Background here. Original article here, including my off-hand dismissal of the idea of a whole new Constitutional Convention. ("That would be my cue to move back to China for good--pollution, Great
Firewall, and all.") A reader writes to disagree:
"Had to spend an extra hour in the library last night reading your most recent article in The Atlanticit. Victim of the economy. I live in fear that the Populists will someday come to realize how much of their property tax goes toward supporting the library. There would be a 'For Sale' sign up in a heartbeat.
"I felt vindicated to see reflected there some points I have long considered salient: a sclerotic political system; the inane Electoral College; and the asymmetric advantage of small populous states in the U.S. Senate. The irony of Libertarian know-nothings disproportionally representing debtor-states has long since ceased to be amusing.
"I was disheartened, though, by your dismissal of a Constitutional Convention, a concept that I am not yet prepared to vitiate.
"The framers of the Constitution included this remedy in Article 5; "...the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments ..." Historically, Congress has been so unnerved by the potential ramifications of that sort of grass-roots activity that they have been pressured to act in spite of themselves. Larry J. Sabato in his book A More Perfect Constitution believes this is the only feasible way for large-scale constitutional change to occur.
"Yes, it would be spectacular political theatre, giving all the demagogues a national forum. And the first few iterations would likely be chaotic and fruitless. But, as you indicate, change no longer originates from expansive thinking at the top. Conversely, absent the structure of a Constitutional Convention, the Populists will be encouraged to pursue an insurgent campaign that will "take back their country/government/
constitution" in any way possible, doubtless inflicting collateral damage on the original document along the way. Being forced to structure arguments in a Convention format could be a wonderful teachable moment for the nation. I'd like to think. ,>
Anyway, "muddling through" is a passive approach to any problem; it's what victims and the powerless do. Wielding the threat of Constitutional Conventions as a cudgel against Congress is one weapon the large states, acting in regional consort, could apply in trying to regain parity. An active approach to the problem. One that I imagine will appeal in equal measure to supporters of both states-rights and federalists.",>
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