The Most Democratic Way to Have a Constitutional Convention
As society unravels, what happens after the massive demonstrations in every major city? It is scary to think about. Libertarians, Greens, and members of the conservative Constitution Party have no doubt thought that if they could have an equal voice in presidential debates, they could persuade the masses to their way of thinking. Democratic socialists advocate the electoral process to prevent a violent clash between workers and the oligarchs, while revolutionary socialists claim it is naive to believe that the electoral process will bring about the needed changes.
Many people believe we need a new constitution for all kinds of reasons but very few have seriously considered it because the forces on the left and the right have been deeply fearful and mistrustful of each other, thinking that the other side would unfairly dominate a constitutional convention. But what if we could completely level the playing field in a very democratic and fair way? Here is how it can be done:Let the American people vote to determine if they want a Constitutional Convention to create a new constitution at every presidential election. If approved by a 51-percent majority of the American people, then allow all national political parties that capture at least one percent of the national vote be represented through Proportional Representation at a Constitutional Convention to work together to create a better, updated constitution. One hundred delegates could meet for 3 months, and if they create a new document approved by 51 percent of the delegates (a higher percentage would be even better)--it will be ratified later only if a 51-percent majority of the American people approve of the new document in a referendum vote. Each of the 50 state legislatures could choose to create a new state constitution by using this same method.
I have created a 12-month procedural timeline for creating a new constitution in this document --a document that was originally created as a Twenty-Eight Amendment proposal for revising Article V of our constitution. In my revised Article V, I show a democratic way to have a Constitutional Convention. However, I now believe that passing a new constitutional amendment to have a Constitutional Convention is not necessary. If the federal Congress would pass a simple law that allows the American people to vote whether or not they want a Constitutional Convention, then passing a new Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal that revises Article V so that we can have a Constitutional Convention is not necessary. If members of the federal Congress are reluctant to pass such a law, then they will each be voted out of office as the movement advocating a Constitutional Convention grows exponentially.
If the American people demand a new constitution with a majority vote--regardless of what the federal and state legislatures want--that is all that should be necessary. I have written a new constitution for the United States called the Third Constitution of the United States; our first constitution was the Articles of Confederation. Ideally all citizens will think about what an ideal constitution would be like to create an ideal society.
Our current constitution makes it far too difficult to pass amendments to the constitution. In the 21st century, things happen much faster than they did when our current, second constitution was implemented with President George Washington in 1789. Having a constitution that is too difficult to amend, and the fact that our constitution does not provide an orderly and democratic procedure for abolishing the constitution are probably the most important reasons why we need a new constitution. Our current constitution has been operational for 230 years. Imagine using technology 230 years old. Imagine being treated by a doctor 230 years ago. Surely we can create a better constitution for this generation.
Article V of our current constitution tells how to amend the constitution in probably the most tortuous and compacted paragraph ever written in the English language. I have written a more democratic and readable Article V (I also include the current Article V in my revised Article V), but it would take a constitutional amendment to get a new Article V ratified--a very difficult process, as mentioned above. In my proposed Article V, I show a quicker, more democratic way to pass amendments, and I show a 12-month procedural timeline for having a constitutional convention.
Under a new constitution, instead of requiring that ¾ of the state legislatures ratify any new federal amendment proposal that each House of Congress has approved with a ⅔ majority, we could bypass the state legislatures altogether and let the American people, with a 51-percent majority, ratify any constitutional amendment proposal of Congress. This would be an easier and more democratic way to pass amendments to the constitution.
To further make it easier to pass federal amendments, we could require Congress to pass any proposed constitutional amendment with a 60 percent majority, rather than a ⅔ (or 66.6) majority, before it is turned over to the American people to ratify in a referendum vote with a 51-percent majority. But these changes would require a new constitution or a new Article V. Why not just work to get a bill passed in Congress that lets the American people decide if they want a Constitutional Convention, rather than go through the laborious process of getting a new Article V approved through the constitutional amendment process?
Many people are now opposed to the Electoral College system for electing a president, but to pass an amendment to officially abolish the Electoral College would be difficult. A more practical alternative would be getting more states on board to pass the National Popular Vote Initiative (NPVI). The NPVI is an interstate compact to effectively "abolish" the Electoral College without amending the constitution. States that join the compact agree to award their electoral votes NOT to the candidate who wins the state, but to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
However, there are other changes that would require a new constitution. For example, why should California and Wyoming each have the same number of senators when California's population is about 70 times greater than Wyoming's? We could easily rectify that if we totally abolish the U.S. Senate and have a unicameral federal legislature. Moreover, we could even elect federal legislators to the one-house legislature through a system of Proportional Representation. In other words, everybody would vote primarily for a national political party that captures at least one percent of the national vote. So if the Green Party captures 15 percent of the national vote, then 15 percent of the federal legislature would be Green. What we have now is a choice between two parties which really isn't a choice at all.
Regarding political parties, we could give an equal voice in presidential election debates to the 7 largest national political parties, which archetypically or hypothetically could be Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green, Democratic Socialist, Revolutionary Socialist, and the Constitution Party. Or we could give an equal voice, to any national political party that captures at least one percent of the national vote, and in the final segment limit the presidential debate among the 7 largest national political parties. What is more democratic than that? In fact, it maximizes democracy. If we have 7 or more national political parties represented in our federal legislature, having a one-house (unicameral) legislature will make it easier to pass laws than having a two-house (bicameral) legislature.
Though it is not guaranteed that our favorite proposals would be implemented in a new national constitution, if it is done in a way that maximizes democracy, it will be much better than what we have now. Based on my procedural guidelines, any new document that the Constitutional Convention delegates can agree on, would not be official or legal unless the American people ratify it in a national referendum.
Many people now agree that we need to demand that corporations not be allowed to make contributions to political campaigns for presidential elections. Also, many people agree that we need to prevent the fact that 6 corporations control the mainstream media. We are more likely to solve these two problems with a new constitution than if we wait for current members of Congress (who essentially represent the wealthiest one percent) to address these problems.
Since partisan politics affects the decisions of our Supreme Court, with a new constitution we could consider eliminating or reducing the powers of the Supreme Court. We could require that Supreme Court members be elected by the American people for 4-year terms, or we could have the 7 largest national political parties each appoint one Supreme Court Justice, and change the number of Supreme Court members from 9 to 7.