Balkinization  

Monday, August 24, 2009

Toward a new constitutional convention...

Sandy Levinson

in New York. Today's Times has a story aptly titled "As Voter Disgust with Albany Rises, So Do Calls for a New Constitution." It notes that quite a few altogether respectable New Yorkers, both Democrats and Republicans, are suggesting that the cure for New York's almost terminal dysfunctionality will include a new constitution. Opponents focus, among other things, on the problems of selecting a convention. How does one prevent it from falling into the control either of existing party hacks or single-issue zealots? There is, actually, a remarkably easy answer: Return to Athens and select the convention by lottery, as we do juries. Jim Fishkin has a forthcoming book, When the People Speak, detailing his experiences around the world running "deliberative polls," which rely on the lottery principle of selection. Interestingly enough, the same discussion is going on in another roaringly dysfunctional state, where the state constitution is even more directly implicated in its breakdown--I am referring, of course, to California. There are calls not only for a convention--the most recent endorsement was by the LA Times,, but also advocates of lottery selection. Indeed, Rick Herzberg has an interesting discussion in the current New Yorker about the California debates. [I learned about the LA Times endorsement from an interesting blog by Joe Matthews, a long-time reporter on California politics. It looks like an essential site for anyone who wants to follow the politics, including the constitutional politics, of the Golden State.]

Now, if only someone would begin to connect the dots with regard to our national Constitution....

Though, as the debates in both California and New York reveal, the ultimate problem may not really be generating disgust with the constitution (though that is much, much harder with the US Constitution, given our ridiculous sacralization of a human, all-too-human document), but, rather, generating any remaining faith in the capacity of "we the people" actually to become active agents of our own destiny. We're trying to bring "democracy" to Afghanistan, but how many people really believe that the United States is ready for a 21st century democracy itself? Unfortunately, I suspect that the main proponents of radical democracy these days are right-wing crypto-fascists. These are not happy times (however much we should all rejoice that Barack Obama stomped John McCain and Sarah Palin in the election).



Comments:

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

And the potential "lottery" pool would be comprised of whom exactly? I don't think it addresses the underlying problem. The underlying problem is that our citizenry is fundamentally ideologically at odds with itself. There is a cataclysmic divide between reason based modernity and mythical superstition based tradition in this country. Between intolerant tribalism and cultural openness. Between sharing wealth in a self-sustaining/perpetuating way among all those who help in "creating it" rather than the few. Between those who believe wealth is synonymous not only with moral purity but "merit" when that clearly isn't the case if one looks at precisely how it is amassed and by who/what.

Our political system is a feature of our economic value system. It is the necessary consequence. The flaws, shortcomings, and unresponsiveness of the system to the people is symptomatic of some Constitutional systemic flaws but more importantly symptomatic of a lack of shared purpose and moral values as a nation. That isn't going to change with a convention. Now matter how well (re)designed the system is.

Take a look at what Ted Haight http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html and Dr. Altemeyer http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Only two things will save America: economic collapse that leads to a fundamental reorientation in values for the vast majority or a voluntary secession movement dividing America two distinct countries. One of the two is coming.
 

This comment has been removed by the author.
 

Sandy:

[T]he ultimate problem may not really be generating disgust with the constitution... but, rather, generating any remaining faith in the capacity of "we the people" actually to become active agents of our own destiny. We're trying to bring "democracy" to Afghanistan, but how many people really believe that the United States is ready for a 21st century democracy itself? Unfortunately, I suspect that the main proponents of radical democracy these days are right-wing crypto-fascists. These are not happy times (however much we should all rejoice that Barack Obama stomped John McCain and Sarah Palin in the election).

It must be hard to square the circle of your desire for a more robust democracy with the trends on the left toward far less democratic accountability by shifting power from the People to the courts, unaccountable czars setting policy and private pay, bureaucracies running the auto industry and proposing to run the health insurance industry and indirectly the health care industry, as well as the proposal to allow EPA to regulate every part of the economy that relies upon fossil fuels.

As one of those "right-wing crypto-fascists" in the Tea Party movement yelling stop in defense of our remaining democracy, I appreciate the acknowledgment of our democratic intent, if not the counterintuitive Nazi slur.

BTW, how was small "d" democracy advanced by the defeat of McCain/Palin given the frontal assault on our freedoms brought about by "hope and change?"
 

Oops I mean Jonathan Haidt. Had a little typing/brain fart there. My point still stands no matter how inartfully made.
 

Mr. DePalma is living proof of precisely two things: Haidt's concept of people not being able to step outside their "righteousness" and Altemeyer's insight into the reflexive capacity for "projection" in every authoritarian that makes them twist each and every "fact" to fit their preconceived worldview.
 

Our intrepid backpacker (or "backtracker"?) asks:

"BTW, how was small 'd' democracy advanced by the defeat of McCain/Palin given the frontal assault on our freedoms brought about by 'hope and change?'"

Alas, no specifications on such "frontal assault on our freedoms" are provided with this broad brush right out of his backpack full of you-know-what. Obviously there is no hope for nor change in our intrepid backpacker's support of everything Bush/Cheney and the Right Wing, despite the evidence of assaults from all direction on our freedoms from 1/20/01 - 1/20/09.
 

Shag from Brookline said...

Alas, no specifications on such "frontal assault on our freedoms" are provided with this broad brush right out of his backpack full of you-know-what.

I have now written 70 pages of what will probably be a 250 page book detailing Mr. Obama's socialism and the thug tactics he employs to advance it. There is hardly the room here report all of it.

In response to the various complaints that Bush was abridging our freedoms, I challenged those making the complaints to offer any examples of an abridgment of their freedoms and they could offer none. Turnabout is fair play, so I will offer some examples how Obama's socialism is going to directly limit my freedom of choice.

1) Obamacare will outlaw the HSA that I currently enjoy and compel me to purchase a far more expensive government "qualified" insurance policy that I do not desire or impose a hefty tax penalty and assign me an insurance policy of their choice.

2) Obamacare legislation empowers a new health care bureaucracy to determine what will and what will not be covered in the "qualified plan" I will be compelled to buy.

3) Obama's nationalization of Chrysler and decision to compel them to build small Fiat cars rather than going through standard bankruptcy and selling off their profitable Jeep division to reimburse the secured creditors very likely will deny me the ability to buy the Jeeps I use to get around my mountains (not to mention looting the retirement funds that owned the secured Chrysler debt).

4) Cap and Tax and EPA's fictional finding that CO2 is a pollutant is designed to deny me the ability to continue to buy high performance and safe small trucks and instead compel me to drive expensive, under performing and deadly small vehicles that are not suited for mountain driving.

5) Likewise, Cap and Tax and EPA seek to outlaw the cheap coal powered electricity I currently enjoy and compel me to use far more expensive wind power from the plains hundreds of miles away.

This is why I am a member of the pissed off Tea Party movement. We waged a Revolution a couple centuries ago for far, far less than Obama's socialist thefts of my freedoms. The least this generation can do is give our representatives an ear full.
 

5) Likewise, Cap and Tax and EPA seek to outlaw the cheap coal powered electricity I currently enjoy and compel me to use far more expensive wind power from the plains hundreds of miles away.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 12:52 PM


I feel your pain here. If it were up to me we would burn even more coal to produce electricity. Then we'd take the mercury that results from that process and store it on your property. I see no downside to this plna.
 

3) Obama's nationalization of Chrysler and decision to compel them to build small Fiat cars rather than going through standard bankruptcy and selling off their profitable Jeep division to reimburse the secured creditors very likely will deny me the ability to buy the Jeeps I use to get around my mountains.

Buy a horse.
 

so I will offer some examples how Obama's socialism is going to directly limit my freedom of choice

In the spirit of Baghdad Bart's outrage over the new limits Obama has put on his freedom, I'd like to express my outrage at President Lincoln for limiting my freedom to own slaves.
 

Our intrepid backpacker obviously is working on a book of fiction. While he defends DUI clients, perhaps our intrepid backpacker may need the defense of someone skilled in WUI - writing under the influence.

It's also good to know that our intrepid backpacker is steeping in hot water with the other teabaggers. As for aspiring to be a revolutionary in the manner of 1776, will he be bearing his militia musket or baring only his fangs.

I just turned 79 and trust that our intrepid backpacker (or whatever else he might be packing) publishes his tome before I shuffle off this mortal coil, although reading it might result in death by laughter.

By the Bybee (no, I haven't forgotten, especially with the recent action taken by AG Holder), did our intrepid backpacker's ancestors participate in the Revolution or was he merely using the royal "we"?
 

Does Bart truly believe that the elimination of a tax deduction is equivalent to the Obama administration taking away his "freedoms"? I suppose he probably does.
 

Our intrepid backpacker's book proposal closes with this:

"The least this generation can do is give our representatives an ear full."

Not even one year of Obama and our intrepid backpacker calls for his generation to take vocal action. What about the generation that took such action during Vietnam? What about the generation that took such action during the Bush/Cheney 8 years? Now all of a sudden this is generational?

As I read our intrepid backpacker's outline, I thought of FDR's Second Bill of Rights presented during his State of the Union speech on 1/11/44, also referred to as the Economic Bill of Rights. (Just Google and take a look at Wikipedia's take on it.) Our intrepid backpacker calls for a revolution, claiming that there is more justification now than with the original Tea Party in my home town that led to the Revolution. Now that Chutzpah, right out of that backpack full of you-know-what.

But seriously, Balkinites, let's come up with some titles for this tome. First prize is one week in Colorado; second prized is two weeks in Colorado.
 

let's come up with some titles for this tome. First prize is one week in Colorado; second prized is two weeks in Colorado.

# posted by Shag from Brookline : 6:04 PM


"These are GREAT Poll Numbers for John McCain: How a Conservative Country Elected a Black Marxist President Despite the Brilliant Leadership of George W Bush."
 

How's this for the title:

"WE SHALL OVERCOME .... "

with subtitle:

"How to Regain Our Uncivil Rights"

or,

"RECONSTRUCTION REDUX!"

with subtitle:

"Woodstock in Colorado"
 

"Obama, The Black Marxist Socialist Communist Fascist."
 

[Bart]: "In response to the various complaints that Bush was abridging our freedoms, I challenged those making the complaints to offer any examples of an abridgment of their freedoms and they could offer none....."

"... that I would deign to acknowledge. Any such substantive responses are fatal to my Weltanshauung, and thus I choose to ignore them, just as I Ignore anything else that contradicts (or outright refutes) my babbling. I caaaannnn't seeeeeeee yoooouuuuuu!!!!...."

Cheers,
 

Another title offering:

"ABRIDGING FREEDOMS"

with subtitle

"While Teabaggers and Birthers Steep"
 

Now is the time for all good Americans that love, honor and respect the Constitution to demand that Congress obey it, by calling the first Article V convention, which is totally justified with over 750 applications from all 50 states, far more than the 2/3 requirement in Article V. Learn all the facts and join the mission of the only national nonpartisan group working to get the first convention: go to www.foavc.org and spend the time learning the facts.
 

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