Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Case for a Constitutional Convention

I wrote several days ago on the usefulness of rediscovering the Articles of Confederation. But it is clear that the crisis – economic, political and moral – facing the United States today cannot be resolved by simply returning to the past. For years now, things seem to have been getting worse. Income disparity has been increasing, wars proliferating, politicians squabbling. Government has become overbearing, inefficient and too beholding to money. The American people's growing sense that things need to be fixed has energized both the Tea Party and Occupy movement.

Change is necessary but we the people cannot trust others to do it for us. Our politicians seek nothing more than power. Once elected, they spend most of their time and energy raising money in order to get re-elected. Our leaders do not lead because taking necessary actions might lose this or that constituency. So we need to start the change ourselves.

We need to begin pushing for a Constitutional Convention to change the way our government works and to ensure it better serves the 99%. A government lean, more responsive to our needs in the 21st Century and more focused on achieving economic prosperity with justice and liberty.

The Occupy movement has been criticized for not having any overall objective. How about occupying the Constitution?

The Tea Party wants fiscal responsibility, free markets, and constitutionally limited government. Let's do that the right way.

The US Constitution in Article V allows for various ways to amend the constitution:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; 

Leaving constitutional changes to the Congress would be to leave it in the hands of the professional politicians. The most reliable way to ensure real change would be to use the mechanism of a Constitutional Convention. None has been called since the first in 1787. But if the Occupy movement – perhaps alongside the Tea Party – focused now on electing in 2012 state legislatures committed to calling a Convention, a new era of American democracy could begin.

A Constitutional Convention would surely be a hotbed of democracy. Whether Occupy or Tea Party, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, everyone would come into it with different ideas. Reaching agreement on amendments to the constitution would probably be difficult and require equal measures of consensus and compromise. But such a convention would offer a real opportunity for the people to once again assume control of their government. The process of reaching agreement and then ratification by 3/4s of the states would offer further opportunities for democratic participation.

Some are no doubt afraid – whether they say so or not – of such direct democratic participation. They are comfortable with the way things are done today and do not want anyone to mess with that. But we, the great law abiding majority, the 99%, have nothing to fear from coming together to discuss and enact change.


Bill Walker said...

You can read the over 700 applications from 49 states at The Constitution requires a convention call on the part of Congress if 34 states apply. The reason a convention has not been held is Congress refuses to obey the Constitution.

Gerard Gallucci said...

Then the Occupy movement and Tea Party should find common cause in making Congress listen. Focus on electing members to Congress next year who agree to call the Convention.