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Literate Dragon Donating Member (17 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 10:53 PM
Original message
Constitutional Convention, anyone?
I encountered something very interesting to me today: /

As we should all know, the U.S. Constitution contains two different procedures by which amendments may be proposed to the states for ratification. The first method, and the only one that has ever actually been used, is for amendments to pass both houses of Congress by a 2/3 majority. Congress does not actually PASS the amendment, it only proposes it, and 3/4 of the states must then ratify the amendment before it becomes part of the Constitution.

The other method, which has never been used, is for 2/3 of the states to call for a Constitutional convention, similar to the one that took place when the Constitution we have now was adopted. If 2/3 of the states call for such a convention, Congress MUST call for it, and the states must then send delegates. The convention would then propose amendments (up to a completely new constitution) which would have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states just as if they had come from Congress. If a convention is called, no limits can be placed on the changes they can propose to the states. Just as the original convention, called for the purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation, ended up scrapping the whole thing and starting over, so might a new constitutional convention scrap our current governing document and start fresh with a new one (although I suspect any likely convention would want to keep many aspects of the existing government).

Why would we wish to do this, and create the danger of truly radical change? Because we are against the wall. Our democracy has been suborned. Both parties, for the most part, serve the corporate interests, not the public interest. This means that no solution to the terrible problems we face as a nation can be achieved by electoral politics within the existing system. No viable alternative will be offered to the people for a vote. All must pass the corporate veto. Since the ordinary way of effecting real change is denied to us, we must take a more radical approach, and a constitutional convention -- if we can pull this off -- has the advantage of being nonviolent and avoiding the consequences of revolution.

The U.S. Constitution represents a compromise among divergent interests and values. It compromised the interests of big states with those of small ones, of democracy with the propertied class' fear of the mob, of slave-owners with abolitionists. Any new Constitution, or any lesser scope of amendments to come from a convention, would have to represent a similar compromise. We could not get a left-wing paradise from such a procedure. Nor could the Tea Partiers get a theocracy or a government of libertarian principles or anything else outrageously radical that we would not approve. But that doesn't make the process futile. There are few points of agreement between the Tea Party right (or at least its younger members) and the insurgent left, but one of them seems to be that government corruption and control of the government by corporate interests needs to go. Although there are many changes to the Constitution that might be proposed to make it more modern and genuinely democratic (starting with the abolition of the Electoral College and going on through proportional representation in the House, and perhaps an expanded House so that each Representative represents a smaller number of people), the one thing that must change if we are to retake our government and restore democracy is an amendment something like this:

The right of free speech does not imply an unlimited right to amplify one's speech or that of another through the purchase of media outlets, or through monetary contributions made to political campaigns.

This simple provision would permit the imposition of sensible and democracy-protecting campaign finance laws and legislation that would set aside the Citizens United decision. It cannot possibly come from Congress, corrupt beyond redemption as that body is. And until it becomes law, Congress will remain corrupt and incapable of passing other legislation necessary to restore prosperity and national health.

For this measure alone, a Constitutional convention would be a worthy risk to take, a worthy cause to pursue. Or so it seems to me. What do the rest of you think?
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 10:54 PM
Response to Original message
1. I've been saying we need a Constitutional Convention for years and decades,
But I doubt it is going to happen.
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Literate Dragon Donating Member (17 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 11:02 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Normally, I'd agree
but these are clearly not normal times. Some sort of radical, outside-the-system change is being demanded by an increasing number of people.

If you've saying this for "years and decades," then, like me, you may be old enough to remember the political disappointments of the radical hopes of the 1960s and 1970s, but these times are not those times; those times were ripe for cultural change and a revolution in values, but the nation's institutions were still working pretty well. At this point, they've broken down. There is suffering out there such as hasn't been seen in America since the 1930s.

I think this might be different.
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 11:06 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Well, it's debatable about how well those institutions were working back then,
But that aside, if they've broken down, then even more reason to convene a Constitutional Convention in order to get them running.
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status quo buster Donating Member (73 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 08:38 AM
Response to Reply #1
14. It is all about managing risk
The risk of having the first Article V convention is minimal because whatever proposed amendments come out of the convention must still be ratified by 3/4 of the states, a very tough hurdle to overcome. The far greater risk is to stick with the current political and government system that clearly is dysfunctional, corrupt and inefficient because it is run by a two-party plutocracy or oligarchy that no longer serves the interest of most Americans. In days an historic conference at Harvard Law School will work at settling views on exactly how a convention can be created and operated. Pay attention.
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BanTheGOP Donating Member (596 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 10:28 PM
Response to Reply #1
15. A far easier, doable solution: Ban the republican Party
Banning the republican party would leave us with a rich, diverse multitude of progressively-minded individuals in which we can engage in TRUE democratic intercourse. Rewriting the constitution, in this climate, would indeed give the bagger bitches a potential stranglehold on the country, and in extension, humanity as a whole.

It is much more feasible in attacking the financial apparatus of the republican party, rendering them illegal under RICO statutes. Indeed, the ONLY problem we face as a country and as a species is the existence of the GOP. Pure and simple.
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shraby Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 11:16 PM
Response to Original message
4. I think it would be a dangerous step to take with all the
nutjobs in positions of power. The way it constitution is amended now is good enough to keep shit from coming down on our heads by the bucketful.
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Literate Dragon Donating Member (17 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 11:24 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. The advantage of the convention method
is precisely that it would bypass the nutjobs.

Remember, the convention couldn't pass amendments, it could only recommend them to the states, and 3/4 of the states would have to ratify. The more radical the proposition, the less likely it is that enough state endorsements could be achieved.

In any case, as long as the corporate lock on government continues, there is no way that either an amendment breaking that lock or any of the necessary legislation that tramples on corporate greed can ever pass Congress. It's either something like this or revolution, and I know which one I would feel more uneasy about.
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PurityOfEssence Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 11:28 PM
Response to Original message
6. NO! We'd never get as good a deal on religion.
This would be idiotic.
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Literate Dragon Donating Member (17 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-22-11 11:43 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Why wouldn't we?
Remember, this would not be a "Tea Party convention," it would represent a broad spectrum of the American people. Also, bear in mind once more that anything proposed by the convention would have to be ratified by the states. Do you really think that 3/4 of the states would approve an amendment abolishing separation of church and state? I certainly don't!

Mind you, the amendment we really need is indeed to the First Amendment, but it has nothing to do with the establishment of religion or free-exercise clause thereof.
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RickFromMN Donating Member (275 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 03:18 AM
Response to Original message
8. Wouldn't the rich and powerful be the ones states send to a Constitutional convention?

Even if one required academicians, the rich and powerful have lots of academicians on their side.

I don't see how a Constitutional convention can benefit the common person.

On a historical note, how many people, in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, were common people?
I thought they were all political leaders and statesmen.

I'm afraid, if one wants radical change from the common person up, one requires a revolution.
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Trajan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 03:21 AM
Response to Original message
9. The possibility of abuse is too great ...
Dont let those bastards in the safe where the jewels are being held - They will steal us blind ....
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Are_grits_groceries Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 06:35 AM
Response to Original message
10. GAK!!!
That would fulfill the Tea Party's wildest dreams. Do you ave any idea how they would mangle it? The RW would pullout all the stops to influence the debate and outcome. They would use fear and power to get their way.

People do their best to ignore it all the time and try to get away with it. In addition, there are some wild interpretations of it. Be that as it may, it is one of the few solid source of ideas that we can try to point to and stop some of the crap that is proposed.
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 06:48 AM
Response to Original message
11. Likely, a constitutional convention would lead to the US dissolving like the Soviet Union did.
Edited on Fri Sep-23-11 06:55 AM by Selatius
Because conservatives would not want the US Senate to be touched. Think about it. The Senate was originally proposed to balance out the views of small states with larger more populous states. This is why Georgia gets two seats to California's two seats even though California is far larger in terms of population.

Another hang-up would be over which changes will be implemented.

I can think of several that would automatically be opposed by corporatist/conservative elements:

1. Implementation of publicly financed elections at the federal level
2. Implementation of majority voting with a run-off mechanism
3. Implementation of ability to recall sitting legislators/presidents

There are others, such as abolition of the Electoral College. I'm in favor of many proposals to make our country more democratic, but at the same time, the nut jobs on the right wing will also have a seat at the table.

In such a situation, I think the best solution would be to end "the American Experiment" once and for all, rather than risk letting the totalitarian elements force through some of their changes at the expense of some of our changes in the interests of "compromise."

The fear is the corporate elements would game the system by getting state legislatures to send pro-corporate delegates to the convention to write draft amendments, and then they would get their stooges in the several state legislatures to vote to approve these pro-corporate measures. They control plenty of state houses already. In such a situation, I'd vote to leave the Union.
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MineralMan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 08:16 AM
Response to Original message
12. This is an idea that is dearly loved by the tea party folks.
They want one so they can strip the First Amendment and turn the country into a theocracy. I don't like the idea at all, and I'm suspicious of anyone who calls for such a thing.
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Literate Dragon Donating Member (17 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-23-11 08:35 AM
Response to Original message
13. Once again, everyone needs to remember
that there's an inherent conservatism (by which I mean the dictionary-definition "resistance to change," not "pandering to nut jobs") built into the Constitution in that all amendments require 3/4 of the states to approve. Also, calling a convention DOES NOT immediately abrogate the entire Constitution and require us to start from scratch. The Convention COULD do that, but while it was working the existing Constitution would remain in place. The convention could only recommend, it could not implement. Any recommendations it made, the states would have to approve.

The radical changes desired by the Tea Party, such as eliminating the 1st Amendment and creating a theocracy, could not be implemented by such a measure because 3/4 of the states would NEVER approve of this. So that sort of fear is unrealistic and overblown.

The idea that it might be dominated by the wealthy and powerful is more realistic and yes, that could happen. Most of the delegates to the original convention in Philadelphia were prominent men of means. It could be that for this reason, or because of that same innate conservatism I mentioned above, this method could not give us what we need. But the dangers attendant on revolution are so severe that I say we have nothing to lose by trying it. Revolution should be a last resort.
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