Manifesto of a Radical Moderate
TLDRUpFront: For 20 years, I have identified as a Radical Moderate. Here is a draft of what that means to me. I release it imperfectly, not as a final product but as the beginning of a wider dialogue on what it means to be a Radical Moderate and what changes are needed to form a more perfect Union.
Draft Manifesto of Radical Moderate
The United States begins with our Declaration of Independence on the principle that all are equally endowed with the natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These liberty rights require no force or obligation on another to exercise and do not themselves constitute acts of force, theft, or fraud, contrasted with an obligation right which requires duty from, or force upon, another to exercise.
To deliver on this principle, we formed a Republic where the People were sovereign, identified as such in the first three and final four words of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and confirmed by Ratification of the People. The People then claimed an obligation right to the new government: that government had the duty to protect the People from one another, the mob, and against the excesses of government itself. Oaths enforced this obligation to the Constitution and the distribution of power between both branches and levels of government, such that in protecting the People’s liberty rights, no part could gain superiority as to threaten them.
From this initial birth, we have looked back on the life of the United States, not as a child does a parent, but as a parent does a child. We have observed the Republic grow into a maturity possessing merits and flaws. We are proud that it has overcome those flaws through struggle, and we are worried about the flaws yet unconquered. Our original sin, anathema to our Declaration of Independence, was slavery, and we bore our greatest cost in removing it. At the Ratification, we denied equality under the law across sexes – and took too long to recognize that inalienable rights are ones we cannot choose to ignore. We have ignored Treaties and agreements with other sovereign nations to our regret. The consequences of these and other struggles echo today, calling us to the unfinished work – advancing the liberty rights of all and recognizing that where acts of government have created systemic barriers to liberty rights, we have incurred a duty to remove those barriers.
Over this grand arc of an experiment with mixed results, we observe the exceptionalism of the United States. Its best character emerges when we recommit to preserving–or expanding– our founding principle of freedom and equality for all. Where we have failed or continue to struggle is because we turn away from this principle.
This Manifesto is written to continue the unfinished work and achieve lasting peace among ourselves and all nations so that a government of the People, by the People, and for the People shall not perish under the onslaught of two pressing threats.
Causes of the Present Crisis
We live in a moment of crisis for the Republic, for which there are two main causes. Familiar with what they knew – the Founders placed protections in the Constitutions from the four-fold threats to the new Republic: a return of monarch either by force from without or evolution from within; the infiltration and influence of European style dynastic politics; rule by the mob; and misuse of the armed forces in support of any of the previous three.
The founders spent most of their effort in the Constitution and Bill of Rights establishing the checks and balances against these four threats. Furthermore, they were explicit. Left unsaid, however, was how the government should govern and by what values would guide it. Either because they took them for granted, could not agree over the chasm of the original sin, or thought it best not to be prescriptive at an early stage.
These two have combined to bring us to our present crisis. First, completely absent from the framework of the Constitution is the recognition of, or protection against, political factionalism that naturally arises in free societies. This threat was clear by the end of President Washington’s second term, and he warned of it by name in his farewell address. That political parties:
“…serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests. However, combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Washington’s warning has come to pass as the protections of checks and balances have been bypassed by political parties whose memberships bridge these divisions, that membership subject to party loyalty tests and discipline that subverts the will of the People and usurps the powers of government. Political parties unify elites with mobs and have come to represent a power in our government equal to that of an enduring monarchy. As power congregates the second threat arises. Without explicit governing norms embedded in the framework of the Constitution we have become at the mercy of self-serving parties who see government as existing to advance their own partisan interest, rather than the overall interests of an entire People. Political parties have become stepping stones for charismatics, dynastic families, crass opportunists, and dynastic ideologies that accumulate and subordinate all variations and disagreements of thought underneath loyalty tests and dogma.
What many see as increasing division within the People threatening this Republic is a great settling between two omnipotent political parties. Over time these parties have accumulated such power and created such orthodoxy of ideology that among twenty normal constituents whom possess a variety of primary and secondary concerns, two-thirds of the People feel they must choose one or the other party to advance their primary concerns even if the parties’ orthodoxy is contrary to their secondary concerns. A third of the People feel they have no choice whatsoever. If instead, there were twenty or more parties to choose between, the People could find such avenues where neither their primary nor secondary concerns had to be compromised to gain political access. Furthermore, the parties must negotiate coalitions to advance issues rather than enforce orthodoxy through monopoly.
Who are we, standing so far distant from the Framers to question the framework they created?
Who are we, standing so far distant from the Framers to question the framework they created? Radical Moderates are radical in the protection of the People’s liberties against these partisans interests and seek to moderate extreme factions who vie to use government as a tool to control the People. We are Radical in our ideas and Moderate in our behavior.
Washington, in the same address, identified who best could tackle these problems of factions and values:
“In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country.”
With this benefit of hindsight, we can identify personal exemplars of governing virtues in our history that the framers, looking forward, could not articulate. We recognize the Prudence of Washington twice surrendering personal power to lawful authority. The Temperance of Lincoln who, even after the most bitter of partisan divides, proceeded with mercy towards all and malice towards none. The Justice of King articulated in his Dream a second statement of the Declaration’s founding principle. Finally, the Fortitude of Parks who declined to yield, either to unjust authority or the temptation of illiberalism, over not years but decades. None of these exemplars were perfect. Nevertheless, they all rose to meet the crisis of their times rather than drag the Republic down to their character’s limits or abandon the fight to someone else. From these exemplars, among others, we draw a set of governing values and norms. As Citizens, we recognize that patriotism is but one part vocalization, two parts participation, and seven parts knowing self-sacrifice on behalf of one’s fellow People.
With this benefit of a perspective in time, with exemplars firmly in mind, and under a veil of ignorance as to whom would govern under these conditions, so we favor none, we offer the following actions to save the Republic from this current crisis faction and lack of governing norms.
Reform of Article I: Congress
Section 3 Reforms
For election to the Senate, the 17th Amendment is revoked and replaced with the popular election of one Senator of a State. The State’s second Senator shall be nominated and passed by the State Legislature under normal procedures, subject to a Governor’s veto.
The Senate filibuster is codified as a limited prerogative of any Senator to delay the passage before the Senate of any law, amendment, or appointment to the Executive or Judicial Branch. Every Senator shall receive, over each regular term of six years, three opportunities to conduct a filibuster which they may use once per Congressional Session, and the effect by speaking uninterrupted during which time no other business may proceed. The filibuster ends when the Senator ceases speaking or the Senate passes a vote of 61, which can be held remotely.
Among the House and Senate, other than the codified filibuster, no other method to disrupt the regular order of the legislature is allowed. Whether in obstructive measures taken by a minority faction or negative agenda, or other powers of a majority faction, is prohibited. The abuse of any proceeding to accomplish such obstruction can be set aside by a simple majority vote of the entire body, and these votes can be taken remotely.
Section 4 Reforms
For election to the House of Representatives, the entire State shall become the District, and Representatives are allocated proportionally of the popular vote for the slate they are associated with in ranked-choice voting. Any internal mechanisms to determine who stands on the slate for the House of Representatives is the private affair of political parties and may not be funded or supported by municipal, state, or federal government.
Section 7 Reforms
Determine by mathematical means a prudent fixed number of standing Committees in the House and Senate, such that the membership can be regularly and evenly distributed between them. Appointments to these committees shall occur at the seating of each new Congress and be done by a means that favors no explicit party affiliation nor allow explicit party discipline to affect appointments once given. Apportioning appointments will be done one-half by a mechanism reflecting the consensus of the House, one quarter by direction of the Speaker, and one quarter by random draw.
The Speaker of the House is the Presiding Officer, but Powers related to partisan majority rule, including determining the agenda and making committee appointments, are surrendered to a fixed standing committee, and the Speaker may not vote on any matter before the House.
The House shall have a self-executing rule that the funding of any War Powers delegated to the Executive return to zero in the funding cycle that begins after the seating of any new Congress. Delegation of war powers must be regularly reaffirmed by the House and submitted to the Senate as part of the ordinary budget proceedings.
Unless it is a specific expansion of liberty rights, if Congress passes any law below the threshold of a sustainable consensus of 3/4th‘s or 75% of the votes in both House and Senate, then that law shall have a sunset provision equal in length to a number of Congressional Sessions equal to five minus one session for every 5% below the 75% threshold that a law is passed by, creating a range such that if a law passed by only 51% of Congress it shall sunset in two years and a law passed by 74% of Congress, ten years.
Any Federal agency that oversees national elections shall have no less than 20 Directors – these seats will be apportioned in ratio to the percentage of the popular vote received during the Speaker of the House election.
Each Senator and Representative will be given a fixed amount of taxpayer funds: $1,000,000 and $100,000 per Congressional session. These funds may be used on any project, charity, or measure within their district or abroad that the Senator or Representative wishes, and the ultimate use of such funds be published succinctly, standing alone, by Congress. Any other funding riders requested for personal privilege are prohibited, and the writing of all laws shall only be done by members of Congress or their staff.
Reform of Article II: Executive
Section 1 Reform:
The plural Executive Power is vested in both the President and the Speaker of the House, who together execute the will of the People and the laws of Congress as judged by the Judicial branch.
The Speaker of the House shall be elected on the same day of a national election as a Congressional Session that does not include the election of a President. The Speaker of the House will be elected by a clear majority of fifty-five percent or more of the People’s votes as determined by December 8th of the year the election occurred. If the lawful authority cannot determine such by that date, then they shall be elected by a majority of the Representatives of the House who were elected and seated for the new Congressional term beginning in January. The Speaker of the House’s term begins on the noon of January 20th of the year following the election, and they serve four years. The Speaker of the House shall have limited powers and duties reserved for the Speaker, as described in Article I Reforms, but be subject to Impeachment and Trial under the same conditions and procedures as the President.
Electors will be independent and have the full power to elect a President as they choose. It is up to each Presidential candidate to pick the electors who will vote for them, and no law shall be made or recognized prohibiting the electors from voting their conscience in favor of loyalty to the party. In the Presidential election, Electors shall be proportionally appointed in each State, rounded up to the nearest integer of an elector, equal to the relative proportion of the vote received by the Presidential Candidate they represent in that State, such that all electors available to a State are allocated across Presidential Candidates.
Any candidate seeking to run for President or Speaker of the House shall have to file both financial and criminal disclosures determined by Congress such that the People may review and understand what obligations they labor under and the fidelity with which they have adhered to the laws of the land. Likewise, upon assuming office, the President or Speaker has 60 days to divest all personal holdings into blind trusts administered by an executor appointed by Congress, such funds being removed from the blind trust after two Congressional Sessions that they left office.
Section 2 Reform:
The President retains existing powers to make treaties and nominate ambassadors with the advice and consent of the Senate. However, other public officers shall be appointed according to the officer’s purpose in serving the Constitution’s preamble. The Speaker of the House shall nominate the Cabinet officials who establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and promote the Republic’s general welfare and conducting of domestic affairs. While the President shall nominate the Cabinet officials who provide for the common defense, provide for the security of the United States, and represents and negotiates on behalf of the Republic on the world stage. In their role as Commander in Chief, and only in this role, does the President possess unitary executive power and only in service of executing the duties as defined and approved by Congress.
The number of political appointees supporting these Cabinet positions will be set by Congress and allocated between the President and Speaker of the House, and both the President and Speaker of the House shall submit their budget requests to Congress under conditions as set by Congress.
The President and Speaker of the House’s power over those appointments they make consists only in nominating them, providing oversight and direction, and firing them for any cause they see fit. Neither the President nor Speaker of the House assumes powers statutorily assigned to Executive Appointees. If an Executive Appointee has a statutorily assigned power by Congress that the President or Speaker of the House do not, then neither can act “on behalf” of that Appointee. They may, however, fire and seek a replacement should the Appointee fail to act in a manner so directed, such replacement requiring the confirmation of the Senate under normal proceedings.
Reform of Article III: Judicial
The number of Supreme Court Justices is set at twenty-four and serves regular terms evenly numbered between 18 and 26 so that an orderly vacancy arises in the first and third year of any Presidential term. A President serving a single term would expect to appoint two, a President serving the limit of two terms should expect to appoint four, and a dynasty consisting of a two-term President followed by the first term of their chosen successor would expect to appoint six.
In all Supreme Court nominations, the Senate shall have three months to advise prior to holding a vote on the nomination. The Senate consent is provided by a majority in a vote of the entire body or after the passage of three months within which a vote is not held.
Supreme Court nominations falling outside the regular order due to death, resignation, impeachment, or other cause shall be nominated by the Speaker of the House and follow the procedures above.
Chief Justice of Supreme Court shall have the power to authorize delay of a Presidential election by 7-15 days given the death or unavailability of any President or Vice President candidate then currently polling above a plurality. A majority of the sitting Supreme Court Justices can override such a decision.
Reform of Amendments
The first and most essential liberty right is the right to freedom of thought. To think and act differently in the exercise of liberty rights than either the government or the mob approves of has been an unenumerated right since the Ratification, but this protection must be made explicit.
Protection of Unenumerated Liberty Rights
That the unenumerated liberties and powers reserved for the People in the 9th and 10th Amendments, in the form of liberty rights, shall be protected by a substantive due process requiring strict scrutiny for the government to infringe upon by the act of law.
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State for any citizen, including but not limited to an account of their race, color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or belief.
No State has a Right to Tyranny
Only the People, in their totality, are sovereign. Sovereignty flows from National and State Constitutions which, once ratified, empower through a separation of duties the Legislatures to draft laws, the Executive to carry them out, and the Judicial to adjudicate them at the National or State level as well as other bodies or mechanisms the Constitution allows. No Federal or State branch of government nor Municipal entity, no mechanism authorized in a limited way by a Constitution, should be given a general deference as presumed to speak on behalf of the People outside explicit Constitutional power. No political faction should be allowed to use a majority representation within a Legislature or temporary possession of the Executive or even the rising momentum of a referendum to subvert the liberty rights of the People by claiming to speak on their behalf, violating this separation of duties, outside of what these Constitutions explicitly allow.
The United States, endowed with special character by common Ratification of the People, can no more be unilaterally dissolved by a single State than it was unilaterally created. It is not for a party holding temporary power over a State to determine its membership in the Union. If a State wishes to secede from the Union, let it leave in the way it entered, by consent of the People. The State must first pass a referendum by two-thirds of the State’s People for the right to petition Congress for Secession. Upon approval of two-thirds of Congress and subject to veto by the President, the matter will be put to a national referendum of the popular vote at the time of the next Congressional election, a two-thirds majority of the voters required to approve lawful Secession.