Guest post by John de Herrera
Today, as happens once or twice a week, a blog post or news item appears on the Internet examining the Article V Convention. Below it are the same comments Americans have been making about a convention for over half a century: that it’s dangerous, that with the way politics are played today such an assembly would be nothing more than an exercise in special interests gutting protections originally put in place of, by, and for the people.
Many today understand the necessity for our society to build consensus about what’s wrong (in order to do something about it), but few understand the function and utility of a convention. Nothing stays perfect forever, politics are dynamic, things change, and a scan of political sites makes clear consensus is that governance is off track. The question is, how do we address it?
A quick read of Article V (a single sentence) shows that upon the application of 2/3 of the states Congress shall call “a convention for proposing amendments….”The leading national group Friends of the Article V Convention has done an audit of Congressional Records (themselves part of the Constitution, as the Constitution mandates that both houses keep records). They show that not only have 34 states cast the requisite number of applications to initiate the call, but indeed 49 have cast over 750 applications.
In other words the states have satisfied the clause. Congress simply ignores its obligation to count them, all the while two or three new ones arrive each new session.
The reason the 113th Congress is allowed to disobey the law is because the people are unaware and/or fear a convention. So long as this state of affairs exists, Congress can simply ignore the record while looking busy with a bunch of partisan and divisive nonsense, i.e. politics as usual.
90% Disapprove of Congress
What’s more powerful, the right to complain about government, or the right to reform it? Clearly one right is more powerful. Indeed it’s the right that makes an American citizen who and what they are – a member of a society with the power to alter or abolish what it dislikes about government. You’ll find very few Americans who want to abolish government, the three branches – legislative, executive, and judicial. No, the vast majority want to keep what we have, but address how it currently operates.
Opinion polls show that 90%+ of Americans disapprove of Congress, a statistic that’s been trending for over a decade. When the institution established to represent the will of the People is disapproved by 90%, it’s self-evident it’s time for them to exercise their right to alter what they dislike. History teaches that if not, forces of corruption will alter it against our wishes, and some argue that’s already occurring due to corporations acting as citizens. This status quo of politics has resulted in government drowned in private money, where laws/loopholes go to the highest bidders, written by lobbyists, signed off on by members of Congress, and disliked by the People.
The Provisions of Article V
In the event Congress becomes unresponsive to the needs of the people a convention of the states considers amendment proposals. Proposals voted up by 2/3 of state delegations are then sent back to the people at large for ratification by 3/4. In other words, the functions of proposal and ratification are two separate functions. The fear of a convention comes from the perception that proposal and ratification are both done at the convention, when the former is done by delegates, and the latter by the people.
Seventy-five percent of Americans today are not going to suggest we chuck the Constitution and try to start over. But they are highly like to support the reversal of Supreme Court doctrines regarding speech and personhood, even, perhaps, public financing of elections.
Forcing Congress to Act
There are a number of things about American history that politicians do not talk about, not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t, but because doing so would alter how we citizens see and think about our government. On the flip side, if enough of us become cognizant and desirous of reform, politicians will have no choice but to comply.
A paper put out by the Congressional Research Service (subsequently updated multiple times, most recently April 2014) says as much about the Article V Convention – that if enough Americans want it Congress will have to call one. That the paper has been updated since it was first delivered to Congress is significant: it means there is movement in the halls of power. Congress may not be talking about it, but they are clearly aware of growing interest in Article V. And the negative and false myths surrounding it.
American Citizen or Global Citizen
Even if you’re not American, it’s important to understand and educate yourself about this issue. Unless we start talking about a different Earth, a different global order, a different USA, and a different Constitution, there is no other way out for humanity. In this sense, an Article V Convention is unique. Once called, it sets off a natural progression of events that will deliver us from the inevitable catastrophe of corporate governance.
How’s that? Because a convention allows for humans to find common ground past the gridlock of corporate politicians. Believe it or not, the vast majority want to throw off this long train of abuse and ecological negligence. Everyone has an idea of what changes are necessary. Yet until we all come to the table, nobody is going anywhere.
It’s time to raise consciousness. It’s time for non-Americans call on Americans to exercise their right to a convention; it’s time Americans call on Congress to count the applications on record. Until the count is made nothing can happen. We don’t have all the time in the world to make it so.
Congressional Research Service: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42592.pdf
Friends of the Article V Convention: http://www.foavc.org
John De Herrera is a writer/artist/activist who lives and works in Santa Barbara, California. He is a former founding member of Friends of the Article Five Convention. You can email him at email@example.com.
Photo credit Wikimedia Commons