Hi readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.
The framers of the US Constitution were careful, careful, careful to put as much distance as possible between the voting citizenry and the people running things in Washington. They did their best to make it near impossible for groups of individual citizens to directly recall elected officials, judges, anyone capable of directly influencing the activities of government.
That’s because they didn’t want the Boston Tea Party running things. Simple as that. They knew the people who’d be elected to office would be people who could afford to campaign. Wealthy property owners who could afford to leave their jobs to serve in Congress. People who’d respect the property rights and interests of other wealthy people.
So they deliberately left out any provision for direct citizen initiative or referendum demands related to laws, changes in the Constitution, replacing federal judges, getting rid of corrupt or incompetent elected officials.
But they did provide the illusion of the possibility for changes in Article V of the Constitution. A demand, not by citizens, but by states for a Constitutional Convention. And every time there’s ever been a demand by states approaching likelihood, the US Congress suddenly saw the error of their ways.
States have demanded an Article 5 Constitutional Convention a lot of times since 1787. Never, not once has one happened. You can see a list of the tries at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_state_applications_for_an_Article_V_Convention
According to Article V, Congress must call for an amendment-proposing convention, “on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States”, and therefore 34 state legislatures would have to submit applications. Once an Article V Convention has proposed amendments, then each of those amendments would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (i.e. 38 states) in order to become part of the Constitution
Plenty difficult enough to reduce the possibilities of it ever happening.
The next nearly-successful attempt to call a convention was in the late 1970s and 1980s, in response to the ballooning federal deficit. States began applying to Congress for an Article V Convention to propose a balanced budget amendment. By 1983, the number of applications had reached 32, only two states short of the 34 needed to force such a convention. Enthusiasm for the amendment subsided in response to fears that an Article V Convention could not be limited to a single subject and because Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, which required that the budget be balanced by 1991 (but that Act was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1986).
As you can see, the states have been concerned about the Federal deficit a longish while. Congress sidestepped a Constitutional Convention by promising promising promising they’d mend their ways.
But as you can also see, they gave it a wink and nod as soon as the danger of an Article V Constitutional Convention ceased to loom in front of them.
So what can you as a citizen, as a voter, as an unhappy frustrated idealist do?
Not a damned thing except grin and bear it. The US Constitution is not about you. Quit thinking it is, quit whining about it, quit worrying about it. Human beings generally haven’t had a lot to say about what demands their aristocrats would choose to make on them. And at least for the moment it could still be a lot worse than it is.