2014/02/04

Article V convention proposals misguided

We have recently seen a flurry of movements to convene an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution (links at the end). They are driven by the realization that only amendments might reverse wrong directions taken by the federal government, and because many of those amendments would need to reduce the powers claimed by Congress, the development of proposed amendments is not something we can expect Congress to do. They are right about both points, and we have developed our own proposed amendments, but we also offer a far better strategy for getting such amendments adopted and implemented.

Such movements are not new. There have been many in the past. They've all failed, because they've all made the same few mistakes, are making the same mistakes again, and seem unable to learn from those mistakes. Here are the common mistakes:
  1. They underestimate the difficulty of composing sound amendments. Except for the first ten, the Bill of Rights, almost all that have been proposed or adopted have been sloppily written and did not work out as intended. Recent proposals by most reform groups are even worse.
  2. They imagine an Article V convention will be composed of persons who can and will compose sound amendments. There are probably less than 200 persons alive with the skills to compose sound amendments, they don't agree on any, and  none of them would be delegates at any Article V convention.
  3. They ignore the careful preparatory work needed to develop sound amendments by teams of experts meeting to hammer them out with extensive public discussion. We do need conventions, but not a comprehensive Article V convention. We need to assemble as many of those constitutional amendment experts as we can to develop proposals for reversing specific  court precedents, probably separate conventions for each wrong precedent.
  4. They seek a few sweeping amendments that will reform everything, when the only thing can can work are amendments narrowly tailored to overturn specific lines of court precedents. Because amendments are so difficult to get ratified, they seek to do too much with too few, generally between one and ten. That won't work. Broad amendments would have to be written in broad language that would have the same kind of ambiguities that have allowed the misinterpretations to which we object. The Constitution needs greater specificity, and if that takes more than 100 amendments, then that is was we need to develop and ratify.
Our proposals avoid all these mistakes, yet the various movement proponents seem unable to grasp why ours is the proper approach.

The standard model for such conventions would be for each state to decide how to appoint its delegates. Voting would be by state, with the vote of each state determined by a majority vote among its delegates. If appointed by state officials we can have some expectation of the composition from the partisan balances in each state. If appointed by governors, there are 30 Republicans, 19 Democrats, and one Independent. If appointed by legislatures, there are 27 Republican-controlled, 18 Democratic-controlled, 4 split, and one nonpartisan. However, if delegates are elected we might expect a breakdown that resembles the last election for the U.S. Senate, now at 54 Democrats to 45 Republicans, or the votes for president, for which 24 states went Republican and 26 went Democratic. None of these methods of selection promises to send delegates who have the skills needed to competently draft amendments to the U.S. Constitution, much less the concerns of the advocates for such amendments. It would more likely resemble a joint meeting of the Republican and Democratic national conventions trying to agree on a platform, and they don't do that very well even when they meet separately and have most of the work done in committees that meet for months before the convention.

The purpose of an Article V convention is to provide a way to develop proposals, especially if Congress is reluctant or unable to do so, but as we have seen from all the proposals developed at conventions of all kinds, they are simply not forums that are competent to do the difficult work of developing sound proposals. The appropriate forums are gatherings of experts on particular departures from constitutional compliance by courts, that can specialize on developing one or a few specific proposals. Those would not be official Article V conventions, but privately convened special conventions, perhaps a series of several on each issue, conducted over a period of years, with public comment between sessions. Only after the proposals are thoroughly worked out, and perhaps tested at the state level, should a movement seek to get each of several state conventions to support the exact private proposals, with no changes, and demand Congress adopt them, again with no changes, as proposals to be submitted back to the states for final ratification.

There is no role in this process for an Article V convention. If private gatherings can develop the language of proposals, there would be no need for one. All the work for one would already be done. That is the way we need to seek amendments.

How an Article V convention might go terribly wrong

Can such a convention be instructed or controlled once it convenes? No. There is no enforcement process for any controls. Consider the following scenario:
  1. Convention meets in secret
  2. It proposes entire new constitution which contains no rights or restrictions on governmental powers
  3. The proposal promises large benefits to every citizen or resident of the country, such as a minimum income of $100,000 a year (which would be impossible, but most people won't know that).
  4. It declares it will go into effect when ratified by a national referendum of citizens (or perhaps even non-citizens)
  5. A majority votes for it (and if they do how will anyone overcome that?)
  6. Ruling class use the new government to solidify their control, make everyone dependent on them, suppress all dissent as "terrorism"


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1 comment:

Catherine West said...

Everyone, proposing Amendments while considering the Constitution an isolated - atheist -secular document is demonstrating how little so many good Americans disregard even have awareness of The Three Sacred Documents, succinctly stated by our Patriarch George Washington in his entire "Fair" "well" his heart, Address: "“Of all the dispositions and habits which least to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert [steal] these great Pillars of human happiness — these firmest props
[sustain/support] of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity [ ]. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And...let us with caution..indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle [The Three Sacred Documents] .” September 19, 1796 Twenty years after the Declaration of Independence and Seven years after the Constitution of the United States of America is signed, and 27 of his 47 years of public service to bring embryo nation to nearly toddler-hood: Patriarch*.

Not understanding, nor comprehending that One Nation, under God, indivisible -- does means the Commands, Laws, Lessons, instructions, and actions to take stated in The Bible, and all 1137 words of the Declaration, and applied in perfect balance of logic in truth and trust in the Constitution. "You shall not give false evidence against your fellow countryman" Commandment 9 is the flagship of insubordination and disobedience to God and it is with consequences -- everyOne Person Protected in his own unique, Immortal-Soul/ mind/ heart/ will/ conscience, alone, with those he loves, those he knows, and those he will never know.

Because you do not believe there are consequences to violating God's Laws and the Declaration's Laws; you cannot possibly Amend His or the Declaration's Laws, because they are Bound by Articles II and VI Oath of Office of One Person's Promise in Trust with God as Witness, that within his unique, Immortal-Soul, he will to "the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States BECAUSE that is taking action synonymous with "The Christian Religion" and "The Declaration of Independence...[is the] declaratory charter of our rights, and the rights of man."--Thomas Jefferson.

I have used up the computer's love of 'number = character' so I'll divide this and put the rest of it at http://declarationandconstitutionspeak.blogspot.com/2014/03/attempting-to-write-or-re-write.html

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