The basis for the new framework is this: Virtually everyone professes respect and admiration for the US Constitution and knows that it includes a process for amending it. But if someone opposes using the Article V convention option, then he or she is an unpatriotic constitutional hypocrite. When they openly oppose a convention they are a constitutional traitor replacing the Founders thinking with theirs, putting themselves above the law.
Moreover, it is impermissible to pick and choose what parts of the Constitution are supported and obeyed. Similarly, elected public officials who swear obedience to the Constitution cannot pick and choose which parts to obey. Such behavior makes a mockery of the supreme law of the land, the rule of law, and our constitutional republic. Silence by public officials on the issue is cowardly opposition to using the convention option.
No one can accurately forecast exactly what a convention would propose, but we do know that continuation of the status quo will not eliminate the corruption and dysfunction sustained by the two-party plutocracy. The two major parties are rejected by 58 percent of the public for not effectively representing them, but a convention is far more attractive than forming a competitive third party. Many reforms can only be achieved through constitutional amendments that Congress will never propose; this is inarguable. Voting in elections to get reforms is passé. A hard truth to take, but one that an increasing number of Americans have begun to accept.
Amending the Constitution in our modern world should compete with ordinary elections. With Internet news, blogging, email, tweeting, texting and myriad other forms of instant communication, holding a convention is a new way to satisfy public thirst for true reforms, not promises. Amending the Constitution can be done relatively quickly. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven took one year or less to become the law of the land because of public engagement. The 26th amendment (giving the right to vote to 18 year-olds) took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified in 1971! Public pressure works. It will work for and against specific amendments. Americans deserve the constitutional opportunity that Congress has deprived them of.
Americans must be taught this: Just by being in the Constitution the convention option demands public support. Citizens are obliged to support it. People cannot be allowed to have it both ways and be two-faced and hypocritical. Embrace the convention option or be openly and aggressively condemned for unpatriotic hypocrisy and behavior that undermines the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law, both crucial for maintaining the integrity of our republic.
Trust is the crucial issue. So many Americans have lost trust in their government and politicians but far less so in their Constitution. Trusting the Constitution means trusting the Founders’ wisdom in providing the Article V convention option. They anticipated the day when citizens would lose trust in the federal government, which has surely arrived. The convention option bypasses Congress, the President and the Supreme Court; it gives power to the states and citizens. Wisely, ratification by the states is required for any proposed amendments from a convention, providing a hedge against dangerous amendments. When it comes to reform and making government work for we the people, the greatest risk for the nation is not using the convention option.
What political powers on the left and right fear and oppose we the people must demand. They are guilty constitutional traitors. We must be courageous patriots. There is no room for compromise with convention opponents. We must shame and embarrass them; they are lousy citizens. The time to argue about specific amendments is when the convention is in session and delegates must contend with public sentiments and later when proposed amendments are considered for ratification by states.
We cannot know with certainty whether holding a convention would revitalize the nation. But refusing to use the convention option as a constitutional path to reform disrespects and undermines our constitutional republic. The sorry state of the nation demands that we do more than just talk about it. This year every candidate for the House and Senate should be compelled to publicly support using the convention option. Lack of support for it should be grounds for defeating them.
[A shorter version of this article was presented at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Article V symposium in Lansing, Michigan on September 16, 2010; contact Joel S. Hirschhorn, a co-founder of Friends of the Article V Convention, through delusionaldemocracy.com.]