How to Put Family Government into the Constitution. Plus Term Limits. Letter #2

 Dear fellow American,                                                                

Hello, again, I hope.  If you haven’t been able to read and consider my 1st Letter to State Delegates, it’s also on my website, ReducingTheNationalDoubt.com.  My 1st Letter, sent by email, is basically about family government and why family government is missing from our Constitution.    

You may wonder, how I, a mere housewife, became interested in the Constitution.

My questions about the Constitution and the family started when I was a young mother.  When my children were young, I noticed that other young mothers and I – and fathers, too – were doing a lot of caring for our children, teaching them, guiding them, showing our children the way.  We were busy, busy, busy.  

Yet, why wasn’t what we young mothers and fathers doing called government?  We were in fact doing a lot of governing.  The word “governess” expresses our role with children.  Yet, unlike most governesses, in the past or today, we parents aren’t paid – or even recognized – for our “government work.”  Why wasn’t the family considered a form of government?

Fortunately, one day I read a few lines in a history book that said family was a government.  Here, again, is what I read, what Jeremy Belknap, a patriot from New England, wrote, shortly after the American Revolution: 

All commissions under the former authority [Great Britain] being annulled . . . town committees 

had a discretionary but undefined power to preserve domestic peace.  Habits of decency, family 

government, and the good examples of influential persons, contributed more to maintain order than 

any other authority.  The value of these secret bonds of society was now more than ever conspicuous.

Jeremy Belknap, The History of New Hampshire, 1784, Vol 2, pages 394-5

Anyway, from those questions I had as a young mother – confirmed by Jeremy Belknap’s witness – I knew we parents were doing government work and decided family government should be honored and protected somehow in our Constitution by a constitutional amendment.

After all, notice how Jeremy Belknap describes family government as the “secret bonds of society,” family government’s strength and power being something we really can’t see.  In contrast, our formal, public governments – in state capitals and Washington, D.C. – are very visible and noisy.  After all, most politicians write a lot and talk even more.  

Notice also that Jeremy Belknap says that these secret bonds of society – family government – “contributed more to maintain order than any other authority,” suggesting a rather radical idea for our own day.  At some point we must consider whether informal governments, such as family government, may be more effective in keeping our ship of state on an even keel – and moving to the right – than our formal, visible governments.  

At this moment, however, we must first deal with the fact that the family is not recognized in the written document of our values, our Constitution.

For example, the proverbial visitor from Mars, reading our Constitution, would read about earthlings called “persons” and “citizens” but have no clue what “persons” and “citizens” are about or where they come from.  Perhaps persons and citizens grow on trees, persons from a “person tree” and “citizens” from a “citizens tree.”  Or perhaps persons and citizens pop out of the ground somewhere or even spring into existence from thin air, fully formed and self-actuated.  Of course, we conservatives know that “persons” and “citizens” come from families, but the Constitution gives neither us nor a stranger any clue about the primacy of family life.

We also know why the family isn’t in the Constitution.  The Founding Fathers didn’t forget the family but thought family life and family government were permanent fixtures of life and of our new republic and would last forever.  Jeremy Belknap, too, probably thought the family was forever and didn’t need special protection.

Today, however, our generation must step up, do our part, and put the family in the Constitution to help make family life a fact and a fixture once again in American life.

Here’s one idea how to do that – a first step – based simply on existing provisions in the Constitution.

As preface, our Constitution now allows people to hold national elective offices at the ages when most Americans are getting established, finishing their education, starting their own families, raising their children, etc.  With many important things to do besides politics, young people can also hold a seat in the House of Representatives at age 25 today, in the Senate at age 30, and in the executive branch offices of the presidency, president and vice-president at age 35 – the very time when most Americans have little time or money for a home mortgage let alone to pay for a campaign for national office.  These young ages for national elective office make it easy for big money donors to get and control an ambitious young politician for a long time.  

The following amendment idea simply raises the ages when Americans can hold national elective offices – to the ages when most people have finished their education, established and served in their family homes, etc.  This amendment idea says in effect that family and personal development come first and politics second.  This idea could be called The Family First Amendment because its main purpose is to protect a time for family life in the USA.  The Family First Amendment – the FFA, for short – reads as follows:

                                                Family First Amendment [FFA] – Draft Only

        1.  No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of [fifty?] Years.

        2.  No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of [seventy?] Years

        3.  No Person shall be eligible to the Office of President who shall not have attained to the Age of [sixty?]

             Years.

Please note:  the ages given, in brackets with a question mark, in this Family First Amendment draft are my opinions only.  For example, I’m older and trust people in their 70’s and think that age is the best age to serve in the Senate, but you may disagree.  Also, as to the stilted language in the FFA text – the “have attained to the Age of” phrase – it’s the same wording in our Constitution, an 18th century style of writing, that is kept.

I need your opinion about these suggested ages.  At the bottom of this letter, in the “Leave a Reply” box, please tell me what you think the ages of people should be to hold these national elective offices.  If you think the current ages are fine and shouldn’t be changed, please say so and why.  

For your information, Michael Medved, on his national radio program, recently reported a poll claiming most Americans think age 50 is “the best age for a politician.”  I don’t recall, however, if this poll covered all elected politicians, including state and local politicians, or only national politicians.  

Also, why I believe the age of 70 is best for U.S. Senators will be explained in a future letter.

In summary, the Family First Amendment if adopted would reserve certain elected offices – the far-from-home ones in our nation’s capital, at least far from home for most Americans – to the time of life when most Americans have fewer family responsibilities at home.   For example, the earliest someone could run for the U.S. House under the FFA, as this draft is now written, is age 50 when few people will have little children needing one-on-one daily care, PTA meetings, school plays and games, to attend, etc.  

The Family First Amendment in effect sets apart a period of time for family life that all politicians in the USA must honor and respect, even if they have no children of their own. 

Also, please notice that the FFA has the added benefit of promoting the well-being of neighborhoods and communities.  After all, when people care for their children, they’re often caring for other children at the same time.  Whatever the number of children parents have in their home or apartment, two or three times that amount will often be there playing with those parents’ children.  

Furthermore, parents caring for their children also build caring relationships with the parents of their children’s friends.  As relationships between families are formed and forged, often for a lifetime, personal bonds – those secret bonds – also build across neighborhoods, neighborhood schools, and the community at large, again often forged for a lifetime.  In other words, as we build strong families, we’ll also build strong communities.

Even better, as we build strong families and strong communities, we can help bring peace and reconciliation to those who’ve had – or have – unhappy family lives.  Family life can be miserable, even disastrous, for some, as we read too often in the papers and hear on the news, but strong communities can help soften that pain.  

The Family First Amendment raises many questions, and perhaps the most obvious are these two:

  1.  Why should young adults be shut out from national elective office in Washington, D.C.?  After all, the Founding Fathers – whom most of us still trust and honor to this day – clearly believed that people at ages 25, 30, and 35 to hold national elective office.  Were our Founding Fathers wise to trust young people or not?
  • What difference could The Family First Amendment make anyway?  The FFA only affects the behavior of a relatively few people – the 535 members of Congress, plus the two members of the executive branch, the president and vice-president.  How could the Family First Amendment, if adopted, help revive family life across the whole nation?  

The first question will be answered in Letter #3, and the second question will be answered in Letter #4.

Finally, even if you State Delegates don’t like The Family First Amendment idea – raising the ages of when Americans can hold elected office in Washington – there’s a side benefit of the FFA that could fix a longstanding and vexing political issue.

We hear a lot about “term limits.”  Many Americans believe politicians should be limited to two or three terms in office, to prevent career politicians, especially our national politicians, from staying in office for 20, 30 years and longer.  

The Family First Amendment would set term limits in a different way – enacting term limits at the front end of a politician’s life.   

The Family First Amendment requires a certain time to pass, a certain age to be reached, before a politician can hold office in our nation’s capital.  Consequently, the FFA necessarily prevents most politicians from holding a national office for most of their adult lives, unless they live to be over 90 years old or so, which is uncommon for office holders but could happen.  If more people live to be 90, or 100, the ages for serving in Washington may need to be raised again, although if pandemics increase in frequency, really old people may become a rarity again.

In other words, instead of a law that limits how many terms a person can serve, an unsuccessful movement so far, The Family First Amendment delays when people can first hold national elective public office.  

Of course, since people could be elected to the House of Representatives at age 50, they could still serve 20 or 30 years in office since the average age of death now is about 79 for men, 81 for women, at least before this virus.  However, if serving in the House is postponed until people are at least 50, congressmen and women would likely gain some life experience before holding any national office, perhaps even holding a job in the private sector where their talents are tested or at least monitored carefully.  

One of my law professors, Professor Fordham, said one day in class, “There’s no such thing as a child prodigy in the social sciences.”  People are complicated, and if our national politicians spend some years helping with their own families, working with children, working in the PTA, perhaps serving in state and local office to learn more about people, etc., they could become a prodigy of human behavior, an adult one, the only kind possible.  Politicians experienced with people are more likely to enact better laws and oppose bad laws that often have unintended consequences.    

Our Founding Fathers did not want or expect “professional politicians” to rule from Washington.  Some professional politicians may be necessary to provide some institutional wisdom.  I hope all State Delegates will agree that every politician in Washington should not be a career politician their whole adult lives and that The Family First Amendment would help achieve that goal.

Thank you very much for reading this long letter.  Our Constitution is our fundamental document and some details were needed to explain this amendment idea.  Future letters about this amendment idea will be shorter.  

I hope you’ve seen that the Constitution is not rocket science and that this amendment idea is simple.  Yes, some numbers and math were needed for The Family First Amendment but just some simple addition, adding some years to when an American can serve in our national elective offices.

Some additional years on our national politicians won’t hurt and will probably help our political system, in my opinion.  Again, “There’s no such thing as a child prodigy in the social sciences.”  We can’t expect good laws from politicians who run for office early in life, limiting long-term relationships with even their own family members, especially having little experience with children, which most of us are even into older age.    

Delegates, I am presenting this idea of a constitutional amendment for the family to you first because it’s an American tradition for Delegates from the people to consider constitutional matters first.  The State Delegates of Utah’s 1st District, over 1,000 involved citizens, can help move this amendment idea forward and into the national conversation.

As Republicans, we must continue to build the enduring republic we’ve always wanted, and The Family First Amendment could help in my opinion.  As we work on our most pressing problems now, stopping this virus, we need to be preparing for our future as well.

Again, please give me your opinion about the ideal ages for national elective office in the “Leave a Reply” box below.  

Sincerely,

Cathy Hammon

How old should you have to be to hold elected office in Washington, D.C.?

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