The Safest and Fairest Way to have a Constitutional Convention in America

When the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling was passed in 2010, corporations and the wealthiest one percent were granted even more power to finance politicians than they had before.  Therefore, everyone is encouraged to sign the Move to Amend petition to reverse the Citizens United decision through a constitutional amendment.   

But even before the detestable Citizens United ruling was passed in 2010, the conditions for democracy were still deplorable.  So even if Citizens United is hopefully reversed, we will still be stuck with the following:  the great influence of money on a two-party system; no proportional representation in the election of the House of Representatives; California having the same number of Senators as Wyoming, even though California’s population is 70 times larger; the Electoral College system for electing a President; Supreme Court Justices serving for life terms; and the corrupt, private central banking system of the Federal Reserve.

Moreover, even if a Progressive Democratic or a Green Party candidate were elected President, it would take several constitutional amendments to eliminate all the entrenched, undemocratic elements (described above) from our constitution and government.  Until these archaic, constitutional components are removed, the undue influence of the one percent will always be with us.

When one considers the astronomical number of horrendous deaths that have been committed by governments throughout world history, it is easy to see the appeal of nonviolent anarchists who advocate abolishing all government with its inherent hierarchy and forces of domination.  But some anarchists and others from the political left, right, and center have commented on other online articles that I have written, and they have said that my ideas are far-fetched, utopian, even naive.

In my opinion, it is they who believe we can do away with government who are the utopian dreamers. I contend that having a government, constitution, and officially written laws is necessary. Though the United Kingdom does not have a written constitution, it is part of the American tradition to have one.  Some of the ideals prescribed here may take several generations to establish. They will not be easily attained. As an idealist, I would rather be labeled a utopian dreamer by some than a dystopian naysayer, as some hardcore realists and pragmatists seem to be. Think of the things about which people have said would never be achieved that were achieved in time.

Many Americans have been mesmerized by the mainstream media in believing that to be happy they must partake of the conspicuous consumption of the wealthiest. Large numbers play the lottery frequently, hoping to make their dreams come true. Without having a global and an ecological perspective, it is hard for people to see the value of advocating voluntary simplicity on a universal scale. But if everyone on earth maintained the lifestyle of the average American, our environmental devastation would be much worse. The earth has a carrying capacity; therefore, our practices must be ecologically sustainable. This is why I advocate a democratic world government with an emphasis on radical egalitarianism.

Having the longest-lasting constitution that is the hardest to change is a negative, not a positive—it is not something to brag about. I also advocate the total abolition of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy and the national legalization of marijuana for its recreational and medical benefits and hemp for its industrial, agricultural, and ecological benefits. But what can people like me do if the American people, under the next new constitution, implement laissez-faire capitalism, a flat tax, a neo-conservative foreign policy, and increased expenditures for the “war on drugs”?  We can keep trying, but our plight will be less dismal than before because laws will be easier to pass, and future constitutions will be easier to amend and easier to abolish.

The ideal constitution would empower the 7 largest national political parties, use proportional representation to create a unicameral national legislature by abolishing the U.S. Senate, and it would abolish the Electoral College system for electing a President. The ideal constitution would implement single payer health insurance, with the government as the single payer, and it would establish a public banking system that abolishes the Federal Reserve. Supreme Court Justices would serve 4-year terms, with a maximum of 3 terms, and for some elections, instant runoff voting could be used.

State governments could be changed as well: They could possibly be empowered from the bottom-up, from the neighborhood block club, to the precinct, township, county or municipal city council. The legislature at each of these levels of government could make judicial and executive branch appointments for their particular level of government. This would prevent voters (the few who still vote) from voting a straight ticket for several electoral races for individuals whom they know nothing about. State legislatures, just like the national legislature, could be elected using a system of proportional representation.

Regarding the public schools (as a retired teacher), I would let the residents, who live within the geographical districts of every public elementary, middle, and high school, use public funds to develop their own educational philosophy and curriculum—this will remove all forms of federal, state, county, and township school superintendent hierarchical control of neighborhood schools. Having so called “experts” tell teachers who can teach, what to teach, and how to teach has not worked in our society. This unprecedented, grassroots, decentralized, and nonhierarchical approach to the public schools will produce neighborhood togetherness and community solidarity, as neighbors get to know one another better, and develop common dreams.

Moreover, the front yards and backyards of these neighborhood school districts could be used for organic, local food production. These cohesive neighborhoods could evolve into a new and modern form of tribalism. Local groups would probably search the Internet to compare school philosophies and curriculums, and the residents, in the process, would be forced to think independently about the important things of life.

But what are other reasons for having a new constitution? The world is changing at an accelerating speed since the constitution was written in 1787 and then implemented with the presidency of George Washington in 1789. There have been 27 amendments added to the constitution, some of which expanded democracy a little. But an entirely new, supreme civil document is now long overdue. The Bill of Rights, which was the first 10 amendments, was not added until two years later in 1791. Thus, having a Bill of Rights for citizens was not the original intent of the oligarchic founding fathers.

Many people resent the fact that our current, supreme document makes reference to how slaves are counted (Article I, Section 2) and how slavery is to be allowed until 1808 (Article V). Article V of the constitution tells how the constitution can be amended, and it is, as mentioned earlier, more difficult to amend than any other constitution on earth. Moreover, there is absolutely no place in the constitution that tells how it can be totally abolished, which, by the way, Thomas Jefferson recommended with every new generation!

Article I, Section 8 says that only Congress has the ability to declare war, but current Presidents start wars all the time without first getting the approval of Congress. It would also seem that the National Security Administration (NSA), the Pentagon, the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, and transnational corporations—that is, the military-industrial complex–pretty much does whatever it wants in regards to foreign policy and domestic surveillance.  Considering how Congress largely represents the wealthiest one percent, I like the saying: “If voting could change anything, it would be abolished.”  John Perkins, author of the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman also expresses my sentiment:  “We cannot have homeland security until the whole earth is our homeland.”

In a world that is changing fast, any new constitution must show how it can be amended and also abolished more easily in a fair, orderly, and nonviolent way. To make it easier to amend and to abolish our current constitution– a constitutional amendment must be passed.

Constitutional amendments are difficult to pass when the issues are polarized. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment, however, which reduced the voting age to 18, was passed in a few months. But if a new Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal could show how a constitutional convention could be held that totally levels the political playing field among Republicans, Democrats, and five other political parties, this idea could become popular across the political spectrum.

People are extremely alienated with government and tired of the gridlock. When they see a comprehensive way to remove the corruption and unfairness in the system, many of them will become politically mobilized for this cause. They will demand that their U.S. Congressional representatives and their state representatives pass this amendment.  Here is how the amendment proposal could be written:

Proposal for a Twenty-Eighth Amendment to Revise Article V: How to Amend and to Abolish the Constitution More Easily

The United States government can be modified anytime new amendments are added to the constitution.  The U.S. government can also be modified when Congress passes new federal laws or statutes. But to change the federal government completely by abolishing the constitution, there has to be a Constitutional Convention to rewrite a new constitution.

How to Add Amendments to the Current Constitution More Easily

To modify the federal government by merely adding amendments to the Constitution, the United States Congress (including both the House and the Senate) must pass any proposed amendment to the Constitution with at least a 67 percent majority in both Houses.  The previous, additional ratification by 3/4 of the state legislatures is no longer required.

Amendments can also be added to the constitution anytime 51 percent of the state legislatures, while bypassing the U.S. Congress altogether, call for a national Amendment Convention.  U.S. citizens, using a system of proportional representation, will then select 100 delegates from the 7 largest national political parties who will meet at an Amendment Convention for no longer than 3 months to get any proposed amendments passed with a 51 percent or higher majority.

Since the delegates will have been chosen fairly, their Amendment Convention is also permitted to become a Constitutional Convention to rewrite the U.S. Constitution, in which the delegates will have no more than 3 months to create a document approved with a 51 percent or higher majority.

Another Way to Abolish the 227-Year Old Constitution

The Constitution is the supreme civil law of the land. A radically new constitution and government can be formed through a Constitutional Convention.  It can be achieved in a fair, orderly, and nonviolent way. A new constitution would not need to throw out the best of the old.  The American people have a right to choose whether they want a new constitution. Through their chosen representatives, an entirely new constitution can be made. For now on, the decision to create a new supreme document will be considered by the American people at every presidential election.

Every 4 years when Americans vote for a President, they can vote for or against having a Constitutional Convention. If 51 percent or more of the voters say yes, then 100 delegates, chosen through proportional representation, will be sent to the Constitutional Convention at the U.S. Capitol Building to create a new constitution. Then, if 51 percent or more of the Constitutional Convention delegates approve any new document, the new government will be implemented 4 months later. This orderly process of voters choosing a political party in order to establish which are the 7 largest national political parties, and voters choosing again from the designated list of 7 national parties to determine convention delegates, and the Convention itself will take 23 months, which will be described after the next two paragraphs.

Here is how Proportional Representation can work in the selection of Constitutional Convention delegates: American voters will study and evaluate the platforms and constitutions of the 7 largest national political parties. Each voter will choose one of 7 political parties that he or she most identifies with. Let us pretend for pedagogical purposes that based on a national election, the 100 Constitutional Convention delegates will be comprised of these parties and percentages: 20% Republican, 20% Democratic, 15% Libertarian, 15% Constitution Party, 15% Green Party, 10% Socialist, and 5% Communist.

A National Elections Committee, whose 7 executive directors will represent the 7 largest national, political parties, will be established beforehand to guarantee impartial election officials. Local election administrators will be professionalized. The National Elections Committee may use a voter-verified, paper audit trail produced by standardized voting equipment, or it may decide to use paper ballots to prevent corruption. The National Elections Committee will also be responsible for counting and verifying the membership of national political parties.

The 23-Month Timeline for Creating the New Constitution and Implementing the New Government

If at presidential election time, the American people decide they want a Constitutional Convention, then they will have almost 5 months, from November through April, to officially register with a national political party for this purpose. Websites such as www.politics1.com describe all the known national, political parties. Then during the month of May, no switches can be made as the official count of each party is made and reported by the National Elections Committee.

As a result of the count in May, any national political party that represents at least one percent or more of the nation’s eligible voters, but not including the 7 largest national political parties, will participate in national public speeches and debates, held from June through August. These smaller political parties will also share their party platforms and their own proposed constitutions in writing. This policy gives minor parties a chance to be heard.

Then from September through December, the political parties from the top 7 political parties only, as determined 4 months earlier in May, will share their party platforms and proposed constitutions in writing, and they will engage in public speeches and debates.

Then during the second week of January, registered voters will vote to choose just one party from the now designated list of 7 national political parties (these parties were designated during the previous May) to determine the percentages of party delegates at the actual Convention.

Let us pretend that the 100 delegates from the top 7 national political parties will be comprised of the following parties and numbers at the Constitutional Convention:  Republican Party, 20; Democratic Party, 20; Libertarian Party, 15; Green Party, 15; Constitution Party, 15; Socialist Party, 10; and Communist Party, 5.

On March 1, the Constitutional Convention delegates will meet at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. The delegates will work from March through May to create a new constitution that 51 percent or more of the delegates approve. Each of the 7 political parties will vote within their own party to choose one delegate to be the potential chairperson. Then the 100 delegates will choose a Convention chairperson from the slate of 7 candidates (one from each party), using instant runoff voting.

If the delegates agree on a new constitution with a 51 percent majority before the 3 months elapse, they are encouraged to use the remaining days to hear dissenting voices in the constant effort to revise their document through consensus decision-making in order to get an even higher percentage of approval. If only 50 percent or less of the delegates approve the new constitution after working on it for 3 months, then the proposed document becomes void, and the current constitution remains official.

However, if the new constitution is approved with a 51 percent majority or higher by the end of May, then the Constitutional Convention delegates will determine the specifics as to when and how the new government, based on the new constitution, will be implemented in a safe, orderly, and smooth way on October 1.

Summary of 23-Month Timeline for Creating the new Constitution and Implementing the New Government

November thru April—American voters will examine all national political parties.

Month of May—Voters will have already affiliated themselves with a national political party by the end of April.  Now there will be an official count of individuals in each political party. The National Election Committee will announce the results by the end of the month.

June thru August—Public speeches, forums, and written responses from all parties that captured at least 1 percent of the vote, but not including the 7 largest parties

September thru December—Speeches, debates, and written responses from the top 7 political parties only

Second week of January—American voters will vote to choose   from the top 7 national political parties; the top 7 were determined during the previous month of May.

March thru May—The 3-month duration of the Constitutional Convention

October the 1st—4 months after the Convention, the new government under the new constitution will be implemented

(End of 23-Month Timeline and Timeline Summary)

The spoken and written words of the Convention delegates must be publicized, and citizens will be allowed to voice their own opinions in the process.

The US Congress, the President, and the US Supreme Court will not have the right to prevent or control a Constitutional Convention or an Amendment Convention. They can, however, express their opinions and recommendations in the process.

(End of this Twenty-Eighth Amendment Proposal)

If the new constitution can be simplified or made readable, shortened, modernized, easily amended, and easily abolished—more people will study it and use it regularly, and they will not feel forever encumbered by it. Why do we have to live by the constraints of a document written 227 years ago? A constitution can be compared to a car: it can be amended (or repaired) for a period of time, but eventually it needs to be discarded.

On a related topic, Article V of our current constitution tells how our state legislatures can bypass the U.S. Congress altogether and have their own Amendment Convention, if 2/3 of them call for it. Well, more than 2/3 of the 50 state legislatures have already called for it, but the U.S. Congress has refused to allow it! Readers may want to investigate the Friends of the Article V Convention, which I also support: www.foavc.org

 

Roger Copple is 64 years old. He retired 4 years ago in 2010 from teaching general elementary, mostly 3rd grade, and high school special education in Indianapolis. He now lives in Bradenton, Florida. He hopes to make a contribution to society through further study, reflection, and writing. He is especially interested in studying political theory, playing chess and tennis, walking– preferably on the beach, and doing meditation. Roger can be emailed: [email protected]  His website: www.NowSaveTheWorld.com  


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Articles by: Roger Copple

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