One little known way to change the Constitution, is for the states come together to call for a new constitutional convention. In a way, this right exists as another series of checks and balances; except in this case, it's not between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. This check on power stands between the states the Federal Government.
So far, 29 state bodies have called for a new convention, with the majority of these decisions coming from conservative states. With the slew of Republican victories last month, we may soon see that number increase to 34 states, which is the bare minimum required to call for a new convention.
Two states, California and Vermont, have called for a convention to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that permits huge amounts of unregulated money into federal campaigns. Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, wants a convention to adopt sweeping changes, including a single six-year presidential term and concomitant House and Senate terms, to create more of a parliamentary system. Petitions to adopt term limits for members of Congress have circulated for years.
But much of the current impetus comes from fervent fiscal conservatives. This includes calls for an amendment requiring a balanced budget and other restraints on the federal government's spending and taxation powers.
A constitutional convention is a rallying cry for right- wing talk-radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin; the idea has been endorsed by Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Oklahoma's Tom Coburn, both conservative Republicans. An influential backer is the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, an organization of conservative state legislators and private sector lobbyists that advocates for corporate interests.
However, many constitutional scholars believe that limits cannot be placed on a convention; if one were convened, anything could be up for consideration. A convention "can propose what they think is appropriate," says Michael Paulsen, a professor at the University of St. Thomas law school in Minneapolis who is an expert on the issue. "There is no good theory under which the convention can be 'limited' to specific topics — far less to a specific proposed `text.'"And therein lies the problem. If a convention were called, anything could happen. Even though the movement would be lead by conservatives, there's no stopping liberals from adding their input. Even if they got what they wanted, would liberal states stand idly by and let their government be changed to suit the needs of conservatives?
Remember, the American public tends shift back and forth between Republicans and Democrats every decade or so. Who's to say that the country wouldn't lean back to the left a few years down the road? We could find ourselves facing another convention lead by liberal states.
I'm not saying that either one of these parties could build a better government. No matter what your political persuasion is, our dysfunctional government has been built by generations of corrupt Republicans and Democrats, and they'll be the ones who get to "correct" the law of the land.
And for those of you who are staunch conservatives, keep in mind what would happen if you had your way with the Constitution. If the past 8 years under Obama has seemed like hell to you, how do you think the liberals will feel about living under a more conservative constitution? Like I said, political opinion tends to swing back and forth in this country. If anything, calling for a convention could be the start of a tug of war between the states. There's no telling what we'll be left with when the dust settles.
Another factor we have to consider is, who's to say that the convention would be led by liberals or conservatives? As it stand now, both political parties take their marching orders from the banks and corporations. Behind the scenes, our government is run by a handful of influential people.
If they can hijack our political process, there's no stopping them from getting their grubby hands all over the state's convention. These people know no political ideology, no national boundaries, and no scruples. They view us with contempt, and consider us as nothing more than cash cows. I shudder to think of what the Constitution will look like after that.
At the end of the day, America is faced with irreconcilable differences. There are those who want to expand government in certain ways, and those who want to curtail it. Those who want to project our military power across the globe, and those who want our troops to come home. Some want to expand the welfare state, and some think government has no business in charity. Then there's abortion, religion, guns, drugs, and immigration, and on and on.
This country is filled with millions of people, who all have very different ideas on how society should be structured. If the United States is going to survive the 21st century, then there is only one way it can be done. The Federal Government must be curtailed at every level, and the states must be free to pursue whatever kind ideology their citizens see fit to live under. Let there be socialist welfare states, conservative republics, and minimalist libertarian enclaves. Let the people vote with their feet, and move to states that fit their beliefs, and let these states rise and fall on their own merit.
As it stands now, our nation is tearing at the seams, and we haven't been so divided since the Civil War. Likewise, if the United States isn't decentralized soon, and if large swaths of the country are forced to live under a majority they despise, this nation is going to burn. And no Constitutional convention led by either Democrats or Republicans is going to save us.
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