Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

A Blogstitution: An Idea For a Constitutional Convention

Posted by Adam Graham on September 20, 2005

On a recent podcast, I talked about my belief that its time for America to have a Constitutional Convention. The reason I stated for this I stated was that I think Constitutionalism has reached the point where its almost futile to try and insist on it. I mean 80% of the Federal budget is a violation of the Constitution if you look at it. I think back to James Madison’s veto of a public works bill:

I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it

A public works bill that wasn’t full of pork would arouse the suspicion of very few people these days. What’s happened is that we’ve replaced the respect for the Constitution for expediency. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find the power to create Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, or National Endowment for the Arts. We all find reasons why we need something and the Constitution doesn’t matter.

In effect, what’s happened is the Constitution has become a dead letter. The debate over whether we should have a limited federal government is constitutionally absurd because the Constitution itself limits the federal government.

In addition, what’s happened to the Constitution itself has been appalling. The living Constitution doctrine has given judges the right to make things up as they go along, meaning our nation is no longer a nation of laws but a nation of men. When choosing Judge Roberts, we’ve had a lot of scrutiny because we are crowning a new king, a new oligarch who will decide what our freedoms are and which can be taken away.

In the face of the situation, it occurs to me that we live in an untenable situation with our constitution. Every two years when our Representatives swear to uphold the Constitution they’re telling a lie. They can’t uphold the Constitution. By voting for the budget, or any appropriation bill, they’re violating it. You can’t uphold the Constitution as written because of the repercusions.

We’ve also blown up some of the key assumptions of the Constitution. It assumed that the President would be a non-political figure elected by members of State legislators and that Senators would do the bidding of State governments. With popular election of Senators and presidential electors, we’ve radically changed the balance of power the founders created.

While I hate the idea of touching the Constitution, I can’t help think but that maybe its time to start with a new one. I don’t think the Founders intended this Constitution to last 220 years, they understood that others may rewrite it, that’s why they put a section in there allowing us to amend it and rewrite it. I’d rather a convention of citizens did it in a single blow than Steven Breyer or Ruth Bader-Ginsburg, one line at a time as they saw the need. People’s liberties aren’t secure as long as we have the eye that our basic understanding of rights and responsibilites isn’t set and is going to change whenever we want.

Now, I’d rather have a New “Dead Constitution” than the old “Living Constitution” just so you know where you stand, rather than dealing with Constitutional quicksand. However, getting a new constitution is easier said than done.

The easy part is getting 2/3 (34 States) to call a convention. The hard part is getting a convention to agree on something that 38 states would swallow. I was thinking about how you might get a good Constitution and I had the idea of a great social experiment.

Take a ton of blogs from all over the Country, from all sides of the spectrum, choose 56 represenatives (30 from the right, 20 from the left, and 6 Moderates/libertarians) and let them try and come up with a Constitution. You could do it on television as a reality show–for the History channel.

It’d be great if we could get it happen, though. Some people from Red State, some from Kos, some from big blogs, some from little blogs. The goal is to adopt a Constitution everyone can agree on. Could it happen? As fun as it would be to try, I doubt it. I think the idealogical differences are so overwhelming that the votes just couldn’t be gotten to make something palatable to a broad enough cross section of the country.

Of course if all the Red States would vote for a Convention, that’d be almost enough to call one and then if they elect strong right-of-center coalitions and take a philosophy of getting six of the more Moderate blue states on board (New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Michigan). Might trade abolition of the death penalty for making abortion a state’s issue, might agree to leave gay marriage to the states, and for a radical re-allignment of our government to allow everybody to be governed mostly by the government closes to them.

Until we can have a Convention like this, I guess it falls to Conservatives to defend what remains of our current Constituion.

tags:, Constitutional Convention

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