The idea that the Constitution needed reform began in the Progressive Movement from 1890’s to 1920’s with Woodrow Wilson seen the penultimate embodiment of a progressive leader. ‘Presidential leadership would provide the unity of direction — the vision — needed for true progressive government. “All that progressives ask or desire,” wrote Woodrow Wilson, “is permission — in an era when development, evolution, is a scientific word — to interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle; all they ask is recognition of the fact that a nation is a living thing and not a machine.” (heritage.org)’ As a result, we should be grateful for the industry and dedication many community leaders and elected officials voluntarily gave to accomplish a much needed reform to our legal and business system during that era..
This movement addressed monopolies, corrupt politicians and businesses, poorly distributed education, poorly educated teachers, unregulated and substandard medical training, labor unions and more. “Significant changes enacted at the national levels included the imposition of an income tax with the Sixteenth Amendment, direct election of Senators with the Seventeenth Amendment, Prohibition with the Eighteenth Amendment, and women’s suffrage through the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” (Wikipedia.com) While there was a dark side to this movement regarding eugenics and segregation, the early Progressive Movement was a reformation effort involving an entire community regardless of political party, gender or religion.
There are two points to be made here:
- The reforms made to our Constitution since that time have all been piecemeal case law decisions by the Supreme Court and not ratified by the States as the above reforms were. This piecemeal process has expanded the government’s authority at the expense of the rights of the individual until the Constitution is no longer seen as a relevant document. It is all about case law and little more which is often contradictory and inconsistent.
- The moment the Progressive Movement became politicized, it no longer represented the entire community and their concern about their social responsibility and the role of government in their lives. It went from a unifying community movement to a divisive political one. At that point, the term ‘progressive’ no longer applied. Today’s progressive political movements with its emphasis on redistribution of wealth and a vaguely defined social justice, intensifies that divisive effect by coopting the term ‘progressive’ as a substitute for socialism or communism.
In light of the above co-option, we would be wise to consider an amendment to our Constitution that requires any case law to undergo a ratification process automatically to verify the universality of the decision made in that particular court proceeding before it can be applied to other cases. We can prevent any number of miscarriages of justice by having an automatic review instead of using an appeals process to overturn a case and think that constitutes justice, especially where felonies and capital offenses are concerned.
Appeals are usually based on money, and the subtext of the decisions are rarely made a part of the case law such as evidence not allowed in the trial. Whether or not evidence should be allowed in that trial is not in question, but the universality of that case would be. I submit that evidence of guilt or lack thereof, not given in evidence of a trial for whatever reason would be grounds for not allowing that case to be considered for universal application to our case law. Our justice system is in shambles with inconsistent sentencing from one state to the next which is unfair and often based on race, wealth or power. We compound these sins by making them universal. How intelligent is that?
We need to find a more intelligent way to be ‘progressive‘ or give it up altogether because this current experiment is not acceptable. Perhaps keeping politics out of social reform might be the first step in the right direction.
Self-reform automatically brings about social reform.
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