Monday, June 1, 2009

Constitutional Convention

[From JohnS] The Constitution was written at a time when the United States was an agrarian society; today in our industrial society, the phraseology of parts of the Constitution and amendments makes it difficult to apply the intent of its authors to modern situations. Provisions are available to modify the constitution through the amendment process.

How many current legal conundrums could be resolved by amending the constitution? Many, maybe most. After 200 + years, we should consider convening a constitutional convention to study the intent of our founders and place their intent in line with American society today by proposing appropriate amendments. Once submitted by the constitutional convention any amendments would have to follow the process of approval defined in the constitution.

Our founders found it necessary within 3 years to add 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights) to achieve acceptance in their day and it seems logical that additional changes are needed after so many years.

The principal value of convening a constitutional convention is to allow the members and their contemplation of issues to remain outside of the political environment until ready for presentation to the Congress. Members of the convention should not be members of congress or otherwise be politically involved, they should remain beyond pressure from special interest groups and their ilk, as is the Supreme Court today. I am inclined to think that their discussions and debates should be closed.

Convention members could probably be chosen by a process similar to choosing Supreme Court members. Likely members would be constitutional scholars and lawyers specializing in constitutional law but others would be needed to provide a broader understanding of today’s needs.

A constitutional convention seems appropriate. Maybe, it should be automatic every 100 years or so.


Ira Glickstein said...

John, the idea we need a new Constitutional Convention has been bandied about for some time now, including an effort by Dennis Kicinich in 2007.

The Constitution provides two methods. Only the first has been used successfully:

1) Congress Initiates:

Both House and Sentate pass amendment by 2/3 vote and 3/4 of states ratify.

2) States Initiate

Congress must call a convention if 2/3 of states submit petitions. Amendments approved by conventions require 3/4 of states to ratify.

Although 2/3 of the states have never petitioned for a convention on any given issue, Congress did initiate the 17th amendment (direct election of senators) after supporters were one state away from 2/3. So, perhaps the credible threat of a convention could be effective.

I think it is naive to imagine a constitutional convention could be, in your words, "outside of the political environment ... Members of the convention should not be members of congress or otherwise be politically involved ... beyond pressure from special interest groups ... discussions and debates should be closed." Ain't gonna happen! It would be political and on TV day and night.

And, even if it could happen as you'd like, I'm not sure I'd want it to be done in secret or be dominated by constitutional scholars.

Ira Glickstein

JohnS said...

As most are aware from my previous blogs, I am concerned about the performance of our national government. It is becoming isolated from the people. I am frustrated and I hear the same frustration daily. I am tossing out ideas hoping some will stick. Whether it will ever come about a constitutional convention would allow the constitution to be updated rather than continuing the present process of modifying it through judicial edict.
I am not so naive as to believe that politics can be kept out of the selection process nor am I so na├»ve as to believe the convention members will not have political leanings, so do our Supremes, yet they are free from the daily push and shove of the political process, so should be the convention members. If my memory serves me correctly, the original constitutional convention was held behind closed doors. The Supreme Court manages to keep their debates private why shouldn’t a constitutional convention?
The membership of a constitutional convention I will leave to another time. Their goal would be to modernize the constitution while retaining the intent of its founders.
It seems we have two choices, we can continue to believe that our current elective process is providing the best leadership for our country or we can seek solutions. I choose the later.