A New Bill of Rights To Fix Federalism and Bipartisanship
A comprehensive, bold update to constitutional rights is necessary, fixing federalism and restoring bipartisanship.
In 1791, just two years after the writing of the constitution, the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were made to the constitution. They include some of the most crucial and controversial rights today: the first amendment right to freedom of expression and belief and the second amendment right to keep and bear arms, for example.
Today, the need for a new Bill of Rights, in order to codify and entrench the new rights set out by the Supreme Court and legislation in the last couple of centuries. The case, when put in this way, is a thoroughly compelling one.
Ensuring women’s rights as a constitutional amendment is the first priority, the right with the most compelling case of all. 37 states have agreed to the Equal Rights Amendment in total, but 13 continue to block the amendment and ensure that it cannot pass.
In any new Bill of Rights, this is the key priority.
Accompanying it, similar amendments guaranteeing the equal rights and treatment of all social groups — echoing the comprehensive 2010 Equality Act in the UK, which protects people from discrimination of 9 so-called “protected characteristics”, including gender, sexuality, race, and disability. Perhaps this could be done in a single amendment, although this would face a much greater challenge from hardline Republicans.
Then, rights such as the right to life should be enshrined in the constitution. The death penalty has been suspended for decades, thus providing a compelling case to the public that it is unnecessary and obsolete. This is an amendment which, with good framing and campaigning, could be passed with relative ease.
Enshrining constitutional cases such as Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges should also be at least attempted, as should the guarantee of free and fair voting, although this may be significantly more difficult given the supermajority system and the opposition of the GOP.
However, not every amendment should be a Democrat demand. Republicans could seize the opportunity to change the rules on citizenship, so that birth in America doesn’t guarantee citizenship, unless the child’s parents have lived in the country for at least 5 years. This would eliminate the GOP’s concern about people hurrying into the States for the birth of their child, and then trying to claim a right to live in the country through their child’s citizenship.
Through liberal modernisation and conservative pragmatic adaption of rights in America, the two parties could be united, and the states’ rightful position as a significant force reinstated.
Just like the first Bill of Rights 230 years ago, there should be a final amendment relating to process rather than the rights themselves. Where, though, the 10th amendment relates to the powers of the states, this final amendment should set out provisions for a formal review of the constitution every 50 years.
Through compromise and trade-offs between different priorities, bipartisanship has the potential to be restored as the cornerstone of the American political system. And through the clarification of rights and enumerated federal powers, the dividing lines between federal and state government could be better defined, leading to a better system of federalism, and halting the creeping frontiers of the federal government.