The concern is understandable. An “Article V” Constitutional Convention would indeed open a can of worms, as various individuals, organizations, and interests strive to bend the new system to fit their particular political peculiarities. But nonetheless, it’s a can that needs to be opened.
As I wrote a couple of years ago:
Governments are kinda like [automobiles]. For one reason or another, you have to get a new one every once in a while. They wear out, or break, or some calamity comes along and makes them unusable, or the cost of maintaining them becomes unsustainable…
It’s time to call for the Next American Republic. This one is broken, worn out, obsolete, and too expensive to maintain – and furthermore, it has been vandalized and tampered with, its safety mechanisms and pollution controls deliberately disabled.
Of course, we can’t go to a new government dealer, or even get a certified “pre-owned” Republic for a replacement. We’ll have to build it ourselves. We can use some of the old parts, maybe, the ones that still work – but before we get to that, we have some design work to do.
Rather than try to maintain the status quo, I would like to suggest that we progressives need to create our own parallel efforts for Constitutional reform. There are too many things about our system that desperately need to be upgraded and updated. We are dealing with social, environmental, and economic conditions that the Founders never could have imagined, and we need to change accordingly.
For example, here are some features that I’d like to build into the Next Republic.
- Clarify the rights and responsibilities of citizens – not only with regard to firearms ownership, but political participation, taxation, etc.
- Create a better system of checks and balances, not only between branches of government (Executive/Legislative/Judicial), but between the Market, the State, and the People. Prevent power from becoming centralized.
- Ensure that all levels/classes, not just the wealthy, have meaningful representation in government, and the opportunity to make their concerns heard and acted upon.
- Rescind “corporate personhood,” making clear that corporations do not have the same innate “rights” as citizens
- Make clear that political donations are not “free speech” and can be regulated; enforce total transparency in political influence (no more “dark money”).
- Make true multiparty democracy possible – institute voting reforms such as Instant Runoff or Ranked Choice.
- Make Congress and state legislatures more reflective of the population; get rid of “winner take all” systems and institute proportional representation.
That’s just for starters.
It’s not such a big deal, really – many countries have reinvented themselves from time to time. South Korea is in its Sixth Republic now, France and the Philippines their fifth, Nigeria its fourth. Some historians say that we’ve actually had three or four distinct republics in American history already, though none of them manifested in a complete Constitutional overhaul.
I think the discussion needs to happen. We need to redefine who we are as a nation, and what we think our goals and purpose as a nation should be. We need to make strong cases for progressive reforms. But we also need to make sure that we design a system where people from across the spectrum – from progressives and liberals to conservatives and traditionalists – feel they have a stake.