Friday, April 3, 2015

BURGER AND THE BITCHING BIRCHERS


Many of the folks who want to see an Article V convention called hail from the right side of the political spectrum. That’s largely because the most popular constitutional issue is the need for a balanced budget.

Even the biggest of the big spenders pay lip service to fiscal responsibility, though usually they would balance the budget by raising taxes.

Still, there are a great many conservatives who are torn between the need for fiscal reform and the possible results of calling a convention. Prime among these is the John Birch Society. Those constitution-loving patriots bitch incessantly about the failure of the national government to obey the constitution, but they get nearly spastic whenever an Article V convention is mentioned. It seems that their devotion to the Constitution includes everything but article V.

They make a fuss about a letter written by Chief Justice Warren Burger in which he insists that a convention would be a dangerous thing. They seem to forget that it was Burger who led the Supreme Court to issue its activist fiat in Roe V Wade, perhaps the single most unconstitutional opinion ever rendered by the high court.

Obviously, Burger didn’t want a convention that might undo that decision or disparage the legacy of the Burger Court.

I have spent a good amount of time trying to understand the reluctance of those Americans who agree that the government is dysfunctional and needs fixing, but adamantly oppose the very remedy that our Founders gave us.

The best rationale I can come up with goes like this: Article V requires a convention to be called by Congress on applications by two thirds of the state legislatures. Members of Congress and members of state legislatures are all politicians; they are all either Republican or Democrats. They are all beneficiaries of the existing system of politics, lobbying and favoritism.

The Average Citizen has no confidence that politicians can or will fix the system. Therefore, if Article V is intended to enable state and national politicians to reform our government, it just won’t work. The average citizen just doesn’t want politicians fooling around with the Constitution. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, they ignore the fact that Congress already has the power to propose constitutional amendments. Since Congress rarely does it unless there is a major public uproar, most folks don’t worry too much about it.

But a convention called for the very purpose of proposing amendments, just sounds a lot more activist and potentially dangerous.

The call for a convention is addressed to 308 million Americans who live in a frenetic communications milieu, talking, tweeting and texting at billions of words per second. Information trumps knowledge, feelings trump analysis, and the sound bite has replaced the essay.

In 2015, what a thing sounds like is a lot more persuasive that what it really is.

What a convention really is is a constituent assembly, a gathering of the people of the fifty states, or their representatives, for the purpose of doing what was declared in the Declaration of Independence: expressing the consent of the governed to the form and manner of their government.

It is the embodiment of the idea so eloquently expressed at Gettysburg: government of the people, by the people and for the people.

So the first question to be answered is this: How are the people to be represented in an Article V convention? Do the politicians in Congress decide who is to represent the people? Do the politicians in the State Legislatures decide who is to represent the people?

Or do the people themselves decide who will represent them?

A convention is a law unto itself. It makes its own rules and decides upon its agenda. And most pointedly, a convention is the final judge of the credentials and qualifications of its members.

The framework for such a grass roots effort already exists. It can be found at www.conventionusa.org.




  

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