Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Conventional Wisdom

Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?
Earlier this week, a friend posted a link to the movie by Robert Reich, Inequality for All.  Here's PBS' take on it: Reich.  All this got me to thinking: has the American Republic finally run its course?  Is it time to hang up the Stars 'n Stripes and tell everyone to go back to the countries their grandparents emigrated from --all that is except for the Native Americans, because that would just be silly!  Time to hang a "Closed" sign beside the Golden Door?  Well, I for one don't think so, at least not yet.  There's still one more tool in our toolbelt --one last arrow in the quiver our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us.  I am referring to, of course, the Constitutional Convention.

But wait a minute there, Ex-Prof!  I hear you cry.  There has already been a constitutional convention back in 1789, and it gave us the wonderful government we have today.  Besides, if anything ever goes wrong with the constitution, we can pass amendments to it and don't have to scrap the whole thing.  Well, to that I say that our present form of government might have worked well enough for an elite-lead, semi-slavery dependent European society perched on the eastern coast of North America in the 18th century, but too much water has flowed under Concord Bridge between then and now.  And amendments are not suited to such a fundamental restructuring of power as will be needed this time.  Besides, our Founders would be flabbergasted, if they were around today to flabb and gast, when we tell them there hasn't been a Constitutional Convention since the one they had.

One friggin' convention in over 200 years?!?  You lazy poops!
We need a new government, one that realizes that there are things like typewriters, telegraphs, this doohicky called the Interwebs or something like that --improved means of communication that can make us a much more participatory, real, actual democracy.  We also need a government that will safeguard those freedoms our founders saw as sacred, freedoms that indeed are sacred.

First, let's get the law down straight.  Article V of the U.S. Constitution states in part:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress  
Italics added.

What this means is that the several States of the United States (2/3 of them, to be exact) can cry "Shenanigans!" on the whole federal government, call a convention like the one pictured above, and set up a brand-new government.  Oh yeah, and then get 3/4 of the states to ratify it.  Sound difficult?  Well, it's supposed to.  Founding Father Thomas Jefferson wrote in his little pamphlet, the Declaration of Independence, that "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;" to this end, he and the original bunch in Philadelphia made it hard to add amendments and call new Constitutional Conventions --they didn't want us to turn into something like Italy became after WWII.
For the record, the slave's name was Sally Hemings,
not Prudence.  I don't recall any slave named --wait,
what?  I appear to have misspoken.  Y'all go back to
reading this fine blog.

But having a new convention would be scary, Ex-Prof!  What new kind of total buggery-factory-of-a-government would result from such a convention? Why can't we just let Congress, the President and the Courts fix things, just like they've done all this time?  Why rock the boat?  Why fix what isn't broken?

First of all, it just might be scary, especially if the proceedings are shrouded in secrecy just like the first convention was.  But if it's televised, the whole thing could become the reality-show-to-end-all-reality-shows and just might make C-Span bigger than HBO. Why not steal a bit from American Idol, Dancing with the Has-Beens and The Real Housewife Pawn Stars of Duck Dynasty: if the convention gets hopelessly deadlocked on an issue, such as how many parking spaces a Senator is constitutionally allowed within walking distance of their office, then they could open the phones and allow America to vote.  So yeah, it might be really exciting instead of frightening.

What kind of new government would emerge?  Be buggered if I know.  I can tell you that the government that emerges from the new convention would be acceptable to at least 3/4 of the state legislatures, which means it would be acceptable to roughly 3/4 of voting Americans, so at the very least it would have an approval rating higher than the federal government enjoys today.  Oh sure, there will be the discontented --Patrick "Give me Liberty or Give me Death!" Henry hated the first convention, and (I totally swear I am NOT making this up) the entire state of Rhode Island  boycotted it because somebody made a crack at how short Rhode Islanders' post-colonial schlongeroos were.  I suspect it was Alexander Hamilton who said that.  Also, Rhode Island was in a general sulk after the Revolution anyway.  Their entire state government was dominated by these ultra-radicals who pushed their agenda of having a simple, uncomplicated state of rural pastoralists and hearty fisher-folk, completely ignoring their neighbors in what would eventually become the United States of America, and take their place among the independent nations of the world.  

So yeah, don't expect the KKK, Idaho survivalists or the Westboro Baptist Church to be on-board with the new government, but at least there's a chance that fewer rational people will be against it.

"The Ocean State" because "The Tiny Suspicious State full of
Tiny Guys with Tiny Little Dicks" wouldn't fit on the sign.
Asking Congress, the President and the Courts to fix the problems with our present federal government is not such a good idea.  I suspect that they would all secretly like to quit or run the whole sorry business into the ground and then collect unemployment (from whom they would collect is unclear at the moment) --didn't Congress shut the government down a couple of times just recently?  Besides, asking government to fix itself is completely dumb.  I mean really, if somebody came to your company and told it to fix all the problems, even if it meant firing everybody and starting all over again back in the Stone Age, my guess is that everybody from CEO to janitor would say, "No problems here!  Everything is awesome!"  (ha ha, that stupid song from "The Lego Movie" is now bouncing around inside your brain, isn't it, bwa-ha-ha!!!)

Now on this question of rocking the boat and fixing what ain't broke: the only reason that the Ship of State is not on fire is that it sank sometime early in George "Dubbyah" Bush's first term and nobody really saw it.  We were too busy watching the Twin Towers fall and then searching for weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq to notice.  Case in point: Congress can't pass a law fixing immigration, so they instead grumble about impeaching the president for "failing to secure the borders" --is this a high crime, or a misdemeanor, as required by under Article II? --and THIS president has deported more illegal immigrants than any president before!  Oh, and all the courts are saying about illegal immigrants is that there are too few lawyers to represent the potential deportees, so they're holding deportation hearings in RFK Stadium now.

No caption needed
So, with all the free time you have now that you're out of work, or because the miserable job you have managed to somehow hang onto has now reduced you to part-time so they can stop paying your health benefits, you can pester your state legislature and its legislators to do this: call for a new constitutional convention!  And while you're at it, get yourself appointed to your state's delegation to that convention to make sure that a) nothing underhanded goes on; and b) you have a job for however long it takes to give this country a new government.  One that works.  And that isn't in the pocket of big business.  And that smells nice.  Ok, it doesn't have to smell nice, but it does have to have good hair.  And be fair and just and all that good stuff.

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