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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Constitutional Convention?

I just wrote about the Tea Party movement. The big complaint there is that no one is listening to us and government is broken. Progressives often say the same things at times. Seems like the answer is not to get one or the other in office via new groups or new parties, but maybe we should all consider radical change to a government that hasn’t seen an amendment in quite some time and hasn’t responded to our growing population with more representatives to make those new voices heard. One Congressman used to represent 60,000 people; now one represents some 670,000. No wonder we feel like no one is listening!

Sabato in this book below and Lessig in a podcast (farther below) both mention Constitutional Convention. The Tea Party movement just held a convention, but perhaps we need something bigger and more bipartisan than that movement can offer?

A More Perfect Constitution by Larry Sabato

A rather boring book, I just couldn't get through it. If I wrote a book, that’s probably how mine would turn out- too long and super boring! ☺ There are some really good points made, though! I don't agree with everything, but it is interesting stuff.

Here are Sabato’s suggestions:

1. Expand the Senate to 136 members to be more representative: Grant the 10 most populous states 2 additional Senators, the 15 next most populous states 1 additional Senator, and the District of Columbia 1 Senator.

2. Appoint all former Presidents and Vice Presidents to the new office of “National Senator.”

3. Mandate non-partisan redistricting for House elections to enhance electoral competition.

4. Lengthen House terms to 3 years (from 2) and set Senate terms to coincide with all Presidential elections, so the entire House and Senate would be elected at the same time as the President.

5. Expand the size of the House to approximately 1,000 members (from current 435), so House members can be closer to their constituents, and to level the playing field in House elections.

6. Establish term limits in the House and Senate to restore the Founders’ principle of frequent rotation in office.

7. Add a Balanced Budget Amendment to encourage fiscal fairness to future generations.

8. Create a Continuity of Government procedure to provide for replacement Senators and Congresspeople in the event of extensive deaths or incapacitation.

9. Establish a new 6-year, 1-time Presidential term with the option for the President to seek 2 additional years in an up/down referendum of the American people.

10. Limit some Presidential war-making powers and expand Congress’s oversight of war-making.

11. Give the President a line-item veto.

12. Allow men and women not born in the U.S. to run for President or Vice President after having been a citizen for 20 years.

Supreme Court:
13. Eliminate lifetime tenure for federal judges in favor of non-renewable 15-year terms for all federal judges.

14. Grant Congress the power to set a mandatory retirement age for all federal judges.

15. Expand the size of the Supreme Court from 9 to 12 to be more representative.

16. Give federal judges guaranteed cost of living increases so pay is never an issue.

17. Write a new constitutional article specifically for the politics of the American system.

18. Adopt a regional, staggered lottery system, over 4 months, for Presidential party nominations to avoid the destructive front-loading of primaries.

19. Mend the Electoral College by granting more populated states additional electors, to preserve the benefits of the College while minimizing the chances a President will win without a majority of the popular vote.

20. Reform campaign financing by preventing wealthy candidates from financing their campaigns, and by mandating partial public financing for House and Senate campaigns.

21. Adopt an automatic registration system for all qualified American citizens to guarantee their right to vote is not abridged by bureaucratic requirements.

Universal National Service:
22. Create a Constitutional requirement that all able-bodied young Americans devote at least 2 years of their lives in service to the country.

National Constitutional Convention:
23. Convene a new Constitutional Convention using the state-based mechanism left to us by the Framers in the current Constitution.


I listened to Lessig talk about a constitutional convention on Democracy Now at the time I was trying to read Sabato’s book calling for a constitutional convention.

Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Harvard Law School. Co-founder of the nonprofit Change Congress. His cover story in The Nation is titled, How to Get Our Democracy Back

This guy’s focus seems to be more campaign finance reform or maybe he was just responding to the recent Supreme Court decision (Citizens United) that allows corporations to spend more to influence campaigns. The discussion made me think of Sabato’s stuff.

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