Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 6, 2013

STEPHEN M. KING: Strengthening our national character

America has left her roots of religious faith and moral foundation.

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Mark Levin, lawyer, radio host and out-spoken libertarian, recently published “The Liberty Amend-ments” (2013), a book that undertakes the challenge to, as Levin puts it, “[restoring] constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathan.” This challenge is met through instituting the second method of amending the Constitution, which is found in Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

This method stipulates application to Congress of two-thirds of state legislatures to call for a convention to propose amendments, and three-fourths ratification vote by all states. Levin contends this second method, which has never been used to successfully amend the U.S. Constitution, provides significant authority to states to “rebalance” the constitutional structure, and restore the founding principles of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Levin, however, is only one of many who have called for significant changes or challenges to government largesse, bureaucratic bungling and inefficient governance.

Larry Sabato, nationally recognized American politics scholar at the University of Virginia, published in 2007 “A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals to Revitalize our Constitution and Make America a Fairer Country.” Sabato, like Levin, argues, first, that the Constitution needs to be changed, and, second, the changes wrought are not to disturb the fundamental governing principles instituted by the Founders.

Interestingly, despite Levin’s and Sabato’s personal ideological and political differences, both agree to constitutional changes in the Senate, limiting the overt political and policy influence of the Supreme Court, and restricting federal financial and debt obligations.

Not to be outdone, Cass Sunstein, author of the 2004 “The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need it More Than Ever,” also argues that the Constitution must be amended to provide for greater fairness and equality. For Sunstein this is accomplished by adopting FDR’s 1944 proposed “Second Bill of Rights,” a document that declares every American is entitled to a litany of “rights,” including an occupation, education, health care and home, among others.

Sunstein does not discredit the original Bill of Rights, but he does claim these “original” rights were not based solely on “laissez-faire individualism,” rather they were designed to protect citizenship claims of civic responsibility.

Now, obviously, Levin, Sabato and Sunstein are far apart on their ideological views of government. Yet, all three claim that substantive changes to the Constitution are needed.

So, what is the point, you may ask? The point is simply this: whether orchestrating largely untouched constitutional methods to change our Constitution, or supporting various governance, structural or substantive amendments to the Constitution itself, although they may be necessary and may even restore “founding ideals,” will not correct the underlying problem in America: a lack of national character or soul.

America is not the victim of a hapless electorate, or of elitist statists, who desire nothing more than to collude with each other to make the common man’s life miserable, or of a governing body, whether legislative, executive or judicial, that do not engage political tools to promote greater fairness and equality.

No, the problem with America is that she has forgotten her soul; she sold it to the highest bidder in the Post Modern society.

She has left her roots of religious devotion and ethical and moral foundation; instead, she religiously pursues technical and technological means of changing and preparing for the future.

She has discredited her faith in the lower levels of governance, from the traditional family to the community, to non-profit and faith-based organizations, and instead she has embraced the secular brand of governing that only the civil state can afford, ranging from the local to state to national levels.

No, the problem of a forgotten soul will not be solved by simply arguing for structural and substantive changes to the way we govern ourselves nationally, whether from libertarian to collectivist positions. It can only be truly addressed with a hardline position to self-examination.

Stephen M. King, Ph.D., teaches political science at Taylor University, Upland. Contact him at stking@taylor.edu.