The call for a convention gets good coverage
Constitutional Traitors & Supporters
A plurality of Americans support a convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution if Congress will not do so. Since Congress is not doing so, when’s the convention going to happen? This article was presented in 2010 at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Article V Symposium in Lansing Michigan on September 16. The writer, a frequent contributor, is a co-founder of Friends of the Article V Convention (reachable through delusionaldemocracy.com). While we don’t take a position on every op-ed we receive, we like to give valuable viewpoints voice. If you have some news to share, please submit it.
by Joel S. HirschhornThe idea of using the Article V convention option in the Constitution received support in an article by Texas US Senator John Cornyn published on the Fox News website. He noted “Recent polling suggests that a plurality of Americans support a convention to propose a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution if Congress will not do so.”
The convention option “would be part of a national conversation that could last well beyond one or two election cycles. The very length of the convention and ratification process would allow the American people ample opportunity to judge proposed reforms, and ensure that they would strengthen the checks and balances that have served our nation well.”
At the same time a policy report from the Goldwater Institute recommended that “states seriously consider” using the convention option “to restrain the federal government.”
On the pages of the Wall Street Journal a case was made for a “repeal amendment” that would give state legislatures the power to veto federal laws.
The convention option bypasses Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court; it gives power to the states and citizens. Yet most Americans oppose using the Article V convention option. Three frameworks help understand why.
First, the craziness framework. Many Americans are crazy with fear about a runaway convention, even though the convention option has never been used.
Second, the analytic framework. Opponents invent their own facts, ignore correct ones, and consume disinformation. Cognitive dissonance works to prevent the pain of accepting new information incompatible with their negative views about a convention.
Third, the patriotic framework. Virtually everyone professes respect and admiration for the US Constitution. When some oppose a convention, they are replacing the Founders’ thinking with theirs, putting themselves above the law. Since they go unchallenged, opponents can still feel like good patriots even though their opposition trashes the constitution.
Despite hundreds of state applications, Congress has refused to call a convention, as required by the Constitution. Elected public officials who swear obedience to the Constitution cannot pick and choose which parts to obey. Silence by public officials is cowardly opposition to using the convention option.
Citing patriotism would take advantage of frequent strong public support for constitutional amendments not proposed by Congress, including these:
* In 2005, 76% favored an amendment to allow voluntary prayer in public schools; in 1983, 81% favored it.
* In 2000 and 2004, 61% favored amending the Constitution so that the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes would win, replacing the Electoral College.
* In 1996, 74% of Americans favored a constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms that members of Congress and the US Senate could serve.
* In 1995, a balanced budget amendment passed the House but failed to meet the two-thirds requirement in the Senate by a single vote; this year there is a strong national movement to get it and a number of other amendments that would surely earn broad public support.
Amending the Constitution can be done relatively quickly. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven took one year or less to become the law of the land because of public engagement. The 26th amendment (giving the right to vote to 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified in 1971!
Ratification by the states is required for any proposed amendments. That provides a hedge against dangerous amendments passed out of a convention. Rather than fear a runaway convention, people should fear our runaway politicians and government. When it comes to making government work for we the people, the greatest risk for the nation is not using the convention option.
The two major parties are rejected by 58% of the public for not effectively representing them. Amending the Constitution in our modern world should compete with ordinary elections. With Internet news, blogging, email, tweeting, texting, and myriad other forms of instant communication, holding a convention is another way to satisfy public thirst for true reforms.
Many Americans have lost trust in their government and politicians but far less so in their Constitution. Trusting the Constitution means trusting the Founders’ wisdom in providing the Article V convention option. No one can accurately forecast exactly what a convention would propose, but we do know that continuation of the status quo will not eliminate the corruption and dysfunction sustained by the two-party plutocracy.
We cannot know with certainty whether holding a convention would revitalize the nation. But refusing to use the convention option as a constitutional path to reform disrespects and undermines our constitutional republic. Calling those who fail to uphold Article V “traitors” is harsh, but is it inaccurate?
This year every candidate for the House and Senate should be compelled to publicly support using the convention option. Lack of support for it should be grounds for defeating them. Americans deserve the constitutional opportunity that Congress has deprived them of.
JJS: Without dialog, no progress can be made. Once a public conversation is up and running, then perhaps the public can consider fundamental economic reform. Presently, people’s beliefs about economies are little more than entrenched superstitions. A critical mass needs some mental breathing room in order to let in new ideas. Old views, no matter how discredited, can only be dispelled by dispassionate discussion. In an open and orderly forum, geonomics will easily carry the day. Creating that level playing field is a step toward economic sanity.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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