It is perhaps a happy sign that enough people have become active in the movement to organize an Article V amendatory constitutional convention to generate disputes among them.
Perhaps a better word is quarrels. What I am seeing is the kind of personal, accusatory bickering that characterizes much of ‘politics as usual.’
It’s too bad. All of the reformers – they call themselves ‘fivers’ – ought to be working together. The task is hard enough if pursued with unity. It is impossible if we are divided.
Certainly there is a root problem imbedded in the very nature of a convention. The problem is as old and as real as the nation itself: it is not red states against blue states or Republican versus Democrat. Not really, although it feels that way.
The difficulty is that the United States consists of fifty sovereign entities of vastly different size. The ten largest states host over half of the nation’s 308 million people. At the same time, the constitution is amended by a ratification of three quarters of the states. It follows that it is technically possible to amend he constitution with a combination of states having less than half of the people.
I say ‘technically’ because as a practical matter in these days of mega networking, social media, and the ubiquitous face of television, it is quite impossible to convince the people of the small states of reforms that the people in large states oppose.
In short, it should be obvious to anyone that no amendment will be ratified which does not represent the consensus of the American people, and the convention must reflect that fact in its rules.
Ah yes, the rules of the convention. Who makes them? There seem to be three points of view on this subject. Some say Congress will make the rules. After all, the Constitution says that Congress calls the convention, so why doesn’t the ‘caller’ spell out the rules?
The answer is obvious. The Article V convention was put in the Constitution to provide a way for the states to rein in an overbearing federal government. To permit the Congress to make convention rules would be to put the fox in charge of the hen house.
It would take no stretch of the imagination to suppose that the Congress would direct that the convention consist of 545 delegates; one chosen by each member of Congress, one by each Justice of the Supreme Court and one by the President. Hardly a recipe for reform.
A second group insists that the State legislatures should make the rules. These are folks who see an Article V convention as a convention of the States, represented by their respective legislatures. They see the convention being organized in pretty much the same fashion as Congress and the State Legislatures themselves are organized.
And how is that done? Quite simply, along party lines. Majority and minority. One side of the aisle or the other. Winner take all, State by State.
The trouble with that approach is that it can end up like Bush v Gore, with the winner getting less than a majority of the popular vote. We managed to avert a crisis in 2000 when the Supreme Court ignored the constitution and decided the election, but that impromptu approach wouldn’t work for a constitutional amendment.
No sir, the only sensible approach is the third way; let the convention make it’s own rules, but first make sure that every community in America is represented. There are millions of Republicans in New York and scads of Democrats in Texas. A convention must hear from all the people. It must allow all the ideas to be explored, all the arguments to be made.
The convention must not be bi-partisan. It must be non-partisan. There is a huge difference. Delegates must be chosen for who they are, not for the team they play on. Brand name politics are a major cause of our dysfunctional government.
Let’s be done with name calling and impugning motives to every argument. If we listen to each other and glean the kernel of truth in every thing that is said, we might just make some real progress.