Third Party & Independents Archives

Finding Hope In A Dismal World

For so many, hope is down the drain. Hard to fault them. Abundant evidence shows our insane world sliding down a global cheese grater.

Fish are dying in the Great Lakes. Bees have disappeared. Polar ice caps and glaciers worldwide are melting faster than ever. A global pandemic of a drug-resistant strain of TB is coming at us. Much of the U.S. food supply is highly vulnerable because of imports and totally inadequate government scrutiny. Politicians keep lying. Americans keep dying. Too many senselessly in the insane Iraq war that our delusional president cherishes and our cowardly Congress refuses to stop. Others die because of lax gun laws. Even more because they can’t get quality medical care. And the icing on the fungus-infested cake: the richest one percent of Americans captures 19 percent of the nation’s income. As the rich become super-rich, economic injustice and inequality punish most debt-loaded Americans, with millions facing bankruptcy and home foreclosure.

Our crisis-filled, threatening world offers these existential choices.

Distraction: Pay little attention to bad news. Escapism prevents pain, such as compulsive consumerism, Internet surfing, gambling, drugs, cell phone and iPod oblivion, religion, etc. Stay politically disinterested and disengaged. Selfishness prevails.

Denial: Psychologically block out awful, disturbing information. Stay focused on personal needs and pleasures in a socially and politically disconnected world. Why bother voting? Why think about a world tumbling into the toilet? Why keep up with all the shitty news? Better to watch American Idol. Don’t pay attention to doomsayers.

Devotion: Actively stay informed. Eat up the bad news and suffer despair, depression, cynicism. Cope by finding some basis for hope – something that just might stop some of the madness. Devote time, energy and commitment to it. Something worth fighting for is the noble way to remain sane in a crazy world.

These days, hope often lies with the successful climb to the presidency for whoever is believed will turn things around, take us in a new, better direction. Such is mainstream delusional political hope. Why delusional? Because only a fool trusts politicians. None of the Democrat’s promised major legislative priorities for the new Congress have been enacted. Not one! Impeachment of President Bush has not been pursued. Transgressions of Republicans in Congress and the Executive Branch – criminal, legislative and ethical – are so commonplace they barely get attention anymore. Our delusional democracy thrives on lesser-evil voting that sustains the two-party stranglehold.

Others make a commitment to some cause or movement: like fighting global warming, stopping the Iraq war, finding a cure to some terrible disease, supporting a third party, etc.

Here is the hope I have discovered. It is not mainstream. It goes against the grain. It is not politically correct. It rejects historical precedence. And yet it is the epitome of true patriotism for Americans that trust the U.S. Constitution, and for those who see all three branches of government unable and unwilling to work in the interest of “we the people.”

My hope is that we can successfully pressure Congress and state legislatures to give us what our prescient Founders and Framers gave us in Article V of the Constitution: a national convention to consider proposals for amending the Constitution. An Article V convention would operate outside the control of Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. The wise Framers foresaw that ultimately Americans would confront a government that was not serving them effectively. So they created two routes to propose constitutional amendments, the highest level of lawmaking.

For over 200 years only one method has been used: Congress has proposed all of our constitutional amendments. No Article V convention has ever been allowed. The one flaw in Article V was that only Congress can call a convention when two-thirds of state legislatures ask for one. The word “shall” made clear Congress’ constitutional mandate to call a convention when that one and only constitutional requirement was met. Have 34 state legislatures asked for an Article V convention? You bet. In fact, there have been over 500 state applications from all 50 states over our nation’s history. Unsurprisingly, Congress has never wanted to share power and allow an Article V convention to operate independently, even though whatever proposals for amendments resulted would face exactly the same constitutional requirement for ratification by states that proposals made by Congress face.

Have Americans risen up in rage and rebellion over the stubborn refusal by Congress to obey the Constitution? Hell no. Has the Supreme Court made Congress obey the Constitution? Hell no. In fact, a miniscule number of Americans even know about our right to an Article V convention, even among the most politically engaged.

Have there been many organized attempts to get an Article V convention? You bet. And not one has succeeded. They all failed for two reasons. First, they all were associated with efforts to get a specific constitutional amendment. This always mobilized groups that opposed the amendment. ANY amendment will bring out opposition, and when it emerges it produces fierce opposition to an Article V convention.

Second, a wide array of organized interests, on the political left and right, have forcefully opposed the Article V convention. Those with influence over the political system do not want an independent convention to propose ways to fix the many political, government and social problems plaguing the nation. They would rather use their muscle and money to corrupt politicians. They have employed the scare tactic that an Article V convention would be a “runaway” convention that would threaten national stability. They lie that an Article V convention could by itself create a new constitution – ignoring the ratification requirement and all the public and media scrutiny that would inevitably envelope America’s first Article V convention and prevent delegates from pursuing nutty objectives. They also ignore countless state conventions that have changed constitutions without disastrous effects.

Sadly, no presidential candidate has come out in favor of an Article V convention, not even the mavericks. Nor have any of the cuttingly honest political commentators of our age, including Gore Vidal, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Lou Dobbs.

I believe a convention is the best way to restore the quality of American government, politics and society. And also inspire a new era of political engagement among much of the public so fed up with politics as usual. Conventions do not threaten democracy – they strengthen it. My hope rests with the new national group – Friends of the Article V Convention. It can succeed in creating the forces necessary to give us what the Framers said we have a right to. FOAVC will not back any specific amendment. Like members of Congress, convention delegates have the right to consider whatever they deem necessary. FOAVC will also fight the lies of anti-conventionists.

You too can find hope. It is located at www.foavc.org. Then let that hope channel your moral energy by becoming a member. The Friends of the Article V Convention need you. America needs you. Now.

Posted by Joel S. Hirschhorn at May 10, 2007 9:01 AM
Comments
Comment #219984

Joel, you are a writer with a transparent agenda.

I agree, rational hope is getting harder to find given that we seem to be creating more problems than we are solving. But, that perception may not be as valid as it appears. Before one can assess whether the future is hopeless based on our current set of problems, one must also take into account the many successes that have brought us to this point.

Medicine has leaped forward at an unprecedented rate. Of course, that is resulting in a grotesque over population of the world. But no one can logically deny that over-population has self-correcting mechanisms built in. Not humane, nor sightly, but, over-population if not corrected voluntarily by the human species will be corrected by the earth’s natural dynamism and systems and finite resources.

Economic disaster looms on the horizon not only for the U.S. due to fiscal mismanagement, but, for all nations which are inextricably linked and dependent in varying degrees upon the U.S. economy. But, our colonialists also lived on the edge of economic disaster, as did our Civil War era population, and our Great Depression and WWII economy populations.

And if the economy fails, it has before, many will suffer. But, those that survive it, will rebuild it.

In fact, the only logical and rationally supportable doom and gloom scenario I envision that holds out no hope for mankind, is a killer asteroid before we have colonized another earth, or global climate change that results in our hell literally freezing over.

I am appalled that our political system has faltered as badly as it has. But, I fear the very forces that have caused it to falter, would be at the table of Article V convention. And that is a fear I just cannot entertain as worth taking, without some mechanism in place to insure that the extremists are either excluded from the process or so marginalized ahead of time as to be rendered inconsequential.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2007 9:34 AM
Comment #219996

David,

I think your fears about extremists getting control of an Article V convention are valid…but at the same time nothing to worry about.

Remember, an Article V convention could propose new Amendments to the Constitution, however, it takes 3/4 of the state’s legislatures ratifying before anything was added to the Constitution. I really don’t think extremists control 3/4 of the state’s legislatures. Any extreme amendment wouldn’t have a chance.

The only thing an extreme amendment would do is to cast a shadow on future Article V Conventions.

I have to stand with Joel on this. We the people have been excluded from the legislative process for far too long. It is time, since Congress refuses to, take matters into our own hands and truly do the will of we the people.

The people…the ones who are SUPPOSED to be running this government…istead of the one that are completely shut out.

The days of “You can change the faces but you can’t change the government” need to be over.

Posted by: Jim T at May 10, 2007 12:13 PM
Comment #219999

Jim T, with 3/4 of the political map Red, my fear of extremists ruling the day are not unfounded. A ratification by the state’s legislators does not mean a majority of the people’s representatives. In Red states with a small margin to carry them Red, times dozens, their legislatures could easily ratify measures offensive to the majority of the public’s opinion.

California is the most populated state. But, in ratification, they are but one of 50 states. Wyoming or Utah have equal weight in the ratification vote. This is very dangerous in terms of radicals getting hold of the Convention process and ruling against the majority will of the people. Defining the U.S. as a Christian nation for example is very possible, overturning RvW is doable, and term limits is a great possibility for the Amendment process, as could be no restrictions on arms purchased and owned by the public.

I am not advocating necessarily for or against any of these measures, my point, is would be considered extreme by the majority (save RvW perhaps) and do great harm to the nation and prevent any subsequent Convention from overturning the harm done to the public will.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2007 12:25 PM
Comment #220005

David,

Yes, 3/4 (or more) of the map is red…but that does not mean extremist. Remember that the really extreme people are in the minority…both left and right. Most are in the middle and are level-headed individuals. Compared to the whole, the extreme left and extreme right are a small percentage.

Besides, state legislators have to eyeball “we the people” on a daily basis and have to answer personally for their stances.

I do believe that the country is on the conservative side, but I also believe that conservatism generally is in the middle.

I fully believe that this country is populated by good, level-headed people who will know and reject (and make their legislators aware of) extemism.

Plus, I feel that the delegates to the Article V Convention will know and reject extremism.

Just my opinion. I have faith in the people of this country as a whole.

Posted by: Jim T at May 10, 2007 1:22 PM
Comment #220007

A constitutional convention without the popular support to gain the approval of two thirds of the state legislatures at once is certainly going to have an uphill battle convincing three quarters of those states to approve the amendments.

There are are already means available for producing amendments. We should not appeal to this means for just any reason.

A constitutional convention is a tool for overhauling these documents entirely. It’s not meant for a grab bag of amendments, its meant for a concerted political push to fundamentally rework the law of the land. It’s meant to do so only with the support of an equal proportion to that which ratified the constitution in the first place.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 10, 2007 1:25 PM
Comment #220012

Jim T said: “Besides, state legislators have to eyeball “we the people” on a daily basis and have to answer personally for their stances.”

You couldn’t be more wrong, Jim T. The vast majority of Americans could not name their state representative if their life depended on it. Far more know their US representatives than their state ones.

Your argument is seriously flawed as evidenced by a great deal of research and polls on this matter.

State Legislators are far less a check and balance against extremism than you posit.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2007 1:58 PM
Comment #220013

Stephen, quite right. Amendments are for specific alterations to the Constitution. Conventions are for overhauling the Constitution itself.

Texas is in more dire need of a Constitutional Convention than any state in the union. But, they won’t touch it out of fear of ending up with something far worse (as remote as that possibility may be).

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2007 2:00 PM
Comment #220028

David,

Jim T is right on the account that just because the majority of states are red does not mean extremism… At least not anymore than if we had a blue state majority. I live in a red state (Nevada) and can tell you we’re not the gun-totin’, “yee-haw” shoutin’ hicks y’all would make us out to be. In fact, I grew up in a blue state (Washington) and can honestly tell you I don’t see much difference. Granted, there are some pretty extreme states (South Dakota’s recent abortion-trigger legislation comes to mind), but those are in the minority… much like Massachusetts’ extreme liberalism is in the minority.

On another note… I do not share your opinion that the Constitution is flawed because of the whole 3/4-state-legislature-to-ratify thing. The whole purpose of that stipulation is to ensure the will of the majority while not interfering with the rights of the minority. Both of those items are equally important and are, indeed, sometimes mutually exclusive. By your rationale CA, MA, PA, and NY should pretty much be able to dictate to the rest of the country? Ah don’t think they’d take too kindly ta that down Mi’ssippi way…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at May 10, 2007 4:04 PM
Comment #220031

David,

Well, I guess I’m different than the rest of the country, as I eyeball my legislators as often as possible. My State Senator even has a restaurant down the street and I eat there and talk to him every couple of weeks. I don’t know how much of what I say gets through to him, but I give him my 2 cents worth anyway.

Doug,

You’re right. We would not put up with it. We’d tell them exactly where to get off.

But, of course, that’s not an exclusive thing for us, as we live in a country that is actually 5 or 6 countries all wrapped into one. The Southwest (AR, NM, West TX) lifestyle and way of thinking is completely different than that of, say, the Northern Middle states (Montana, Wyoming, etc.) and of that of the extreme Western states (CA, WA, OR). Same with the Northeast (PA, MA, NY, etc.) and Southeast (NC, SC, GA, AL, MS, etc.). We are all different, but the same in many respects. We all will not be dictated to without representation.

Posted by: Jim T at May 10, 2007 4:22 PM
Comment #220033

Jim T,

Thanks for your response… and you’re right, we are pretty regional.

After reading my last post over one might get the impression I would be in favor of an Article V convention, but I couldn’t be more against it… It seems the more I contribute on this site, the more I disagree with David… and I absolutely agree with him in this instance… there is no need for it. As he points out, the purpose of that article to to completely re-haul the document, which is certainly not necessary. The fact is, the current document, as written, does quite well in addressing the duties of the government… the problem is holding our officials accountable to respecting that document. Why should we essentially draft a new constitution when we can’t even follow the old one? It would be like making more gun laws when we can’t (or don’t) even enforce the ones currently on the books?

Let’s work within the system we have to its full potential before declaring giving up and declaring a do-over.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at May 10, 2007 5:17 PM
Comment #220039

Doug, first you presume too much. I have lived in Texas most of my life. I know a yahoo when I see one.

Second, don’t even try to tell me the red state map can’t lead to extremism. One look back over the Republican control of government says quite otherwise. 3 trillion national debt, a more than 50% increase in just 6 years is extremist by any definition, including most Republicans.

So, I am sorry, but, history proves your argument wrong.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2007 7:46 PM
Comment #220040

Doug, please quote where I said the Constitution was flawed. Otherwise, you can apologize for misreading what was said. I don’t think the Constitution is flawed, I think those who administer its prescriptions are horridly flawed, and have been for decades for the most part.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2007 7:48 PM
Comment #220041

Doug said: “Why should we essentially draft a new constitution when we can’t even follow the old one? It would be like making more gun laws when we can’t (or don’t) even enforce the ones currently on the books?”

That is a most excellent parallel and analogy.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 10, 2007 7:52 PM
Comment #220046

To comment on Joel’s statement that 34 state legislatures have asked for a convention and have been ignored by Congress, I don’t doubt that that many have asked for one at some time over the history of the country, but not at one time.

Posted by: Warren Dace at May 10, 2007 8:27 PM
Comment #220061

I think the basic underlying problem in Joel’s thesis is the classic political problem of attempting to solve huge and complex problems in “one fell swoops”.

The truth is, the problem with most governance and political sensibilities is the inability to build up small actions into a workable overall movement. People are impatient, want everything at once. The chilling aspect of this is that much of the impatience comes because of the costs of what other people have done to try and redeem everything at once.

It’s much easier for government to remain accountable and work well when people acknowledge that what we ask of such a government comes with certain requirements, and that we do not know all ends.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 11, 2007 12:56 AM
Comment #220077

David,

You’re right… you never said the Constitution is flawed, and I absolutely apologize for saying that was your opinion… After reading many of your posts supporting the Cinstitution, I should have more carefully worded my own post… you are always the first to defend the Constitution and how it SHOULD work (if not necessarily how we have flushed it down the tiolet).

That said, you do seem to suggest the 3/4 state ratification clause as a bit of a problem based on the argument that since CA has more people, they should have more say, with which I completely disagree. Am I wrong in this interpretation of your words?

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at May 11, 2007 11:26 AM
Comment #220078

David,

I spent a few years in TX, and I kinda miss it! Beautiful state and wonderful people (and food!). Ol’ San Antonio… great city.

No… I cannot accept your “extremism” argument… even if TX is one of the handful of “Extreme” red states, it IS only one of the handful… And remember, it is only one state when it would come to the ratification of any ammedning of the Constitution, even though it SHOULD have the 2nd most say, based on its population, as you imply above.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at May 11, 2007 11:31 AM
Comment #220083

Doug, I am not saying there is anything at all wrong with Article V. It is genius incarnate as far as I am concerned. What I am saying is that because Article V reads as it does, we should not be seeking a Constitutional Convention in the current polarized political environment we find ourselves in.

Article V was intended for revision in the circumstance upon which the nation as a whole with consensus agree that changed circumstances require amendment to the Constitution. That is not the environment we find ourselves in, nor, the use to which the political parties will put the Convention to.

I do not believe that such a convention could be conducted in today’s environment without an enormous amount of deception (remember, the Constitution makes lying by representatives to the people perfectly LEGAL under the First Amendment), and enormous amount of corruption (bribes and blackmail by special and corporate interests), and a kind of barter between the extremists in which each gets some extremist measures passed by deferring to the other side getting their’s included, (e.g. serious constraint upon the Executive in exchange for an eliminating any potential for constraining money as free speech, a deal that could potentially be struck by both sides).

I have not spent much time on it because it hasn’t been warranted, but, in just a few hours, I could develop a very long list of possible monstrosities that could result from a Article V Convention in this political environment. The one above is just off the top of my head. Revising and ‘effectively’ eliminating the separation of church and state doctrine in exchange for modification (and more limited power) of the Executive’s judicial appointee process, is another just off the top of my head.

And these trades could be sold to the public and the public would very possibly support them due to their extreme ignorance of constitutional issues and gullibility to the word of their party leaders. It is a radically different environment today than when our nation was founded. Then, political parties did not exist, and the people who participated in voicing opinions were few and mostly learned. That would not be the case today.
Political careers were not on the line in the First Constitutional Convention, but, in one held today, entire Party Careers would be weighing in the balance.

The pressures to move extremist but subtle and nuanced changes into the Constitution would be absolutely enormous in our current environment. And the people would rely on party leaders to keep them quote ‘informed’ unquote, and we know what kind of deceptions that would result in.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 11, 2007 1:03 PM
Comment #220086

David… ultimately, we agree… there is no current need for an Article V convention… we just kind of take different paths to get there… I’m actually of the thought that any newly revised document would be much more watered down than extreme, and, like you, I am sure I could come up with some specific examples based on past legislation… either way, those minor (?) details don’t really matter… it is unnecessary at this point.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at May 11, 2007 1:39 PM
Comment #220097

Doug, David,

I think there is a dire need for an Article V convention…if for no other reason than to have our Representatives and Senators pissing in their pants…afraid that “we the people” might just take back some of that power we gave them.

The “Power Junkies” in Washington need a “wake up call” now and then.

Posted by: Jim T at May 11, 2007 4:22 PM
Comment #220101

Jim T… there’s already the best possible system in place to make them piss in their pants… and it’s called an election. If we the people can’t take action and hold our officials accountable, how do we think we’re going to organize something of this magnitude?

And I want to make something very clear… the clowns in power have none of the blame for the predicament in which our country finds itself… ALL of it falls on us… we’re the ones that keep putting them there… they’re simply doing the jobs we the people expect of them by voting them into office year in and year out…

Again… let’s make the current Constitution work to its full potential before trying to churn out a new one…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at May 11, 2007 5:08 PM
Comment #220120

Weary Willie,

I’m pretty sure you are not completely correct; the Constitutional Convention was organized in accordance to the rules stipulated in the Articles of Confederation. It’s original purpose was to fix a few holes in the constitution of that time such as the lack of unity amongst states. During the convention, the delegates decided that it would be better to just start from scratch and create a new Constitution, which is the one we enjoy today. During the convention, some delegates proposed a “bill of rights” of sorts, but it was voted down due to fears that if certain rights were enumerated, that would imply that any right not specified did not exist. Because of the rules of the Articles of Confederation, at least nine states needed to ratify the new Constitution before it became the law of the land. During the ratification process, many states said they would only ratify a Constitution with a Bill of Rights, so twelve amendments were proposed and sent for ratification with the new Constitution. Ten of the amendments were ratified by enough states during the 1790s and became known as the Bill of Rights. One amendment that fell short of the threshold during initially was later ratified by enough states during the 1990s. The twelfth amendment from the original Bill of Rights is still technically in the ratification process, but probably will not be ratified any time soon because it would lead to an increase in the number of Reps in the House to 6000, because it says that a Rep may not represent anymore than 50000 people.

Joel, I know you have spoken about an Article V convention before, but my opinion is that unless such a convention was formed with a specific purpose in mind (presumably because the states submitting requests for such a convention had done so at around the same time and with the same stated goal/concern/purpose). Otherwise, it would probably be mayhem and there is little reason to say that the convention would not become a deFacto fourth branch of government. Don’t interpret the above to imply that I am happy with government’s current state of affairs, I certainly am not, for may of the same reasons you specified. I would even support an Article V convention to correct these problems, but only if done so under the above circumstances. Until them, I agree with David that we need to exploit the ballot box as an effective way of encouraging changes that we wish to happen.

Posted by: Warren P at May 11, 2007 9:23 PM
Comment #220147

Weary Willie said: “It’s sole purpose is to provide an alternative to the government, the current government.”

No, that is wrong. It’s sole purpose is to alter the Constitution. Government is not the Constitution. Government, is the people who we elect to make decisions for us. Government can choose to abide by the Constitution or not, since the government is nothing more than a collection of people making decisions and acting or not acting on them.

Doug is precisely right. You can change the Constitution but, it does not mean the government will change. Our Constitution is fine. It is our government that needs changing and the power to change it already exists with the vote, voter education, and the media. Whether we choose to use the tools available to us to change government is the issue, not the Constitution.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2007 10:43 AM
Comment #220269

My question is, who would pay the enormous bill for an Art. V Convention? Don’t know if it is stated in the document or not. I knew of the existence of the article but have never really studied it as the likelyhood of one taking place is remote.

If not paid for by the government through tax receipts then Amendments would go to the highest bidder.

Posted by: Kirk at May 14, 2007 8:35 AM
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