Monday, June 02, 2014

Is This The Time For a Constitutional Convention?

For any of the readers who've been following my political blogging since Day One, you might remember I started off with the idea of blogging over a specific issue: the need to reform our federal government through any number of amendments that would fix things.  I even had the address as

Of course, that all changed: I ended up ranting about current politics and election woes (GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT) more often, so I re-named the blog (see the banner) and re-created a new address (that old reformamendment one no longer takes you anywhere).

But the interest in reforming/fixing our federal system of governance is still here, which is why I perked up when I saw an Atlantic article asking "Is it time for a Constitutional Convention?":

In January, Gallup found that Americans from across the political spectrum picked the failure of “government” as the top problem facing America today. The vast majority link that failure to the influence of money in politics. Yet more than 90 percent of us don’t see how that influence could be reduced. Washington won’t fix itself, so who else could fix it?
It turns out the framers of our Constitution thought about this problem precisely. Two days before the Constitution was complete, they noticed a bug. In the version they were considering, only Congress could propose amendments to the Constitution. That led Virginia’s George Mason to ask, what if Congress itself was the problem?...
Which lead to the alternative solution: allowing a 2/3rds number of states to call for a convention to submit amendments for consideration.  Which is the point the article writer - Lawrence Lessig, one of the major constitutional scholars out there - is getting at.  He's openly musing over the possibility of enough states getting together for the express purpose of fixing Congress through the amendment process.

I've seen other calls over the years - Larry Sabato has been relatively consistent on the matter - for amendments, and I've joined in on the cry every so often, but I've been reluctant more often than not about pushing amendments as a solution because of one thing: a lot of the proposed amendments are f-cking disasters waiting to explode.

Lessig's article links to another article in Slate, highlighting the movement going on within conservative-led states to get this convention idea off the ground.  One of the primary amendments being pursued is that damned monster known as the Balanced Budget Amendment.  You know, the amendment Republicans conveniently ignore when they're in control of all three branches of government (between 2001 to 2007) but then trumpet and proclaim as our salvation whenever there's a Democrat in the Oval Office (especially now with Obama as President).

I've railed against that damnable balanced budget amendment before: the damn thing is rigged the wrong way.  Every conservative suggestion for a balanced budget involves making it impossible to ever raise tax rates or even create new taxes to, you know, actually pay for sh-t government needs to spend on to make this nation work.  They require a supermajority to raise a tax, yet require a simple majority to cut a tax: they make it too hard to do one thing and too easy to do the opposite, essentially ensuring that the easy thing ALWAYS gets done while the hard (yet sometimes NEEDED) choice never even gets considered.  This doesn't balance anything: all it does is force the government to take different actions, such as massive spending cuts to achieve that "balance" in a false and painful way.

And that's not the only one: that Article V Convention movement - named after the provision allowing it to happen - is also focused on passing amendments allowing Congress to override Supreme Court decisions (and preventing the President from overriding that override with a veto), essentially killing off a checks-and-balance system between the three branches of the federal government; an amendment abolishing the 17th Amendment that provided direct election of U.S. Senators, essentially taking away an individual voter's right and something fully ignoring the corrupt history of state-nominated Senators; an amendment allowing up to 34 states to override any federal laws or regulations deemed "exceeding an economic burden of $100 million," effectively destroying the Commerce Clause under Article I and pretty much giving those states license to kill off FDR's New Deal, LBJ's Civil Rights and Medicare laws, and everything ever born from those two eras.

These aren't exactly the amendments we need: we need genuine reform in federal government such as putting an end to corrupt campaign finance laws that have basically given the uber-rich direct access and control of our elected officials; we need to set tighter limits on a President's power to wage unlimited war and waste trillions of dollars without oversight or accountability; we need an amendment granting us all better voting rights and protection from intimidation and refusal, especially making voting a universal given for all citizens and making it easier to vote period.

Lessig's argument that a state-pushed Constitutional Convention is weak tea: he's arguing for a movement that is not working in the best interests of the American people.  He may have an honest intent - any potential for reform that Congress is unable to even consider is an honest one - but he's backing the wrong damn horse, and he's siding with the wrong team here.  The team he's arguing for is looking to UNDO every genuine reform our nation's had since 1900.

There's an even better solution than this, Mr. Lessig: it's called voter turnout geared towards removing every obstructionist vote in Congress in both the House and Senate.  It's called throwing the damn Far Right Wingnuts OUT of Congress, period.  Every failure of government the last 10-15 years can be laid at the Republicans' doorstep: the refusal to balance their own damn budgets from 2001 until 2007, creating the massive deficits we live with today; the refusal to work with Obama, deciding on obstructing every effort he makes to force history to label Obama "a failure" forever; the failure to maintain ANY oversight of the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to massive human rights abuses along with literally billions of dollars vanishing into thin air by 2005.  With no-one from that tenure ever being held accountable for the fraud, theft, lies, murder...

We need to vote out a Republican leadership in Congress that DOES NOT lead.  That will go a long way to breaking the damn logjam giving us a broken Congress in the first place, where we won't need a constitutional convention to fix any of that.

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