Third Party & Independents Archives

Democracy Dreaming

What is this thing called democracy? So easy to talk about, so difficult to make real. Pure democracy is not what our Founders gave us. Who would want a simple majority to control the minority? Instead, America was given a representative democracy within a constitutional republic where laws that protect all people trump majority rule.

Standing between majority-won elections and government power are elected representatives: writing, overseeing and implementing laws. But when you can no longer trust the elected representatives what happens to American democracy? It becomes an oxymoron.

We have arrived at a delusional democracy. Delusional because Americans overwhelmingly cannot admit the painful truth that their limited democracy no longer works for the good of most citizens. Instead, through corruption and dishonesty, our representative democracy has morphed into a plutocracy that serves the wealthy, power elites and corporate masters that control the political system and through that the economic system.

The Framers of the Constitution had deep concerns about the long-term viability of the government structure they created. Some think that the checks and balances among the three branches of the federal government preserve its integrity. Really? The money that controls the legislative branch also controls the executive branch, and both of those control the judicial branch. Even worse, it has become clearer to increasing numbers of Americans that many parts of the Constitution – the supreme law of the land – have been directly or more deviously disobeyed or distorted. Constitutional rule is a myth.

We have a Congress that gives its constitutional power to declare war to the President and refuses to impeach him for his many violations of laws. We have a President that openly signs laws but says he will not honor them. We have a Supreme Court that decides who becomes President rather than the voters and often amends the Constitution unconstitutionally. We have elections that are not to be trusted. We have a government using free trade globalization hogwash to sell out the middle class. We have rising economic inequality that is creating a two-class society: the wealthy Upper Class and the Lower Class for everyone else.

Overlaid on this delusional system is the myth that having just two major political parties somehow is right and necessary for our representative democracy. In reality, partisan differences are just another layer of corruption, dishonesty and deceit. Artificial political competition distracts. Big money from the wealthy and corporate and other special interests controls both parties, producing mutually assured corruption. They are two faces of the same coin, two heads of the same monster, two puppets controlled by the same masters. Of course the two-party system provides stability. It has stabilized a criminally corrupt government.

Delusional political competition supports a delusional democracy based on a set of delusional checks and balances. The whole system that once worked has become a sham.

Did the Framers anticipate that their system could become such a travesty? They did.

So, in addition to the better known parts of the Constitution, they imbedded what might be called a legal loophole – a kind of escape clause, just in case things went terribly wrong. They have.

The public is largely ignorant of Article V’s option for a convention, when asked for by two-thirds of states, to propose amendments to the Constitution. Worse, nearly all people with political power have opposed using it. Even worse, despite Article V explicitly saying that Congress “shall” call such a convention when a sufficient number of states have asked for one – and that is the ONLY specified constitutional requirement – for over 200 years Congress has willfully disobeyed the constitution and NOT granted a convention. In fact, Congress never had the integrity and constitutional respect to even set up a system of any kind to collect state requests for an Article V convention. Still, we know from the hard work of many that there have been well over 500 such state requests.

People with power in the present corrupt political system fear an Article V convention. Operating independently of Congress and the White House, it might reduce their power and ignite widespread public interest in deep reforms. One trick of the power elites has been to fool people that an Article V convention would inevitably become “runaway” and threaten all that Americans hold dear – especially their freedom. Nonsense. A convention can only propose amendments that, just like proposals made by Congress, must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Most absurd are the anti-convention right-wingers who profess total allegiance to the Constitution, except for Article V. John T. Noonan, Jr., observed in 1985: “RESPECT, indeed reverence, for the Constitution is a proper attitude for conservatives to cultivate. Is it respectful to the Constitution to maintain that of the two methods of amendment specified by Article V one is too dangerous to be put to use?”

Exactly why did the Framers give us the option of an Article V convention? Listen to the wise words of one of the nation’s foremost legal scholars. Professor Paul Bator wrote this in 1980:

"I think the Article V convention represents a profound political protection for us, as a people, against the tyranny of central government. And whatever we say about Article V, I think it is very, very wrong, just because we may disagree with the content of any particular constitutional amendment that is now being proposed, to interpret Article V in such a way as to clip its wings as a protection for the liberties of the people. That is why I think it is profoundly important, particularly for constitutional scholars, to be hospitable toward the concern that Article V represents, which is that there be a way out for the states and the people if a willful and intransigent central authority governs us in a way we find unacceptable."

We definitely need a way out. Two of our best presidents explicitly supported using the Article V convention option – Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower.

Have any recent presidential candidates expressed support for an Article V convention, even mavericks like Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, and Pat Buchanan? They have not. Have any third parties demanded an Article V convention? They have not. Have any mainstream media exposed Congress’ failure to obey the Constitution’s Article V? They have not. Has the Supreme Court or any elected official that swore to obey the Constitution faulted Congress for disobeying the Constitution? They have not.

If you are not a rich and powerful American, ask yourself: Has your government become so untrustworthy, dysfunctional and unacceptable that you should demand what our Constitution gives you a right to – an Article V convention?

Thomas Jefferson said “a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical.” Have many Americans concluded that rebellion has become necessary? They have not.

But some of us want to pursue political rebellion, not by using violence and not hoping against reality that necessary reforms will come from within the two-party controlled political system. No, we want to use what the Constitution grants us. We have created Friends of the Article V Convention to inform the public about this constitutional option and also to prod the states to demand a convention and the Congress to finally obey the Constitution and give us one. Check the group out at www.foavc.org to learn much more, and seriously consider becoming a member.

What do they say about insanity? Repeating what has not worked in the past? As in the past, no Democrats, no Republicans and no elections will give us what we truly need. Whatever risks an Article V convention pose, they are worth taking. Every rebellion is waged because the benefits sought outweigh the risks taken. Jefferson and the other Founders knew that. Not fixing the government they gave us dishonors them and all the Americans that have died and sacrificed for their country. And it makes our lives miserable and penalizes future generations. Has time run out for restoring American democracy? It has not.

Posted by Joel S. Hirschhorn at March 20, 2007 7:32 PM
Comments
Comment #212939

Joel, excellent article, and topic. Only one point of difference.

There is in fact, very good reason to fear a Const. Convention and it isn’t politicians losing power. It is the potential for dull and inadequate minds to alter the carefully balanced structure and protections inherent in the original Constitution and its Amendments.

Texas has the worst Constitution in the world. They face the same dilemma. If they open the process to a new Constitution, there are special interests who will go to war over shaping its direction, and the losers will not accept loss for a very long time, if ever.

The U.S. Constitution situation would be vastly improved if the voters would simply hold politicians responsible for sticking to it. The sane and civil answer is for voters to vote out incumbents until there are sufficient numbers of replacements who finally get the picture: No reelection without appropriate representation.

But, that would require an educated, involved, and weak party loyalty electorate to come into play. Vote Out Incumbents Democracy is working toward that future.

But, a large number of politicians are also working to prevent education from fulfilling its potential. Namely that of developing a generation of independent thinking and critically analyzing voters. It is no accident that religiously sponsored elementary schools are growing founded on students accepting belief and faith without question. And therefore acceptance of doctrine and authority without question. So, progress is less than I would wish. But, there is progress.

The numbers of independent voters have been steadily growing for about 2 decades now. And America is getting much closer to a tipping point.

One other nit-pik. The founding fathers did not anticipate the woes of political parties. Political parties did not come into being until just after the first presidential election.

Actually, if we had 4 or more competitive minority parties instead of two super parties, our system would operate with significant improvements. But, the super parties now have a lock on the system to prevent third or, independent parties from becoming competitive. That is where the Parliamentary Democracy system has a huge benefit and advantage over our republican form. (It has its downsides too, though.)

I am reminded of the tale of the man who believed in his own eternal life right up to the moment that he died. Americans believe in their superiority of personhood, culture, and government. And most won’t let go of that illusion until America is no longer recognizable in the eyes of her founders.

To preserve American greatness, her people must adopt what the founding fathers had learned in the age of enlightenment, that governments and politicians are inherently not to be trusted, always scrutinized and critically analyzed, and held to account for their misdeeds.

That is the underlying foundation of our U.S. Constitution. And our foundation is crumbling.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 20, 2007 10:01 PM
Comment #212954

C’mon David,

Texas has the worst constitution in the world? How about Zimbabwe?

I’m from Ohio, but I’ve lived in Texas long enough to be offended by that.

Posted by: gergle at March 21, 2007 1:30 AM
Comment #212960

Not familiar with Zimbabwe’s Constitution. The world of course is a big place. I should have said in the world of my awareness.

But, it is one of the worst. To change most state laws requires either a Constitutional Amendment or, utter and complete ignoring of the Constitution altogether (the preferred choice today so long as the State does not lose a law suit over it).

I think that qualifies Texas’ Constitution as one of the world’s worst. But, then, what would you expect from a bunch of frontiersman and cowboys? GW Bush didn’t invent dim wittedness, you know.

I don’t know of a single law professor in Texas that couldn’t, and wouldn’t, go on for hours about the inadequacies of the Texas Constitution if asked. Only state in the union where the Lt. Gov. runs the state and the Governor is largely a figurehead.

At least about half of the Texas voters now appreciate that fact. Not like when I moved here in 1972 and learned about it in 1978. It was a bit of a surprise to every Texan in my political science class.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 21, 2007 2:27 AM
Comment #212981

David,
I admit Texas’ Constitution is a mess, but the weak government is actually an advantage in some ways.

I think corruption is rampant here, but Texas isn’t unique as a state that way.

While I hate rednecks, I like the indepedant spirit of many Texans, not unlike yourself, even if some of us are “naturalized”.

Posted by: gergle at March 21, 2007 9:22 AM
Comment #212995

Joel Hirschhorn,
Good article. More education is needed about this important issue.

David R. Remer wrote: There is in fact, very good reason to fear a Constitutional Convention and it isn’t politicians losing power. It is the potential for dull and inadequate minds to alter the carefully balanced structure and protections inherent in the original Constitution and its Amendments.
David,

I see your point, but perhaps principle and the peoples’ right should trump the fear of the unknown potential for harm?

Afterall, what does it say about us if we fear our own Constitution and our own right to an Article V Convention?

Also, perhaps an Article V Convention would raise voter awareness, voter education, and voter participation?
That would be a good thing.

Many people aren’t aware of this right and that Congress ignores it!
Yes, there may be dangers, but shouldn’t we be brave those dangers, since all 50 state legislatures have submitted 568 applications (far in excess of the two-thirds requirement) requesting an Article V Convention. Isn’t Congress violating the Constitution by ignoring its constitutionally mandated duty?
What good is Article V of the Constitution if we allow Congress to ignore it?
It has already been requested by ALL 50 states.

I believe there is a bigger danger of refusing the Article V Convention, than having it.
Allowing Congress the power to ignore Article V of the Constitution is justifying Congress’ power to enforce the laws selectively. This trend must be stopped. Already, Congress and government is too irresponsible and unaccountable, and chooses to enforce laws selectively (e.g. ignores illegal immigration laws, ignores the nation’s borders, abuses eminent domain laws, spying on citizens without civil oversight, torture, secret prisons, and the abused presidential pardons to put them all above the law).

Besides, several amendments are very badly needed.
Government should not be FOR-SALE. There are several badly-needed, common-sense, no-brainer reforms that may never come about, otherwise.

We must not let Congress veto the direct constitutional text and deny the people their right to amend the Constitution without government interference or oversight.

So, which should we be more afraid of?

If we are afraid to exercise our rights, and our right to an Article V Convention, then we are already in bigger trouble than we thought, and things will just get worse by giving into the fear.

I say we need an Article V Convention.
We have a right to it.
50 States have requested it.
Congress refuses it.
That is wrong!
It’s time to stop letting Congress enforce the laws selectively.
It’s time to uphold the Constitution and our right to an Article V Convention.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 21, 2007 11:06 AM
Comment #213000
David R. Remer wrote: The U.S. Constitution situation would be vastly improved if the voters would simply hold politicians responsible for sticking to it.
Yes. That is the most simple thing voters can do.
  • Stop Repeat Offenders.
  • Don’t Re-elect Them!

Yet, as simple as it is, it is so elusive.

Why?
There are a lot of reasons which all boil down to lack of conscience and lack of education:

  • 90% of elections are won by the candidate (usually an incumbent) that spends the most money.

  • Incumbent politicians have many unfair advantages.

  • Too many voters are more worried about winning seats for THEIR party than electing politicians that are responsible and accountable.

  • Too many voters are more worried about the OTHER party winning seats that they will elect anybody in THEIR party instead, with little-or-no regard for their integrity and quailifications.

  • The two-party duopoly is blocking access to ballots for independent and third party candidates, and the Supreme Court upholds that practice, securing the stranglehold by the two-party duopoly.

  • 78 million of 200 million eligible voters don’t even bother to vote.

  • Voters don’t think their vote counts.

  • Many voters don’t think they can get an accurate vote count.

  • Congress persons ignore existing laws.

  • All 50 states have already submitted over 568 applications for an Article V Convention, but Congress ignores it.
    No wonder many voters have resigned to futility to try.

  • Government is FOR-SALE.

  • 83% of all federal campaign donations come from only 0.15% of all 200 million eligible voters. What chance does the remaining 99.85% of all 200 million eligible voters have against that?

  • Some politicians don’t want a national holiday off for voting.

  • The main stream media is more interested in Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears than reporting on the growing corruption and dysfunction of the severely over-bloated federal government; growing and growing to nightmare proportions, and failing miserably at most things it endeavors (i.e. 9/11 comes to mind, border and port security, War in Iraq (unnecessarily) and Afghanistan, illegal immigration, education, Social Seurity, Medicare, Education, tax reform, campaign finance reform, Environment, excessive money-printing, massive, debt and borrowing, etc., etc., etc.).

  • Too many voters have been seduced into wallowing in the circular, destructive, time-wasting, distracting partisan warfare

  • Too many voters are basically too lazy, and won’t become interested until they finally feel the painful consequences of their laziness; many of which may already be in the pipeline.

  • The majority of the other 122 million eligible voters have lost sight of voting for responsible politicians to blindly pulling the party-lever to secure the most seat for THEIR party, without realizing too many irresponsible incumbent politicians in the two-party duopoly are just taking turns being irresponsible, enjoying a cu$hy 90%+ re-election rate, which simply makes them more and more irresponsible, as evidenced by the corruption, pork-barrel, graft, waste, voting themselves cu$hy perk$ and rai$e$ (9 times between 1997 and 2007), writing hot checks, shady book deals, pandering, trolling for money for the campaign war chests, spending most of their time campaigning rather than working to solve the nation’s pressing problems, growing in number and severity.
Government will become more responsible when the voters do too.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 21, 2007 11:51 AM
Comment #213017

I have to agree with Texas being the worse. I lived there for 3 years and am I glad I left. I remember a saying from texas. It went like this
If you aren’t from Texas you aren’t shit”, Well I am not from Texas and I am not shit. I know someone in DC that is from texas and ..well I will leave it at that.

Anyway like others said, if a constitutional convention was called, there would be to many hands in the pot(Lobbiest), and other trying to get the most out of it for themselves instead of working for the good of the country. Look at all the pork barrel problems we have now, a bridge in alaska to nowhere(thanks to the republican senator), Haliburton no bid contracts and sucking out more money for doing nothing.

I think American’s that thinks and look at the problems have to elected people who work for the good of All, not just for those that elected them, and it means making hard choices that can affect other sometimes in a negative way. Raise the min wage, helps families but might hurt business owners to begin with but once people are ok with the basic’s then they will start spending, which in the long run will help business, flat tax(no more loop holes for the rich), welfare/community service for a limited time(if we are going to give you money, we have some blight that needs to be cleaned up), and once you are on, no more kids to get extra money.
End the welfare state. No benifits to illegals or their families.

Posted by: KT at March 21, 2007 1:58 PM
Comment #213037
KT wrote: Anyway like others said, if a constitutional convention was called, there would be to many hands in the pot(Lobbiest), and other trying to get the most out of it for themselves instead of working for the good of the country.
The fear of this is not well founded since the original Framers of the Constitution also provided a safety mechanism to prevent such a fiasco: all amendments proposed by the Convention must be ratified by three-quarters of the states before they become effective. Therefore, there is no danger that radicals on either side of the political spectrum could bring about such an outcome. That is, unless you think most are radicals, in which case we are already screwed.
KT wrote: Look at all the pork barrel problems we have now, a bridge in alaska to nowhere(thanks to the republican senator), Haliburton no bid contracts and sucking out more money for doing nothing.
Yes, and that is why we need amendments to the Constitution to put an end to crap like that, and finally pass some very badly-needed, common-sense, no-brainer reforms that Congress refuses to pass because they won’t allow anything that might even remotely reduce their power, or opportunities for self-gain, or the security of their cu$hy, coveted incumbencies.
KT wrote: I think American’s that thinks and look at the problems have to elected people who work for the good of All, not just for those that elected them, and it means making hard choices that can affect other sometimes in a negative way.
One thing is for certain.

We ain’t likely to get an Article V Convention (any time soon) or existing laws enforced (not just selectively) as long as voters keep rewarding politicians by repeatedly re-electing them.
Congress and government will continue to be irresponsible as long as the voters are irresponsible.
The voters will continue to be irresponsible until it becomes too painful.
If voters were smart, they wouldn’t wait unit later, because it will be much more painful.

KT wrote: Raise the min wage, helps families but might hurt business owners to begin with but once people are ok with the basic’s then they will start spending, which in the long run will help business, flat tax(no more loop holes for the rich), welfare/community service for a limited time(if we are going to give you money, we have some blight that needs to be cleaned up), and once you are on, no more kids to get extra money. End the welfare state. No benifits to illegals or their families.
Those are good ideas. However, most Congress persosn aren’t serious about illegal immigration. A minimum wage and Homeland Security is a joke when millions of illegal aliens are flooding across the borders. Tax reform doesn’t have a chance in hell, since Congress likes the severely over-complicated tax system just they way they have perverted it (i.e. ripe for abuse).

Unfortunately, none of those reforms, nor an Article V Convention will happen as long as voters keep rewarding irresponsible incumbent politicians for it.
An Article V Convention might lead to Constitutional amendments, but Congress will still ignore them if voters keep rewarding politicians for it, by repeatedly re-electing them.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 21, 2007 3:54 PM
Comment #213167

KT, You know President Bush? :)

Posted by: gergle at March 22, 2007 6:46 AM
Comment #213173

D.a.n, that was an excellent point about the ratification. It is a crucial safeguard. But, it doesn’t get us past the insurmountable problem of selecting the delegates to the Convention. They could just lead to a civil war before a Convention could even be held :-).

I see nothing in our Constitution that a few Amendments and an independent Justice Department, or a Justice Department run half by the President’s party and half by the opposing party, couldn’t fix.

Posted by: David R. Remer at March 22, 2007 8:03 AM
Comment #213188

David,

In recent years, Constitutional Conventions have been held in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Having the Convention isn’t the hard part.
Enforcing the laws and Constitution is the hard part.

ALL 50 U.S. states have passed resolutions through their state legislatures calling for a new Constitutional Convention, far more than the two-thirds required by Article V of the Constitution.

Isn’t Congress violating the Constitution by refusing it?

Should Congress be allowed to ignore/violate the Constitution?

If Congress is allowed to ignore Article V of the Constitution, then what will they ignore next?

Delegates? We had no trouble picking delegates in 1786-1787.
Civil war? I doubt that would happen.
But, if we can’t exercise our Article V rights for fear of trouble, then we’ve probably already waited too long to address amendments. Thus, the sooner, the better.

Still, you’re right about one thing. There is a very easy (but elusive) solution for reforming government. Simply stop rewarding irresponsible incumbent politicians by repeatedly re-electing them.

I see Congress is back to business-as-usual. Did you see all the pork-barrel and waste in a BILL proposed yesterday. So much for ONE-PURPOSE-PER-BILL, debt reduction, excessive money-printing, and fiscal responsibility.

Posted by: d.a.n at March 22, 2007 9:52 AM
Comment #213684

This country has passed the point of being able to ‘throw the bums out’ on election day..
There’s a brand new set of ‘bums’ waiting in the wings for their turn to ‘govern’…I plan to display my disgust with the choice of ‘politicians’ running for election by writing in MICKEY MOUSE for every national office I vote in… I would really like to see mickey win..We would all likely be better off…

Posted by: robert webster at March 25, 2007 4:46 PM
Comment #213685

This country has passed the point of being able to ‘throw the bums out’ on election day..
There’s a brand new set of ‘bums’ waiting in the wings for their turn to ‘govern’…I plan to display my disgust with the choice of ‘politicians’ running for election by writing in MICKEY MOUSE as my choice for every national office. I would really like to see mickey win..We would all likely be better off…

Posted by: robert webster at March 25, 2007 4:49 PM
Comment #214009

Of course Congress is ignoring the call for an Art V convention. They have had no problem in refusing to address the many Redress of Grievences that have been sent to them. Jury Nullification is almost an alien topic to most Americans. I am from Texas, lived in Ohio, moved back to Texas…yeah, so much for common sense.
State rights began to erode with the 2nd War of Independence(often referred to as the Civil War)and were totally eroded with the so-called passage of the 16th Ammendment. Such corrupt entites as the IRS and the Federal Reserve have only led to secure the powerbase ofthe elite and created a vacuum between the wealthy and the lower class. Some one quoted jefferson earlier and I will quote him as well, “The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” the problem is that most Americans are to comfy with their big screen TV and lazy boy rocker to get up and actually fight for their freedoms. Each and every one of us that swore the oath swore to defend against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic. I am more concerend about the traitors in congress than some militant muslim from the Middle East.

Posted by: BrotherThom at March 27, 2007 7:26 PM
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