Constitutional Convention Begins October 19

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Believe it or not, in a barely covered announcement made on October 5, which I just ran across, a Constitutional Convention will commence on October 19. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito among others will preside. 23 proposed amendments and changes to the U.S. Constitution are on the agenda for debate.

It is an educational mock Constitutional Convention put together by University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, author of the book, A More Perfect Constitution. A growing number of able persons are debating, contemplating, and pushing for our next Constitutional Convention. Many say it is inevitable and necessary. Fewer say we are ready for it in this generation. Some arguments follow, much of which I was unaware of before a this bit of research.

The blogs are full of comments to discussions of a Constitutional Convention which charge that it would result in a runaway process with all manner of horrible changes wrought upon our nation and people. While respecting their concerns, which were also mine prior to being introduced to FOAVC this Summer, such comments are imparted from a state of ignorance. The U.S. has witnessed a runaway Convention before, in which, the delegates went way beyond their mandate and instructions in the drafting of a new Constitution.

But, the ratification process required to adopt what the delegates proposed, caused fierce fighting within some of the states before ratification could be achieved. It was our first Constitutional Convention and it achieved its goal to create a more perfect union through a constitutional democratic republic. One which has survived enormous challenges for over 2 centuries.

A convention held in modern times could not possibly achieve any results which were not bi-partisan. It would only take 13 state's delegates to nullify the Convention's product. Given that there are more red or blue states than the 13 required to reject ratification, the delegates could run as wild and radical as they wish in redrafting our Constitution, but, without consensus between red and blue state delegates, the runaway proposals would not alter a single letter of our current Constitution. Fears of gratuitous overreach are unfounded. The greater concern is that so much time and effort be spent with no changes to show to for it. The consequences of no Convention or, one that produces no change, are negative for a growing number of Americans assessing these options.

But if our current Constitution has survived for over 2 centuries, why should anyone attempt to change it now? It is a valid and important question with incredibly important consequences. While there are many, many arguments to support a call for an Article V Convention, there are 3 which are chief among them, Executive Power which has grown entirely out of the balances and checks devised by our founders, the partisanship of judicial appointments, and the incredible corruption of the political process by both special interest money and the 2 political parties.

The President now has taken unto its own office the war powers specified in the Constitution as belonging to the Congress. Over many presidents this shift has occurred. And America is now faced with the very real potential of president using Executive secrecy and expanded powers to attack other nations like China, Russia, Cuba, Iran, or Pakistan, which could engage the U.S. in a conflict whose retaliation posed grave risks to the U.S. homeland, compelling the Congress to underwrite the war even though the Congress would never have approved the attacks if the proposition had been posed to them.

The branch of government responsible for, and charged with, the duty to insure the checks and balances and principles of the U.S. Constitution, has become partisan; an outcome not anticipated by the founding fathers, and which is producing partisan oriented review, instead of impartial judicial review. And the Supreme Court as a result, has failed time and again to preserve the checks and balances between the original 3 equal branches of government contemplated in the thinking of our founding fathers, many of whom were well versed in the writings of Charles Montesquieu,, the architect of the modern concept of separation of powers.

We are witnessing at this very moment, the most monumental neglect of America's challenges and needs going forward as a result of the two party deadlock in the Congress. The two major political parties are now so consumed by the prospects of home district reelection, that their ability to act decisively, effectively, and bi-partisanly is virtually non-existent for existing and looming crises like illegal immigration, entitlement spending, the AMT taxes, and the growing national debt. Campaign financing has resulted in legislation that favors donor special interests instead of solving the nation's and the people's challenges. In fact, very often, the special interest influence results in legislation that creates more problems than it solves, like the Medicare Rx drug plan, which increases national debt and created non-competitive inflationary costs in the health care system.

Larry Sabato's book, noted above, addresses these and other issues of serious concern for our nation. And the mock Convention will address many of these concerns as well. It is my fervent hope that the student delegates to the mock convention are aired on C-Span. I believe these delegates may display far more knowledge of, and insight into, our Constitution than most of our representatives in government today, and certainly more than most voters.

Issues such as campaign finance reform, executive power overreach, war powers resting in the Executive Branch instead of the Congress as our Constitution specifies, can no longer be addressed by the 2 party political competition which, now passes for Constitutional process in name only. Political parties, modern technology, speed of information and action, universal suffrage combined with even less knowledge of civics by our voting citizenry than at any other time in our history, have culminated in serious imbalances of power and accountability. Combined, they constitute a process which is broken. It is broken in large part because precedent in law and action have now cemented departures from the original constitution into acceptance by our courts, politicians, and agencies of government, in ways that now make a far more imperfect union.

One of the incredibly important things our Constitution did was to define, quite specifically, government process. But, it did so for the 1780's, not the 21st century. Political parties were not even in place when our Constitution was drafted. Hence, the drafters could not anticipate the consequences of them on the process they designed. Many of our founders, in one fashion or another, agreed with Jefferson, Madison, and Washington as Sabato recites:

In a letter to James Madison in 1789, Jefferson wrote these wise words: "[N]o society can make a perpetual constitution . . . .The earth belongs always to the living generation . . . .Every constitution . . . naturally expires at the end of 19 years." Madison agreed, warning that their generation should be prevented "from imposing unjust or unnecessary burdens" on posterity.

George Washington was blunt when he wrote in 1797: "The warmest friends . . . the Constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections . . . .I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us."

Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes, authors of "The Genius of America" maintain that the U.S. Constitution should be a document that inspires change as the people and the nation change over time. Eric Lane is a law professor at Hofstra University School of Law. He was formerly a director of the New York City Charter Revision Commission, New York State Commission on Constitutional Revision and counsel to Senate Democrats in New York. Michael Oreskes is the executive editor of the International Herald Tribune. Formerly he was a political correspondent, Washington bureau chief and deputy managing editor at the New York Times.

Together with Larry Sabato, Eric Lane and Michael Oreskes discussed their books and the Constitution in a program aired on C-Span today, conducted at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In opposition to a Constitutional Convention would be a host of small groups claiming to know what the original intent of our founding fathers were. Libertarians make this claim frequently. Less well known and wide ranging are Code Pink on the left, and Citizens for Constitutional Government on the right. But, the simple logical truth of the matter is, no one can possibly know what the founding fathers would have intended for the Constitution if it were being drafted today, with the advent of campaign financing, threats of attack by foreign terrorists without a national identification or cohesion, the digital information age, electronic surveillance, and international law and the U.N.

In the quote by Jefferson above, the 19 years refers to the average span of a generation in their day. Today, a generation is more like 30 years. Hence, Jefferson would today call for a Constitutional Convention to be held every 30 years whether changes were agreed upon or not, as part of the process of keeping the process alive and invigorated for each generation. There is much wisdom in this line of reasoning.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on October 14, 2007 6:21 PM.

Today's Politicians - Inept, Corrupt, and Wrong! was the previous entry in this blog.

Poll: Americans: Hopeful, but Very Critical is the next entry in this blog.

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