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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/1/14

A Revolution: Part III The Devil in Details.

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   55 comments, In Series: A Revolution
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In this century  IF we did actually have a run-away* Constitutional Convention that WAS ratified, it would be a significant indication that we needed one.  And, it would be no less valid  a Constitution than the one we have now.

I say this because
 opponents (who fear a "run-away" convention)* often point out, the    Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia was, itself, a run-away convention that was convened for the sole purpose of revising  the Articles of Confederation, and it was ratified by manipulation of the ratification process, not as proscribed by the Articles of Confederation. That does not mean a run-away convention would be ratified today, as some claim. 
I am an advocate for  Wolf-PAC   and /or Move to Amend for  having an Article V Convention on the subject of campaign finance reform or the theme "get the money out." But some of my readers force me to address pros and cons.
It was never my intent to write a legal defense for an Article V Convention.  I am only a journalist and advocate for this method of change, and my hope has been placed in an Article V Convention because of all that I understand of it.  Anyone can read information from Wikipedia, and get a lot of  details of how an Article V Constitution comes about, some of the rules, etc.  This should be read first in order to get a handle on the subject matter debated in the press and within this article.
For links to foremost experts of the Article V I suggest linking up with  Lawrence Lessig  the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He co-founded Change Congress, which aims to reduce the influence of private money in American politics.  A review of some of the speeches made at their conference will also be available.

In this article I want to refer the reader to a number of opponents, proponents and  experts on the subject of the Article V Constitution so they will better make their own decisions about this particular solution to our frustrations with government, frustrations that come from a majority of citizens of various political stripes.     Paul Westlake, writing for the Amendment Gazette in an nice article The Left Right Fraud February 7, 2014 tells us why we must unite with various political groups to solve our "shared frustrations" against special interests that dominate working people.  The Amendment Gazette also has several articles treating how the subject of Citizens United should be addressed as an amendment.  

There are debates not only about whether we can or should have an Article V Convention, but also the whats and hows on many different areas of the law that could undermine the efficiency of using Article V.  For the most part many opponents offer  scare tactics for major public consumption. There is also a lot of debate on whether we might once again be foiled in our efforts  to obtain  adequate public funding or other change either by Congress and/or the Supreme Court.  For example, on campaign finance reform there is debate about whether we should be concerned the Supreme Court could find other (corporate personhood, for example)  ways to litigate in favor of corporations.  (For those finer points of how-to-do-it, free-speech vs corporate personhood, etc.  see Taking on amendment critics, part I: James Marc Leas and Rob Hagar** by   June 16, 2012 ) I am highly suspicious of the good intentions of people like Leas and Hagar* who bring up some of these kinds of questions; i.e. Hagar arguing that the body of the Constitution trumps the Amendments  vs "not the case at all."   There is no way I can go into all these details in this article.   I leave this one to the experts. 

Perhaps this  Liberty News Network " Beware Article V"   video is an example, (and a long diatribe),  of the kind of opposition Westlake might agree as being representative of "powerful interests."  Just listen to the arguments and from whom such arguments emanate - super conservatives who have supported powerful capitalist interests their entire careers, ( Rex E. Lee Brigham Young University, Chief Justice Warren Burger  and Arthur Goldburg ). They employ the same old "fear" tactics we always hear from the top of the ladder, such as "run-away convention" or manipulation of the ratification process, or "we might come out of it worse off than we are now."  They say Article V was only written for a situation in which there was serious flaw of the constitution that causes corrupt legislation that must be addressed by an Amendment, which flaws they do not admit exist at the present time. They insist that Congress would, or should, have a heavy  role and/or influence on any such convention, a contention which many legal scholars and advocates deny. They speak mostly of a "balanced budget amendment," saying it is not proper subject for the amendment process and might even cause a denial of some kind as to "proper subject" of a convention. These are all debatable points, from various perspectives. But certainly if it is possible at all for Congress to refuse its mandate to call the convention on application of 2/3rs of the states, it could not be claimed that getting money out of politics is irrelevant or not a crisis of our present constitution. There is a lot of double-talk in this video that sounds sophisticated, but is obviously meant to confuse most people, (actually directed to state legislators),  from every possible angle.  

Bill Walker, Friends of the Article V Convention tells us Article V gives states the right to call the convention if 2/3 apply, and Congress must allow it, and the convention will make the Amendments, and Congress can't stop it. If the Amendments pass at the convention, (ratified by the states), they become law.  Walker calls it a balance between the states and the federal government. "Article V is designed so that Congress has nothing to say about it."
Tim Baldwin video  of Liberty Defense League  describes the two methods of amending constitution. When Congress, on its own, establishes an  amendment to  the constitution it must be ratified by 2/3 of the states in order to become the law of the land.  The second way the Constitution provides to get an amendment is if 2/3 of the states call for an Article V Convention, Congress has no choice. It is mandated by Article V that such a convention be convened. Congress cannot deny it.  And if amendments are passed at that convention, and are ratified by 2/3 of the states, the amendments become law and Congress cannot legislate against them.
He contends that under Article V you cannot have what is called a "run-away" convention where our Constitution is scraped and a new one is written.  A regular "Constitutional Convention" is considered to be a plenipotentiary convention where the delegates are authorized to write a  new Constitution.  That is not contemplated with an Article V Convention. Baldwin says that the framers made a distinction, but, he says, this does not mean that we could never have a plenipotentiary convention. He also says that Article V was intended to be single amendment to the already existing one, and even if the delegates tried to completely re-write our Constitution there is only the remotest possibility they could ever get it ratified by 2/3 of the States. Any speculation about a "run-away" convention  is only meant to create fear.
I point out that many people contend that the original purpose of the Article V was to allow the delegates to propose amendments, not necessarily go in with limitations on what subjects they could deal with.
The many complications of interpreting provisions of Article V can be discouraging to ordinary people. But ordinary people never made revolutions. Not only are revolutions made by courageous people, but they are always made by a small percentage of their populations.  We thank them in future generations whenever they have prevented masses of people and their children from having to squirm under the "yoke" of a Constitution that did not work on their behalf.  I won't, and no patriotic person should.
* A "run-away" convention is one in which our whole constitution was re-written, thus rendering the one we have as obsolete.
**One "guest" commenter in an online blog noted that "Hagar is a "public interest" litigator who keeps undermining the public interest of overturning Citizens United with an amendment. We know that this is going to be hard work, but already 16 states are on record calling on Congress to amend the Constitution to overturn Buckley, Citizens United and (many of them) the 124 case law history where the corrupt SCOTUS granted corporations the rights of we the people.Sometimes, it's hard to figure out which side Hagar is on."

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Palsimon, formally educated in journalism & law, is an independent progressive activist & writer, focusing on guarding integrity of media & government. (.)

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