April 23, 2008
by Joel S. Hirschhorn
Now is the time for Hilary Clinton to take a bold position
that in one brilliant, courageous stroke shows the nation that she is more
willing to pursue true reforms of the two-party plutocratic political system
than Obama is.
With this position she can reveal that all the Obama talk about change is just a clever campaign strategy to seduce people who rightfully are fed up with politics as usual.
With this single position she can transform herself from status-quo-political-establishment-candidate to a true believer in what the Founders gave us in the Constitution: the right to turn public mistrust and lack of confidence in the federal government into peaceful constitutional problem solving. When 81 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, then the constitutional path to reform should be used.
How can a true political leader do better than advocating use of what is sitting right there in our beloved Constitution?
How can a candidate advocating solutions for America do better than supporting what has already been used hundreds of times by the states, but has been blocked by fearful political forces for over 200 years at the federal level?
How could Obama tell the nation that he does not believe in using what the Constitution says we have a clear right to use? How could this self-professed change agent say he is against using the peaceful constitutional path to examining profound political reforms? Neither Obama nor McCain would find it easy to say that what the Founders gave us in our Constitution should not be used. Indeed, as Senators, would they introduce a bill to amend the Constitution to remove this option? I think not.
Sometimes, a great notion just needs to be articulated for people to see the clear way forward. Now is the ideal time for Hillary Clinton to say to Americans that she agrees that the political system must be fixed and that the time has arrived for a serious national discussion of political reforms that only can be achieved through constitutional amendments, because Congress has shown no inclination for pursuing deep, systemic political reforms.
The constitutional alternative is to use what is in Article V: a convention of state delegates that is given the constitutional power that so far only Congress has used, to debate and consider proposals for constitutional amendments. The Framers brilliantly created both this option and the safety net that proposed amendments, like those from Congress, must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Nor can a totally new Constitution be considered, only amendments to the present one.
Clinton would have history and facts on her side. The clarity of the Article V Convention option in the Constitution is undisputed. Better yet, the one and only stated requirement for Congress to obey for convening the convention has already been satisfied – namely that two-thirds of state legislatures ask Congress for a convention. Indeed, there have been over 500 such state requests from all 50 states. Hillary could state very simply that the time is long overdue for Congress to obey the Constitution and convene a convention. She could introduce a bill that says exactly that to show that she is really true to her words.
There have been several important books from respected academics that provide the intellectual ammunition for taking this bold position. These include: “A More Perfect Constitution” by Larry Sabato; “The Second Constitutional Convention: How The American People Can Take Back Their Government” by Richard Labunski; and “Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (And How We the People Can Correct It)” by Sanford Levinson.
In other words, advocating the nation’s first use of an Article V Convention is no far-out, brainless idea. Indeed, it is exactly what the nation needs at this time and exactly what any political leader that claims both to love our Constitution and see the need for political reforms should support.
Clinton can give many examples of what a convention could consider proposing, including amendments that: make universal health insurance coverage a constitutional right; replace the Electoral College with the popular vote for president and vice-president; take all private money out of political campaigns and replaces it with total public campaign financing; clarify that only Congress can declare war and must do so explicitly.
Be brave Hillary. Do what is both right and politically dazzling.