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What is really happening in America today? From all we read and hear, there is a major historical crisis brewing, or has already been brewed. Fundamental concepts of our system of government are being challenged: the right to privacy, the protection of laws, the right to vote, the protection of free speech, the promotion of the general welfare, etc.. A president-elect has been chosen who is unpopular or despised by the majority of voters. The legitimacy of the voting process is under suspicion.The nation is involved in an endless succession of wars or military actions. Government policy is directed predominantly by business interests.The basic unifying free spirit of the people that we think of as being progressive and ethical - that has attracted immigrants and refugees to our shores and borders over two centuries - seems to have vanished, perhaps remaining only in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution, the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem, 'God Bless America" and "America The Beautiful". We seem to have reverted to an earlier time of the robber barons, with the probability of sinking into something resembling a fascist dictatorship ruled by an oligarchy.
When the United States was created, it represented a new democratic form of government dedicated to the welfare of the people, with great promise for the future. The constitution protecting the rights of the people served the needs of the times. Except where they are overthrown, governments are slow to adapt to changing circumstances. The forces of change outgrow the protections provided by our legal system based upon the Constitution and legal precedence. Laws are made to serve the purposes of the political party dominating the government at a particular time, as are the interpretations of the Constitution by the Supreme Court.
Where people are involved, no system can be perfect, but progress in this respect would occur if people were motivated towards self-improvement by universal high standards of education, civility, and social justice - the promotion of the general welfare, as the Constitution proclaims. Instead, we see a decline in these values by the over-riding marketing of commercially-based life styles and the subordination of social goals to self-serving economic ends.
Where do we go from here? Is democracy obsolete, or does it just need an overhaul? There is a compelling need to update the Constitution in several critical ways. It was out-of-date almost at the time it was written. It took a bloody Civil War to bring it up-to-date with respect to slavery, the ghost of which still haunts us as racism. Certainly, it is out of date now with respect to gun control. That article was written at the time of muzzle-loading muskets and before there was a standing army, which now would invalidate the article as written. Most urgently, we need to secure the election process so that it is not manipulated by exclusion of voters, the discarding of votes, or by the clouding of issues by uncontrolled advertising and other forms of propaganda. We need integrity and quality control in all phases of government.
To become a true democracy and a leader among nations, our nation must first improve its inner workings to demonstrate the advantages of this system of government with its associated economic policies, and its potential for human progress. First, it would renew its dedication to the ideals of democracy for advancing universal human welfare and would look for the most qualified leaders to fulfill those purposes. .
To achieve this first step, perhaps strict qualifications should be established to run for public office other than the current minimal constitutional requirements. The notion that public office should be open on equal basis -- theoretically - to any citizen may have been adequate at the founding of our country, but does not fly in the highly technical, complex society of today. Today's politicians, for the most part, even when well- intentioned, are not up to the technical challenges of today's world. A law degree alone does not prepare one for public service. There should be specific educational and examination requirements for political office, as well as specified or equivalent paths of public service leading to each higher office, as commonly practiced in our civil service and professional worlds. The candidates' qualifications and motives would be subject to intense public scrutiny, as opposed to exposure by contorted campaign advertising - a profane form of "free" speech.
Furthermore, when we look at a candidate for president such as Donald Trump, a scientifically uneducated man who claims to know more about climate change than the vast preponderance of the scientific community and ignores the ubiquitous evidence of a rapidly deteriorating environment, we should agree that candidates be screened professionally to determine whether their ideas would mark them as sociopaths capable of much destruction.
For highest offices, especially, there must be absolute dedication to service to all the people, requiring the office holder to disassociate himself financially, on pain of expulsion, from any special interest -- present or future - or at least be recused from participation in any decision or action involving such financial interest. The obvious reason for these requirements is to elevate public office to the highest level of public trust and duty - to what would be, virtually, a revered calling. Few members of the current Congress would quality for office under these conditions while, at the same time, the door would be open to anyone able to meet the requirements.
A preliminary step to accomplish a more immediate transformation of leadership might be for reform-minded groups to work together to establish an unofficial congress of very highly accomplished and respected citizens, on par with Nobel Prize laureates, representing essential fields of expertise. This "congress" would meet regularly and function as a shadow government, challenging any reactionary, unscientific and special-interest acts or proposals of our flawed Congress, and make authoritative alternative recommendations that could be ignored only at risk of severe public disapproval or rejection. The function of Congress would be, essentially, to decide what is best among these recommendations rather than among competing private self-interests. We desperately need innovation of this kind.
Subsequent to a new generation of leadership dedicated to democratic ideals, the nation would introduce progressive policies, first to minimize poverty at home. It would facilitate a high standard of health and education for all. It would impose transparency and regulation in all business transactions and alter tax and trade policies to promote a fair distribution of wealth. It would protect essential public services from economic fluctuations. It would adhere to noble principles of social justice, not encumbered by historical traditions. It would redirect foreign assistance from military expenditures to peaceful, constructive purposes. It would be dedicated to reverse environmental deterioration. And so forth.