Author Copple argues that New Constitution Convention is key to protecting democratic ideals | Democracy, elections and voting at Democracy Chronicles
By Roger Copple
The non-electoral methods of the Occupy Wall Street movement are energizing millions who have been alienated for a long time from the two-party system of sham that the 1% controls.
Some reformers, most likely in support of the Occupy movement, are proposing an amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that empowers corporations to unfairly influence political campaigns with large financial donations. But even if Citizens United was overturned, how many years would it take to make it happen, and would it make that much difference, considering all the other major democratic reforms needed? I say no.
A much more effective strategy would be a Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal that makes it easier to amend the constitution in the future. This proposal would also show how a new constitution can be created without a violent revolution. It would show how a new constitution can be created that truly reflects the collective will and current worldview of the American people, not just the far right or left. But to do this, Article V of our current constitution has to be totally revised. Here is how the proposal could read:
Proposal for a Twenty-Eighth Amendment to Revise Article V
A Proposal That Shows How to Amend the Constitution More Easily and Shows an Orderly Procedure to Create a New Constitution
The United States government can be changed through amendments added to the Constitution. It can also be modified when Congress passes new federal laws. 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 Constitution
To change the federal government by merely adding amendments or modifications 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% majority in both Houses. Ratification by ¾ of the state legislatures is no longer required.
How to Abolish the 225-Year Old Constitution
The Constitution is the supreme 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. 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 civil 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% or more of the voters say yes, then 100 delegates, chosen through proportional representation, will be sent to the Constitutional Convention to create a new constitution. Then if 51% or more of the Convention delegates approve any document, the new government will be implemented 4 months later. The process will take approximately 23 months.
Here is how Proportional Representation can work: Voters in the current 435 federal legislative districts 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 that based on the latest national election, the new federal legislature will be 20% Republican, 20% Democratic, 15% Libertarian, 15% Constitution Party, 15% Green Party, 10% Socialist, and 5% Communist.
A National Elections Committee, whose 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 on other methods that prevention 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 a 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. 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 is reported by the National Elections Committee.
Any national political party that represents at least 1% of the nation’s eligible voters will participate in national public speeches and debates, held from June through August. The political parties will also share their party platforms and their own proposed constitutions in writing.
Then from September through December, the representatives from the top 7 political parties, 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, each voter will choose just one of the top 7 national political parties, if he or she wants his or her vote to count, even if the voter is officially registered in a party that is not one of the top 7 political parties.
Let us pretend for pedagogical purposes that the 100 delegates from the top 7 national political parties will consist of the following percentages or 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% or more of the delegates approve. The 100 delegates will choose one of their own attending delegates to be the chairman of the Convention using Instant Runoff Voting with 7 candidates on the slate. Each party will choose one of its delegates to be the potential chairman.
If delegates reach a 51% majority before the 3 months elapse, they must 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 50% or less of the delegates approves the new constitution after working on it for 3 months, then it becomes void, and the current constitution remains official.
However, if the new constitution is approved with a 51% 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 a new Constitution and Implementing a New Government
November thru April—Each American voter chooses a national political party
May–Official count of voters in each political party is reported by the National Election Committee
June thru August—Public speeches, forums, and written responses from all parties that captured at least 1% of the vote
September thru December—Speeches, debates, and written responses from the top 7 political parties only
Second week of January—Each American voter chooses just one of the top 7 national political parties
March thru May—the 3-month duration of the Constitutional Convention
October 1—If new document is approved, four months later, the new government under the new constitution, will be implemented
The spoken and written words of the 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 control a Constitutional Convention. They can, however, express their opinions and recommendations in the process.
Though nothing is guaranteed, one thing is certain, the playing field will be leveled as never before, if the creation of the new constitution is based on the 23-month process above. The Convention delegates may not implement all the reform measures that this author advocates, but the delegates will implement the collective will and current worldview of the American people.
This author, however, would recommend these changes: The Constitutional Convention would establish a new government with a one-house federal legislature. The current 435 federal districts would remain, but legislators would be elected through Proportional Representation. The former Electoral College System and the US Senate would be abolished. Why should California have the same representation in the Senate as Wyoming when California’s population is 70 times greater than Wyoming’s?
Furthermore, all money would be taken out of politics with public financing for the 7 major political parties. Our banking system would be controlled by the US Congress rather than the Federal Reserve. Moreover, Single Payer Health Insurance (the government being the single payer), or Medicare, would be extended to all Americans.
If the author’s Twenty Eighth Amendment proposal above was passed, Congress, under the new guidelines, may have a different agenda when it amends the constitution more easily. But when a new constitution is created through proportional representation, the mindset and will of the American people will be expressed. The new constitution could last a long time. But citizens will never feel helpless and hopeless again about changing the system because they will know that 51% of the voters every 4 years can choose to have a new Constitutional Convention.
Taking 3 months to hear from any national political party that represents at least 1% of the electorate might have a circus appearance, but so be it. We all share this land together, and we have an obligation to understand what is in the minds and hearts of others, and why they think the way they do.
Article V in our current constitution tells two ways that new amendments can be added to our constitution. But our constitution says nothing about how to abolish the government through a Constitutional Convention. Thomas Jefferson expressed in his writings that there should be a new constitution with every new generation! Technology is ever changing; some of our entrenched political methods need to change as well.
Without a safe, orderly, and fair way in place to have a Constitutional Convention, there could be widespread, violent insurrection in the streets, if and when masses of American people stop tolerating a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. If that ever happens, the government will simply implement martial law, and that could be the beginning of a new world order, not by our consent.
Except for states like Ohio and Florida, most states are pretty much entrenched as being either Republican or Democratic, which is why presidential candidates often do not even bother to campaign there. Overturning Citizens United will not greatly change the political entrenchment that is in about 48 states and more has to be done.
Democratic reformers should keep working to get progressives, especially Greens, elected so that better laws can be passed. But reformers do not seem to agree, however: should we vote for the lesser of two evils or be true to our conscience and vote for a third party? To get any amendment passed currently, it requires 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures to approve: Not an easy task.
For citizenship and civics to become ever important, for democracy to become inclusive and participatory–the above Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal needs to be passed. Article V of our current constitution has to be totally revised in order to make our constitution easier to amend and easier to abolish.
Reformers and activists should keep working to pass laws that consider the ecology of the planet, which often is not considered by corporations trying to make the highest profit. But reformers do not seem to agree, however: should we vote for the lesser of two evils or be true to our conscience and vote for a third party? To get any amendment passed currently, it requires 2/3 of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures to approve: Not an easy task.
The best approach and strategy is to get all lovers of democracy, third party members, and the Occupy movement united and focused on one goal: A constitutional amendment that totally revises Article V so that the constitution can be amended and abolished more easily.
If enough people see all the reforms that can be neatly summarized in a new, updated constitution, they will be more receptive to a new constitution. Having a new constitution does not mean that all former laws and conventions would be discarded. It would be foolish not to preserve the best of the old.
When economic conditions get bad enough, and when reformers realize that their current strategies are not changing things significantly—those reformers, joined by millions of others, will demand that their representatives in the US Congress and the state legislatures pass this amendment. Passing this amendment, as opposed to passing other laws and other amendments, is the most powerful thing reformers can do to improve our democracy and put new life into the political process. The non-electoral methods of protest marches and rallies are still effective, but until we can implement all the needed reforms in one single sweep with a new constitution, not much is going to change quickly enough.
There are other reform efforts going on right now as well regarding the other method for adding amendments to the constitution: According to Article V of the constitution, the 50 state legislatures could have an Amendment Convention (which is not a Constitutional Convention for a new Constitution) to pass new amendments. This is a method that bypasses the US Congress altogether. Unfortunately, the US Congress has not allowed it to happen, even though the Supreme Court has ordered it to do so four times. For more information about these efforts, see the website Friends of an Article V Convention at www.foavc.org. In the history of our nation, this method, as now stated in Article V, of adding amendments to the constitution has never been tried or allowed.
According to Article V, as it currently reads, an Amendment Convention must be held when 2/3 of the 50 state legislatures request it. Throughout our nation’s history, there have been over 750 requests from state legislatures for an Amendment Convention. The requirement has already been met, and the Supreme Court has ordered the US Congress 4 times to allow state legislatures to have their Amendment Convention, but the US Congress has egregiously and simply refused.
The US Congress, the Supreme Court, and the 50 legislatures must not ignore these requests, nor should they let this issue die. Activists can do 4 things regarding an Amendment Convention held by the 50 state legislatures:
1. Activists can keep informing all 535 federal legislators that they have a duty to allow state legislatures to have their Amendment Convention, and that each legislator is in violation of the law for this refusal.
2. Activists can urge the 50 state legislatures to be more united and publicly vocal in their requests for an Amendment Convention.
3. Activists can urge the Supreme Court to be adamant in its demand of Congress to let the state legislatures have their Convention.
4. Activists can urge the 50 state legislatures, if and when they finally get their Amendment Convention, that they can propose and pass an amendment that revises Article V in order to make the constitution easier to amend and easier to abolish.
The primary focus of this essay has been to get the US Congress to be the initiator for a new amendment that makes it easier to amend the constitution and easier to abolish it, according to the 23-month procedure outlined above. This author has also encouraged an Amendment Convention held by the state legislatures in previous essays, and he still encourages an Amendment Convention.
A Constitutional Convention to create a new constitution is the author’s ultimate goal and recommendation. Activists and reformers need to work on getting new amendments passed through both methods: the initiation by the US Congress and the initiation by the state legislatures. Both methods are described in Article V of our current constitution.
Both the US Congress and the 50 state legislatures can be encouraged to pass an amendment that revises Article V as this author has described above. The American voters, the 3 branches of the federal government, and the 50 state legislatures—all must reread and understand Article V in the constitution, including its reference to slave owners in Article I, Section 9, Clauses 1 and 4. The tortuous wording of Article V will be printed below. After that, readers can reread above the author’s Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal that revises Article V. Then the readers can decide which Article V they would rather have.
Article V of the US Constitution
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; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
[End of Article V of the current Constitution]
Please discuss all of these ideas with friends and family members. Urge legislators (federal and state) to pass the proposed amendment above that revises Article V. If average Americans, the 99%, can unite in getting just this one Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal for revising Article V passed, a new Constitutional Democratic Republic of the people, by the people, and for the people can become a living reality, and not just a pipe dream.