Friday, October 19, 2007

A Call for a NEW Constitutional Convention

Yesterday on The Diane Rehm Show, Diane discussed with Larry Sabato his new book, A More Perfect Constitution. Sabato is a political scientist at the University of Virginia and he runs the Center for Politics there.

He is proposing a new Constitutional Convention and notes that Article 5 offers two ways to change the US Constitution - only one has every been used (amendments). The other is to call a convention.

Article V:
"or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress."

I was so fascinated by his proposals. They include increasing the representation in Congress. The House to 1000(#5) ; the Senate to 136, DC would get one, the largest states would get more (#1). Put term limits on the Supreme Court at 15 years (#13) and up the number of Justices to 12 (#15). Fix the War Powers Act and put more power in the Congress as the Framers intended (#10). One six year term for President, with an option 2 year extension - up or down vote on the extension (#9). Add balance budget amendment (#7) as well as the line item veto (#11) and campaign finance reform - public funding for all House and Senate races (#20).

He also suggests helpful remedies to the election process besides public campaign financing. Changes to the state primary dates (involving half time at the Rose Bowl) as well as the Electoral College.

His full 23 proposals can be read here.

Intrigued I skipped the why, when, and how these changes would be implemented and jumped to the renovations to the Capitol building to accommodate all the extra chairs in the House chamber and the desks in the Senate chamber. This morning I thought of the House and Senate office buildings and where would the additional offices go and of all the streets that have been, to me insanely, cut off - security. We could just get rid of those streets all together and build bunkers!

You can listen to the 45 minute interview here. Many of the callers were skeptical and pessimistic. How can you not be in this age? But Sabato countered by citing the young people he's taught over the last 30 years. (people of my generation). He suggested with our generation there is hope because of the intelligence and will power of people my age and younger. Maybe the atrocities of the Bush presidency will motivate and stimulate such a change, or at least a discussion.

If I could have, I'd have gone to the free and open symposium hosted byBob Schieffer of CBS news at the Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue (!) The goal is "to spur a grand, national discussion on the Constitution of the United States and whether the cornerstone of our republic could or should be a means of revitalizing civic and political engagement in America, curtailing apathy and renewing confidence in American politics and government."

A worthwhile, lofty aspiration. Check out these supporters.

What do you think?

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