Article V Convention. The people change the constitution

Our “John Rich. They’re Shutting Detroit Down” post on April 20 has gotten 8,000 hits so far, way more than a popular post normally gets here. Why? Because the song was timely, heartfelt, and crossed political boundaries. John Rich is right-wing yet long-time progressive Kris Kristofferson acted in the video. Does party affliiation make any difference when the factories in your town are shutting down? Nope. Not even slightly.

Both the teabaggers and the left are angry that bailout money is going to Wall Street while the rest of us, Detroit included, gets screwed. This isn’t about left vs. right, it’s about an unresponsive system that benefits a few and no longer answers to the people.

But perhaps there is a solution. Call a constitutional convention and force the needed changes. Such a right is, in fact, guaranteed by the constitution.

From Friends of the Article V Convention

Article V of the United States Constitution provides that “on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, [Congress] shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…”. The Founding Fathers of our nation recognized the importance of providing this means by which the citizens of our country could initiate amendments to change and/or clarify the Constitution; the fundamental document which they intended to be not only the blueprint for our federal system but also “the supreme Law of the Land”.

Yes, the convention would be called by Congress, but just the mere threat of such a convention might well start forcing needed changes. And if held, such a convention would probably be much more controlled by the populace and much less by Congress and the current corrupt system of lobbyists and big business money.

Any proposed constitutional amendments from the convention would become part of the constitution if ratified by three quarters of the state legislatures. This is a high bar, and deliberately so.

What would I like to see?

1) Public funding of elections with strict spending limits and timetables, with no contributions allowed to politicians ever by anyone or any entity. Period.

2) A parliamentary system of government. By its nature this would encourage the growth of third parties and give them the chance to have real political power as part of ruling coalitions. The US is the only democracy to my knowledge that doesn’t have a parliamentary system. If it had one, Dubya would not have lasted eight years in power, that’s for sure.

What would you like see in the way of constitutional changes?

The non-partisan Friends of the Article V Convention has lots of information about how this works and have made no specific proposals for changes. This is where is gets a bit tricky. If such a convention happened, what would the rules be? Could it get jacked by extremists? Or, just maybe, could it be a genuine exercise in real democracy instead?


  1. Just for information.

    Under the terms of the Constitution, Congress has no choice but to call a convention. If two thirds of the state legislatures apply, Congress must call. All 50 states have applied submitting 750 applications, well in excess of the 34 required.

    Many of the reforms being discussed today have already been proposed by the states sometimes years ahead of the issue now being discussed. In short, the states saw the problem coming and did their constitutional duty to resolve it. Now it’s up to us to do ours.

    As to a convention being hijacked. The Constitution provides, as mentioned, a major hurdle in the form of the ratification procedure. Just as important, a convention will have to have a two thirds vote of its membership just like Congress to get out an amendment proposal and unless it is ratified it has no effect whatsoever.

    An Article V Convention cannot write a new constitution despite what you may have heard. If someone says that, ask them to show you with reference in the Constitution or with a federal court case that says so.

    You can read the texts of the 750 applications at

  2. “ask them to show you with reference in the Constitution or with a federal court case that says so.”

    The Declaration of Independence founds our nation on that very right:

    “[W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e. to secure the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    But our government, oddly enough, does not recognize this as our right. Go figure. Not that they have any vested interest in preventing a change of government, or anything like that…

  3. the Article V Convention is a no-brainer. this is exactly what the nation needs at this point. if only as a civic ceremony allowing the people to come together, that in and of itself right now would be more important than any amedment proposals originating out of it. exercising a constitutional right is important. if it’s the job of the politicians to keep us divided, it’s nice to know the constitution provides a space to build consensus.

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