Friday, May 19, 2006

What the People Can Do...

So, as stated, if the federal government can't respond to the people's need for much-needed reforms, the states could do so through the Constitutional Amendment process. The next big question is, how can the people get the state governments to respond?

Well, in the immortal words of Fredrick Douglass, Agitate.

Better ways to describe 'agitating' would be:

1) Constant street-level protests focusing on a single topic of needed reform around the state capital until the state lege capitulates and passes a motion to have a convention held on that proposed amendment. It helps to focus on just one topic to a) prevent confusion and b) encourage the state(s) that call for the convention to ensure that convention will stay focused on that reform and not dabble in more divisive amendment proposals.

2) This being an election year, you can see about greeting and meeting the state representatives and state senators running for election. If enough people confront them on getting specific reform amendments passed, that ought to leave an impression on them that people are going to pay attention to what they do, and should encourage them to push for those amendments.

3) Some, probably most, hopefully all, states should have a system of voters submitting referenda and/or amendments at the state level that circumvent the offices of the lege and the governors, and would compel the state government to act on issues the elected officials would rather avoid. In my state of Florida, for example, we have an amendment system in place where voters directly vote on amendments to the Florida Constitution: some of those amendments are added to the ballot via petition-signing campaigns run by single-issue advocates. Some that passed involved an amendment adding a dollar to the current federal minimum wage, an amendment protecting the rights of pregnant pigs, an amendment restricting class sizes in schools (an attempt to reduce overcrowding in classrooms), and a massively controversial amendment forcing the construction of high-speed rail services between the major cities (that amendment was killed off by another amendment that abolished it). A possible *state* amendment that could pass would require the Florida government to automatically push for a federal convention on a particular reform topic.

4) Constant calling and emailing of state legislators. As long as it's done politely, and by the etiquettes of letter-writing and phone-calling, as well as with individual flourishes (they hate cookie-cutter form letters), if enough people submit their concerns that an amendment convention is needed the legislators should respond appropriately.

You may notice something about all 4) items on that checklist: they each require action on your part - our part - to get something done. Agitation is best done with deeds rather than words. It's easy to sit here and type this stuff up: it takes effort to actually go and *do* it.

The impressive thing about the recent wave of protests held predominantly by the Latino communities over the sudden concerns on illegal immigration is that they've actually done it. Considering the level of anger and hostility in this country over Bush's and the GOP Congress's mishandling of affairs (messy and mismanaged war effort, growing deficits from bloated earmarks spending, bribery and corruption across the board, warrantless wiretapping and increasing violations of citizen's civil liberties, cronyism to where loyalty trumps competency, all of that), there haven't been massive protests in this country since the start of the Iraqi war. Where are the anti-war protestors today? Where's the massive crowds of angry libertarians shouting about pork barrel spending bankrupting our childrens' futures? It's one thing to talk the talk: it's better still to walk the walk.

We need action. We need passion in the streets. We need a focus on which to gather our interest. Pushing for reform amendments is a good step in that process.

So. What amendments should we push for?

More to follow...

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