20 Comments

  1. Maggie Williams

    Thank you Victor, you are spot on. The Move To Amend amendment and proposal is so much more concrete and practical These alternate proposals just don't sway me one way or the other, since they are not specific enough to really understand what is being proposed. While, I would agree, as Mr. Lessig suggests, that it would be helpful to have the direct input of the people, it would seem that we must follow the process mapped out in the Constitution, unless we just throw out the rule book and start a new blue print for our government. Common Cause and other like organization have taken an a fairly undefined course. According to Amend 2012, it states "Amending the Constitution is a big deal…while it's possible and, we think, the best ultimate solution, it isn't likely to happen right away." . What other action would there be in the interim? Talking about why we need it? Raising money? We need to work toward a stated goal. So why not just state it up front and work directly toward the ultimate goal, which is to amend the constitution to say that corporations are not people and money is not speech?

  2. pewestlake pewestlake

    I think Lawrence Lessig is on a very complicated path. I think his regional conventions idea is even more challenging than just trying to pass an amendment. I agree with you, Maggie, that the MTA version is the best of the batch getting any legitimate play. I would prefer an even more constitutionally streamlined approach but the MTA language gets the endorsement of The Gazette. None of the proposals introduced in Congress are either effective enough or passable for a variety of political or just plain marketing reasons.

    Right now, all the hearings in Congress amount to a lot of nothing. The GOP has no incentive to perceive Citizens United as anything but a magic carpet ride for themselves right now. We can address that by advancing a non-partisan amendment and winning right-of-center voters into the movement, or we can address it by trying to vote in large enough democratic majorities to pass a proposal by a super-majority in both chambers of the U.S. Congress and ratified by 38 state legislatures. Both are possible but the latter would take so long and require such a sustained pummeling of our nation by extreme corporate forces that there might not be much left by then.

    So my vote is on winning moderate conservatives over to our way of thinking with a non-partisan amendment that can pass muster on both sides of the aisle. Move To Amend doesn't specifically mention unions but they are included in the language. That's enough to make it neutral. That and the HRA come closest to achieving the goals without partisanship and without extraneous additions, but Move To Amend has about a quarter million more signatures. That's why I co-founded the NYC affiliate and am happy to endorse the MTA proposal.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  3. I read the "in line" commentary and the comments of us regular folks. My own position is much more pro Lessig. I am becoming more and more attached to the idea of "tail wags dog". And simply stated it is that if 75% of the people agree on language for an amendment to the constitution then that language will, in fact, become part of the constitution regardless of the road blocks erected to deny it. It should not be easy to amend the constitution. The constitution is much to important to be left to mob rule direct democracy. So a national referendum process is not a proper method. But what if we put the cart before the horse and have the ratification conventions first and all the "hoop jumping" second? In this "process", the people decide on the language of the amendment(s) and the state legislators support that language or find themselves jobless.

    That is the path suggested by Lessig and I believe it to be the correct path.

    Move to Amend has done a marvelous service to this country and continues to do so. But leaving the citizens out of the language definition phase is not the way forward. The language must be bipartisan and the so called Huan Rights Amendment" is absolutely not bipartisan. We on the left must understand those on the right and do this in a way that serves us all. Those on the right believe that rich people have the right to protect themselves from the non rich mob. If everyone has equal rights in regard to speech and campaigning then we have mob rule democracy in which the majority will strip any accumulated wealth from the bones that might have it regardless of how they might have attained it. What is needed is language that prevents the rich from disenfranchising the rest and that is ALL. For possible examples see http://GreaterVoice.org/amendment

    • pewestlake pewestlake

      I read over your suggestions and I think there are some very good ideas. I question the efficacy of attempting to codify campaign finance rules in the Constitution without fully overturning Buckley or Santa Clara. And I further suggest that using the amendment process for issues that can be accomplished in legislation (technically, if not politically) is both an improper use of the amendment process and an Achilles Heel that would doom the chances of the proposal from the outset.

      And I have a strong disagreement with the notion that the HRA is partisan in some way. I'd appreciate if you would specify exactly what makes you say that. It has been carefully crafted with entirely neutral language that avoids even the mention of any type of legal fiction. Both of the main provisions of the HRA impact all people and legal entities equally. I fail to see how that's "absolutely not bipartisan."

      If you're suggesting that conservatives will fight any restriction on recognizing spending money as an expression of speech on the grounds that it would lead to mob rule, I think that's a politically and tactically weak position from a group that constantly inflates their own popularity and points to right-wing media ratings to claim legitimacy. Plus it can be a tricky act to denigrate the entire American "mob" when that includes the Tea Party.

      There are two basic approaches to dealing with the Citizens United ruling and all the case law leading up to it. We can create new law that attempts to bypass the First and Fourteenth Amendment foundation underlying Citizens United or we can walk back the case law that the Supreme Court has created and restore the original scope of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights. The first method is more comprehensive in attaining campaign finance reform but runs the risk of failing to prevent the Supreme Court from bypassing the new restrictions in favor of the Court's overly broad interpretation of the First and the Fourteenth.

      The second method is far less comprehensive as an act of reform, and far less invasive in creating new law, but it's far more effective in undoing the damage the Supreme Court has done. It forces the Court off the field of play for good and permanently mitigates the threat of retaliation by wealthy donors who currently rely on the Court to overturn any restriction on their ability to influence policy enacted by Congress, whether it's in the form of campaign finance reform or lobbying reform or sunlight reforms, whatever. I believe the subtractive approach of the HRA accomplishes that goal and would alter the balance of power between big business and the people's representatives more fundamentally and permanently than the additive approach of any proposal that relies on campaign finance reform measures.

      Thanks for your comment and the thought-provoking debate.


      • You are correct in your criticism of my incomplete "set" of provisions. I left out the basic language that absolutely clarifies that only breathing humans have constitutional rights.

        But I am sticking to my position of putting the proper language in the amendment(s) and leaving the congress out of the deal. As to the HRA being non partisan, I have to disagree. Any restriction on what individual citizens can do with their own money is anathema to the right side of the political spectrum. You can cover such language with lipstick and honey and chocolate sundaes, but the libertarians and the conservatives are having none of it.

        Also, your position on "bipartisanship" and using the current system seems unaware of the outright animosity toward our "elected representatives" professed and exercised by the right side of the political spectrum and most especially by the Republican leadership. Any attempt at EMPOWERING our "elected representatives" inside the beltway will be rebuffed.

        It seems to me that if we want substantive change that ends corporate rule then we must crack what I will call the Republican Contingent along the lines of "big government" versus "individual liberty and enhanced state sovereignty". Corpotocracy and "beltwayocracy" are BOTH anathema to liberty and freedom. And by making both of these the actual enemy of "a republican form of government" or "representative democracy" (whichever way you want to express yourself) we CAN amass the proper numbers to bring about the change we seek. The mechanics of how it works out (the hoops through which we must jump) should be a secondary consideration.

        I think you are getting lost in the mechanics and losing proper focus. 🙂

        • pewestlake pewestlake

          "Any restriction on what individual citizens can do with their own money is anathema to the right side of the political spectrum."

          That's only true when you're asking politicians and pundits. Poll after poll has shown more than 70%, and in some instances more than 80%, disapproval of the CU ruling, and specifically the role of money in politics. And if you are correct about those numbers in the general populace, then there are far fewer libertarian conservatives in the country than we've been led to believe.

          And actually, there is a strong libertarian argument to be made here, namely that corporate rights are, essentially, collective rights, which is anathema to the libertarian credo. Don't be so in thrall to beltway politics that you fail to see that the voters are beginning to get it, on all sides of the political spectrum. Yes, lefties got it first, but plenty of righties have figured it out. It's not so cut and dry.

          "Also, your position on 'bipartisanship' and using the current system seems unaware of the outright animosity toward our 'elected representatives' professed and exercised by the right side of the political spectrum and most especially by the Republican leadership."

          And yet, those same people keep voting in elections, keep pounding the grass roots and keep trying to win control of the institutions they profess to revile. Don't be so easily taken in by the rhetoric. They're lying when they say government is the problem because they want government to work for them, just not for everyone else. Don't mistake selfishness for a political philosophy.

          And the biggest problem with your thesis is that Buckley v. Valeo is the crux of the whole biscuit. If you're not prepared to address Buckley and take on all challenges to that issue, you can't be serious about fixing the problem. No matter what other dressing you put on the law, as long as spending money is the equivalent of protected speech, SCOTUS can strike down anything and everything we throw at them. Is it a heavy lift? You bet! Is it something we can ignore and achieve via other means. Absolutely not. We either deal with Buckley or we go home.

          I've heard it said many times before: the way to fix the Citizens United ruling is to vote the Republicans out and the Democrats in. Yeah, good luck with that! I live in New York City. There are no mysteries about who will win what race around here. The same is true in Tennessee where the right wing is large and in charge. Do you honestly think it's easier to win a filibuster-proof majority of liberals (not just Democrats, progressive Democrats!) than it is to convince an already convinced electorate to push their reps of either party to pass a good amendment? Seriously? Think that one through for a bit. 🙂

          I do understand the point about getting lost in mechanics but there are already nearly two dozen serious proposals being floated out there and only one or two of them would have any impact on Citizens United or Buckley at all. Some of them are just gussied up campaign finance reform that would do nothing to alter the trajectory of corporate influence in our politics and policy. Since that debate is already happening, it's important for it focus on the bare essentials. That why I created the HRA and why it addresses just the minimum requirement for allowing Congress to do it's job. We have to get to dry land first. Then we can fix the mast.

          However, we ARE talking about amending the Constitution here. I don't think the language that would be inserted into that document should ever be described as a "secondary consideration." This is tinkering with checks and balances. We have to get it right the first time. No excuses. If we spend all our effort just in trying to win the overarching debate without having a discussion about language, we have two problems. First, our movement gets picked apart by the opponents who WILL use the language being floated to score points against us, and second, when we finally sit down to hammer out language, we're so exhausted from getting that far that the effort required to get the best language becomes too much to handle in the short window of opportunity created by the grass roots effort.

          Finally, discussions precisely like this are why I created the Gazette. There is much nuance in this issue and a lot of moving parts to address. I think I'm right, of course, but I don't think I'm a genius or that I have a monopoly on all the good ideas. I'd rather these discussions happen in a place like this, where nuance isn't going to be pounced on by dualistic stereotyping, then on the cable news channels or in the beltway media, all with their facile manichean stereotyping of everything they don't understand, and most of the things they do.

          Thanks for your thought-provoking comments. Keep 'em coming! 😉


          • I had said, "Any restriction on what individual citizens can do with their own money is anathema to the right side of the political spectrum."

            You said:

            "That's only true when you're asking politicians and pundits. Poll after poll has shown more than 70%, and in some instances more than 80%, disapproval of the CU ruling, and specifically the role of money in politics. And if you are correct about those numbers in the general populace, then there are far fewer libertarian conservatives in the country than we've been led to believe."

            (You are aggregating the vast majority (left and right) who agree about ending corporate power with the very "left wing" (and much smaller contingent) that are in love with "get money out of politics")

            "And actually, there is a strong libertarian argument to be made here, namely that corporate rights are, essentially, collective rights, which is anathema to the libertarian credo. Don't be so in thrall to beltway politics that you fail to see that the voters are beginning to get it, on all sides of the political spectrum. Yes, lefties got it first, but plenty of righties have figured it out. It's not so cut and dry."

            (I want proof of this assertion because my own admittedly limit surveys show that telling people how they can and can't use their own money (see state challenges to Obama Care) are very much out of favor on the "right". While fundamentalist libertarians reject corporate personhood they also reject the "money isn't speech" idea. )

            I had said: "…. your position on 'bipartisanship' and using the current system seems unaware of the outright animosity toward our 'elected representatives' professed and exercised by the right side of the political spectrum and most especially by the Republican leadership."

            And you said:

            "And yet, those same people keep voting in elections, keep pounding the grass roots and keep trying to win control of the institutions they profess to revile. Don't be so easily taken in by the rhetoric. They're lying when they say government is the problem because they want government to work for them, just not for everyone else. Don't mistake selfishness for a political philosophy."

            (People vote to keep the other party out of power. Very rarely do people have the idea that they can "take over" and get things done. Voting is largely a "defensive act".)

            Then you say:

            And the biggest problem with your thesis is that Buckley v. Valeo is the crux of the whole biscuit. If you're not prepared to address Buckley and take on all challenges to that issue, you can't be serious about fixing the problem. No matter what other dressing you put on the law, as long as spending money is the equivalent of protected speech, SCOTUS can strike down anything and everything we throw at them. Is it a heavy lift? You bet! Is it something we can ignore and achieve via other means. Absolutely not. We either deal with Buckley or we go home."

            (This is where I disagree most strongly. We can use proper government form and insist on more representation, non-gerrymandered small districts, and full disclosure. The number of representatives must be taken out of the hands for the "union of congressional fat cats" and tied to a distinct formula that prevents the two political parties from doing what they have done to assure their incumbency. And we can assert the Boren amendment that states that folks running for office cannot accept funds from anyone outside their district (or state in the case of senators). The list goes on and NONE OF IT restricts what people can do with their money. Restricting candidates is NOT the same thing as restricting spending by the potential voters. Valeo is then moot. )

  4. Acadamnica

    In fairness, Lessig does discuss the distinction between his citizen conventions vs. the 5th amendment process during the Q&A portion with Sen. Klobuchar. In the end, he is advocating for an amendment as the outcome of his suggested plan.

    • pewestlake pewestlake

      But that seems pretty extra-constitutional, no? An Article V convention would be populated by delegates selected by state legislatures. It may not be ideal but it's a democratic process. No matter what process was used to convene Lessig's regional conventions, it would fall outside the tenets of the Constitution and be prone to all kinds of tampering. Just the delegate selection process itself is fraught with political pitfalls, and that's before they even start talking to each other. I just think it's an overly complex approach to a rather simple problem. We don't need a new Constitution, we just need the one we have to be interpreted correctly.

      • Acadamnica

        It's worthy to consider what Lessig and his pal ex-gov Roemer are driving at several times during the hearing: Much of our electoral and governing process has moved beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. Lessig's suggestion is deliberately angling to bring people into the process rather than relying on increasingly impotent government-led processes. He's most likely correct that a more acceptable and politically achievable result would be the outcome.

        Academia… A place where the greatest ideas are slowly born and quickly die.

        • pewestlake pewestlake

          I don't disagree with their assessment at all. I think they're both intelligent and insightful. I just think Lessig's cure is worse than the disease. If the Tea Party and Occupy have taught us anything, it's that powerful moneyed forces can still co-opt any movement and that "horizontal" democracy doesn't work. I subscribe to the "too many chefs" theory. Representative democracy, even in the form of a convention, is the best we have. What we need is a system that enables the most thoughtful and respectful people to come forward and serve, instead of one that favors the loudest liars and opportunists. A good amendment is a start. A convention, or a series of regional conventions, is not only putting the cart before the horse, it's putting the horse in a glue factory in the process. We have to get to dry land first. Then we can fix the mast. And in case you hadn't noticed, I'm a big fan of metaphors! 😉

          • Acadamnica

            Good points indeed. Whether or not the "jury" from each state that Lessig wants to run his conventions is full of random citizens or stacked with them lerned types, ensuring that the "jury" wouldn't simply be bought off is the trick. Wouldn't that be a grand occasion for an average American to enjoy, though? To have the same unblinking scrutiny of partisan politics sifting through every detail of their lives like when congress reviews Presidential nominees and such. It would let Joe 6-pack feel like a real big fella for at least one day. I'm sure the media-money machine would find a way to discredit anyone that foolishly sent back the letter saying 'Yes' for convention duty…

  5. pewestlake pewestlake

    I gave one of those cynical laugh-snorts after reading your last sentence. Couldn't agree more. Joe the Plumber could be a grief counselor! 😉

    The "bought-off" delegation is among the main reasons to avoid any version of a convention. I think it's much easier to work with the bought-off devils we know, who at least know how demeaning the fundraising imperative is for elected officials, instead of inviting a whole new group of unknown potentially bought-off delegates to the party.

    Thanks a lot for chiming in with the interesting comments.


  6. Thanks for the careful piece reviewing my testimony. A few thoughts in response.Thanks for the careful piece reviewing my testimony. A few thoughts in response.

    Here are the two critical numbers to keep in view: (a) 67 and (b) 0.

    (a) 67 is the number of United States Senators who would need to support an amendment to the Constitution. In the current Senate, that's every Democrat plus 18 Republicans.

    (b) Zero is the number of Republican Senators who — despite Citizens United being despised by Democrats and Republicans alike — bothered to show up at a Senate Hearing about that awful precedent.

    I read (b) to mean we have a lot of work to do if we're to get to (a). And because I believe in the theory that a mature soul must be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, I believe we have to build the support to produce (a) in as many ways as we can.

    My proposal for "Citizen Conventions" is just one more way to increase the pressure on Senators (and Representatives) to do the right thing. As you note, it is not an Article V convention (though as I explain in my book, REPUBLIC, LOST, I also support the idea of an Article V convention). But it would be an event that could make it politically extremely difficult for anyone to ignore what the people, so convened, say. Right now, when Republican candidates are challenged on Citizens United, they get to say something like: "that attack on free speech is just a conspiracy of liberal democrats." But if four randomly selected juries of 1,200 citizens came to the conclusion that an amendment was needed, that argument would be removed.

    Nor do I think these conventions would be difficult to convene, or run. First, this is a technique that has been used again and again, successfully, and across the world — from the EU deliberating on the future of the EU to Australia deliberating on the future of the Monarchy. Second, to get the support from Congress to make it possible we need just 1/2 of the Senate (and House), not 2/3ds. And third, the argument against giving citizens a voice is MUCH HARDER to defend than an argument against amending the First Amendment.

    History has taught us one thing about amendments: Building cross-partisan support is essential. I'm not opposed to the process of getting cities and states to pass resolutions. To the contrary, I'm a supporter. But I'm not sure why anyone should opposed the additional effort to create a credible and independent snapshot of what "we, the People" believe, and use that to get the reform we needed.

    • VictorMTA

      Professor Lessig, I have significant doubts about how much pressure "Citizen Conventions" would put on Congress. OWS had a convention over the July 4th week. Did you hear about it in the mainstream media? Do you know about any of the decisions made that week? "Citizen Conventions" would be just as easy for the media, public and Congress to ignore. As an activist in graduate school, a citizen convention in Detroit formed to oppose the Reagan agenda was also ignored by the media and Congress. Annual, large rallies on the Mall in DC might be more effective although less green than regional events.

      On the other hand, the process that is in place, building a grassroots movement, getting resolutions passed at the local and state levels, getting strong resolutions introduced (something you failed to advocate) and building pressure on Congress, eventually working to replace those Dems and Republicans who will not cosponsor an amendment by making this a key issue in campaigns, and it's getting media attention, although not enough. (It's never enough.)

      Very few people are thinking about, much less advocating for, amending the 1st Amendment. That notion suggests that you're not really in touch with this movement at all. Some of the weak resolutions coming from some states (like the one that passed the NY Assembly) ask Congress to curb 1st Amendment rights for Corporations around the matter of campaign speech/money. The grassroots finds this unacceptable. We want ALL corporate rights abolished; they should have privileges instead, as they had before corrupt Supreme Court justices started granting corporations rights 123 years ago. Perhaps the cleanest and neatest amendment language proposed to do that is available right here: http://www.amendmentgazette.com/human-rights-amen

      You're spot on with your historically acute observation that we need to build cross-partisan support. On that, we are in agreement. Either that or we need to shift the Overton Window in our direction, perhaps a much more difficult task. We know from a vote in W. Ellis, earlier this year, that many Republicans support the abolition of corporate rights. It's the representatives in Washington who have become tools of the corporations. The reason we oppose "the additional effort to create a credible and independent snapshot of what "We the People" believe" is because they not needed, easily ignored, an expensive distraction and extra-constitutional. We the People know what needs to be done. The framers told us what we need to do, and we're doing it slowly at first but with growing momentum as of late. We're building a movement to amend the Constitution.

      We're all ears to ideas you have to help build cross-partisan support. Assume that the "Citizen Conventions" have come and gone without notice (as I predict the would). What other ideas do you have to get Republicans and corporate tools in the Democratic Party to get on board? It seems that this is what we need right now: good ideas to get some Republicans and move Democrats in agreement about the need to overturn Citizens United.

      67 and 0. 67 is etched into our most conservative constitution, but 0 is the number that needs to increase. How do we get tools of the corporations and plutocrats to get in line? That's a question I'm struggling with currently in draft form. Why do you think 0 Republicans showed up at the hearing you spoke at, and what will it take to get them to pay attention to this growing movement (besides many more resolutions coming from the states)?
      My recent post Lawrence Lessig’s testimony before Congress: a critical analysis


      • Thanks for the reply.

        The event in Philadelphia in July is not comparable to the citizens conventions I'm describing. First, it had no official sanction by Congress. Second, it was not randomly representative of anyone. SO whether or not I happen to agree with what they resolved, I can well understand why people would not credit their work as representing US.

        But the anger in your post makes me think I've not expressed my point clearly: I am not saying "stop organizing cities and states." I am saying as well as that, we should be pushing Congress to give The People a true forum to express their considered views. To that idea, you are saying "don't." But why? Again, if there had been a SINGLE Republican at that hearing, I would understand the hope that the current movement would have cross-partisan force. But I don't yet see any effective pressure on the Right. My aim is simply to complement (after complimenting) the movement by adding something that it would be hard for them (and the Left) to discount: a credible, non-elite, statement of what the People believe.

        Finally, a technical point: Of course you're talking about amending the First Amendment! The First Amendment currently extends its protections to corporations. You want those protections removed. That's an amendment of that Amendment. I still fear that version of the change we need goes to far: E.g., imagine a law that said "no corporation could spend corporate funds to promote abortion as a method of family planning." Or "no corporation or association could spend treasury funds to promote collective bargaining as a method to secure workplace justice." Do we really need to hobble the constitution's current ability to ban such absurdity in order to destroy the corrupting influence of money in elections? In my view, no.

        • VictorMTA

          We have a different analysis of corporate rights. The amendment we want to amend is the 14th, not the 1st. It's the 14th Amendment that contains the loophole that the corporations immediately began to try to jump through, and it's those two rights (equal protection and due process) that the corporations first obtained. Since then, the Court keeps granting corporations more and more constitutional rights with the 1st having been granted in Virginia State Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council (1976).

          The Human Rights Amendment would neatly sew up that loophole in the 14th Amendment and, in the sense you interpret our efforts, amend the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th and 14th Amendments. I don't think that's the correct way to think about it and it's certainly not the way to frame our efforts. If you respond, please first take the time to read the Human Rights Amendment to understand what it would accomplish.
          http://www.amendmentgazette.com/human-rights-amen

          I have no anger regarding your efforts or ideas; I just disagree with the possible efficacy of having conventions that would be expensive, corruptible, time consuming, fuel consuming, highly divisive and most likely ignored after all of the effort and expense. Again, the framers made it clear what needs to be done, and our task, which you correctly point to, is how to turn 0 into 16 or so (Republican Senators) that would be needed to vote for an amendment. (I'm currently working on a post entitled "Pushing conservatives through the Overton Window." That is what we need to do, one way or another.) Thank you again for taking time to reply.
          My recent post Matt Bai is off the mark

    • pewestlake pewestlake

      Hi, Lawrence. Thanks for stopping by and chiming in. I appreciate your perspective and applaud your efforts on this issue. And I enjoyed your testimony on the Hill. I found your appearance with Ilya Shapiro on the Maddow Show (with Ezra Klein) simultaneously more informative and more frustratingly short and thin than the hearing (not anyone's fault, just a product of the tube and Ezra's long introduction). It's really hard to put 125 years of bad case law into a 5-minute segment!

      My biggest concern with either an Article V convention or your idea for the regionals is the influence wielded by anonymous outside sources. I know you advocate a strict sequestration but I find that a thin assurance against undue corporate influence before and after that timeframe. And in the economic straights this country is in, and will likely continue to be in for the foreseeable future, it doesn't take much to change some people's vote. I like the idea of forcing the Congress to deal with us and it's appealing to work with big numbers that can't be denied, but I worry much more about unintended consequences in that process than in simply organizing enough grass roots support to make it a campaign issue on both sides of the aisle.

      I agree that this must be cross-partisan, working its way from the center outward to the fringe, not attempting to slop what now appears to be a liberal agenda across the aisle (which is why I created this site). But if we assume that the partisanship will continue to fester until we hear from these conventions, is it not reasonable to be concerned that the vote to approve the creation of the regionals would be dominated by democrats and, therefore, give the entire exercise a patina of partisanship? Understanding that the make-up of the regionals would be diverse and truly cross-partisan, the nature of the vote that created them could still present an easy target for opportunists to frame their recommendations as a product of a liberal agenda.

      What concerns me about the idea of getting a snapshot of what we the people believe is the same thing that concerned Ben Franklin — people will make the right decisions if they're honestly basing their decisions on the truth but can we be confident that enough people can defend and sustain the truth in the current climate? Will the delegates that populate the convention be willing and prepared to change their minds? If that's a desirable quality in a delegate (and I think it is) how do we ensure that such people are identified and delegated?

      Lastly, since the creation of the regionals would not be a purely budgeting issue, the filibuster would still factor into this vote in the Senate. Is it better to attempt that gauntlet early in the process or later? My gut says "later!" but I'm probably not considering all the angles. Would love your thoughts on that.

      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your ideas. Even though I have had some disagreements with your recommendations, I recognize the incredible work and value you bring to the discussion and thank you for it. I hope our work and discussions here are valuable tools for all of us.

      In solidarity,
      Pw


      • Thanks for the kind words.

        I think we have lots of experience in sequestering jurors from improper influence. It is done in trials every day across the country. So I'm not worried it could be done properly here.

        I also have more faith, I guess, in people coming to the right answer (as well as a willingness to accept I'm wrong if the people, properly constituted, come to a different answer than mine). You ask will they "change their mind." But the average American is not like us: he or she is not organizing or reading or thinking or writing about this stuff. He or she is feeding a family, or working two jobs, or painting the house, or caring for a dying parent. The average American is not here. I'm saying that if give that average — or more properly, a statistically random selection of citizens — a chance to hear the evidence and deliberate, they would do quite well.

        And if they don't, what is the harm? I understand people's fear about a "runaway convention" — I don't agree with it, but I get it. But what's the danger in a series of conventions convened by Congress asking citizens for their views? Do you public opinion polls? (which like a deliberative poll, are random representative selections of America)? How could a public opinion poll PLUS a chance to understand the issues PLUS a chance to deliberate be worse?

        • pewestlake pewestlake

          Thanks again for your input, Lawrence. I know how valuable your time is and I'm gratified that you're willing to spend some of it here.

          I soon as I read "what's the harm?" I thought immediately of the global warming debate, as in, even if anthropogenic GW isn't real, what's the harm with creating a new renewable energy industry, getting the nation off foreign oil and creating a cleaner environment? And the answer to those questions is practically zero on both counts. Since any proposal from any convention, Article V or otherwise, would still need to run the gauntlet of the states at bare minimum, merely having the recommendations is not harmful unless the delegates to an Article V convention AND 38 states go completely insane simultaneously, which is obviously a fairly slim possibility. And even if the proposals emerging from the regional citizen conventions fall flat, at the very least we've created another thousand or so citizens with in-depth knowledge on the subject. And those people fan out across the country and educate, educate, educate. I get it now and I'm on board.

          I still think it's a long shot getting legislation creating the regionals through the Senate and I still worry about built-in mandates that corporate-controlled representatives would try to inject into such legislation. But there appears to be no harm in trying. As the old saying goes, you don't know until you ask.

          I'm not sure my reticence speaks to a lack of faith as much as a fear of manipulation. But again, nothing is written in stone until the 38th state says yes, so it's worth a shot. And in an environment of scholarship, learning and vigorous debate, we might even have a chance of soothing the savage pro-corporate voter. So I see the value that could be added by this approach.

          On a similar note, one of the things that has been both useful and somewhat surprisingly necessary since the move to overturn CU got started has been the education of elected officials at all levels of government. Many local activists have reported discovering that a majority of their reps had no idea of the extent of the problem, and in some instances, no real understanding of the Citizens United ruling at all. I think a parallel track of sponsoring seminars for elected officials to get educated on this issue could be helpful in the same way. It's already being done in an ad hoc way by the Move To Amend folks, and probably others, but perhaps it's time to start putting our heads together on the best approach to that education, as some of the elected bodies have passed resolutions that, if taken seriously, could actually make matters worse. Food for thought.

          Thanks again for the incisive comments.

Comments are closed.