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Has the U.S. Constitution become an anachronism?

Hal Sundin
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
As I See It
ALL |

After serving as the foundation for governing our form of government for nearly 225 years, has our Constitution become incapable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century?

It is remarkable that a document drafted in 1787 has served our country as well as it has for so many years, including surviving a four-year brutal civil war. It is a testament to the intellect and foresight of those 55 exceptional men, among them some of the greatest minds in American history, who gathered that hot summer in Philadelphia to draft a document unique in history.

But we must recognize that our Constitution was created in an entirely different world than the one with which it is currently confronted.



The country at that time was a loose federation of the 13 colonies, which had recently won their independence from British dominance. Their representatives set upon creating a form of government that would best serve the interests of the American people.

The vast majority of the population lived between the Atlantic coast and the Appalachian Mountains, and were primarily farmers, tradesmen and small shopkeepers. The largest cities – Philadelphia, New York, and Boston – had populations no greater than 30,000.



The country was insulated from any foreign power by several thousand miles of ocean, and the only threat to its security was the frontier, where the native population was resisting being pushed out of its lands. The world moved at a slower pace (information could travel no faster than the speed of a horse), and issues could be dealt with in a more leisurely manner.

There were also no organized political parties. Sure, the framers of the Constitution had opposing points of view on philosophical issues, such as the division of power between the states and the federal government, representation between less and more populous states, and whether the country’s economic future would be based on agriculture or on manufacturing and commerce.

But it didn’t take long for the emergence of political parties whose purpose was to promote the election of their candidates, something the framers had not anticipated.

We now live in an era of instant communications, jet aircraft, the danger of nuclear weapons and long-range rockets, and enormous economic woes in both the world economy and our own.

Is our system of government up to these challenges?

We seem to be sinking into an ever deepening quagmire of political extremism and confrontation, bordering on hatred. And our political system is becoming increasingly dominated by the power of money.

Congress seems incapable of anything but gridlock, earning a well-deserved 9 percent approval rating from the American public.

That shaking of the ground feeling beneath our feet is probably from our founding fathers rolling over in their graves, because of what has happened to what they created.

So if we really want to save our country, what should we do about it?

First of all, since money is what is corrupting our political system to the point where it is serving only the wealthiest, we need to exclude money from the election process by replacing the present overblown circus with publicly financed elections and a prescribed time limit on campaign activities. This would free those in Congress from having to sell their souls to the highest contributor, and allow them to devote most of their time to the country’s business instead of to raising money for the next election, as they are now doing.

Second, to avoid the political gridlock that is rendering our government incapable of coming up with solutions to the critical issues that threaten our country’s future, perhaps we should adopt a parliamentary system in which the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives becomes the president. Then that party would be totally responsible for the running of the country, and if the voters didn’t approve of what they were doing, they could vote them out of office.

Four-year instead of six-year terms for senators would make the current problem of confrontation with an opposition carried over from the previous administration less likely.

The nonfunctioning of the present political system is putting us on the brink of political and economic disaster. The old adage, “If it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it,” does not apply, because the current system is broken, and badly needs fixing before it is too late.

We can not go on the way we are now for very much longer.

– “As I See It” appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at asicit1@hotmail.com.


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