportation, and global connectivity to education, medicine, life span, genetics, financial diversity – and morality. By possibly far-fetched comparison, Microsoft has updated its Windows operating system 12 times in 30 years!

Even more bizarre, why are we maintaining a financially-challenged, statistically-embarrassed, capital inner city stripped of its wealthiest suburbs, lacking State-level guardianship, and leaving over half a million residents without representation in Congress? Now we’ve got the orphaned core city of America’s 7th largest metro area with 2.3% of its area (half of which belongs to the Feds), 15% of its population, but 47% of the folks below the poverty line, 54% of adults without a high school diploma,  and a median household income 30% below the rest of the area! Why not unite the metro area, and make DC’s citizens – and its finances! -- whole?

In fact, the Founding Fathers knew they could not foresee all these ways that Congress would find to “beat its own system”. They defined two ways to amend our Constitution: one from within the Congress, and the other, so far untested, by we, the people of the several states. We must fix our Congress: it will not fix itself. Any 34 of our 50 States can get together and demand a Constitutional Convention; regularize the change process to every four years, say; and, to dilute partisan obstructionism, require simultaneous national referenda on agreed amendments at the next election-- just as States now adopt their “propositions”.

There seems to be a bland, uninformed assumption across this country that our political system will weather our own indifference and declining morality, and that we will still remain the beacon and aspiration for peoples everywhere, regardless of how obsolete and sleazy our political practices become. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Leonard Sullivan

President, National Association to Restore Pride in America’s Capital (NARPAC, Inc.)

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