Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Constitutional Convention — The Last Step Before Revolution

From Glenn Reynolds' excellent column, at USA Today, "A revolution in the works?":
The political class usually gets its way, because it thinks about politics -- and its own position -- every waking moment, while the rest of America thinks about these things only in fits and starts, in between living everyday life. But if there's an upside to the increasing unhappiness that most Americans feel toward the political class, it's that maybe it means people are paying closer attention.

What's next? In my constitutional law class the other day, most of my students took the position that they would be unlikely to see a Constitutional Convention in their lifetimes. I'm not so sure. Last year I spoke at a Harvard Law School conference on holding a new Constitutional Convention, one which had participants from all sorts of ideological positions ranging from the Tea Party to the Occupy Wall Street movement. (People got along surprisingly well.)

In the American system, a Constitutional Convention -- which has never been held since the Constitution was adopted -- is the last stop before revolution. It was intended as a way for the people to end-run the political establishment; if enough states request a convention, Congress has no choice but to call it, and the resulting proposals go straight to the states for ratification, bypassing Congress. It's a way to make drastic changes when the political class has blocked smaller ones.

Are we there yet? I don't think so. But we're getting closer all the time. Political class, take note.