In the recent Democratic primaries, I was heartened by the enthusiasm shown by young voters for Bernie Sanders and his ideals. Heartened because millennial voters apparently want authenticity and integrity from their political leaders and they want policies that are fair and give more consideration to their generation’s values and their particular and immediate social/economic challenges.
Millions of citizens would like to see federal government achieve the following goals of the Bernie Sanders campaign platform:
- free universal health care;
- free education at public colleges and universities;
- universal pre-k school, free child care, a reasonable amount of paid family and personal sick leave; a reasonable amount of paid family leave for mother or father for the birth of a child;
- a reduction in liability and other assistance for those with outstanding student loans
- a reduction in the income gap between the rich and the poor;
- a living minimum wage;
- an annual vacation leave for all employees;
- a progressive tax system treating all persons and organizations equally and fairly;
- an ethical and stable financial sector;
- a restricted amount of private and corporate money in public election campaigns;
- nationwide bans on assault weapons and on cartridge magazines of more than ten rounds; nationwide background checks on all purchasers of guns;
- abolish private prisons and no incarceration for non-violent drug offenders; instead, rehabilitation and job training.
- abolition of the death penalty
Download Three Free Chapters from the Author Dennis Boaz Author of Seven rights for Citizen Slackers to be released in September 2016 creator of Article5alive
Bernie has often said that his movement is a revolution. However, he knows that most of his proposals will not be passed by a polarized Congress for the foreseeable future. If he wants a revolution to succeed, it needs a sustained effort. Why, then, has he not acknowledged that it will require an Article Five Constitutional Convention to achieve many of his goals. A continuing effort to achieve an Article Five Convention would give Bernie’s movement an opportunity to achieve a political revolution.
So, beyond Bernie is an Article Five Convention. Beyond an Article Five Convention is a government based on securing and encouraging the people’s rights. For now, I will focus on the Article Five Convention. (Actually written as “Article V” in the Constitution; but I have a negative attitude towards Roman numerals.)
Let us examine why many of Bernie’s ideals would have a better chance of passage at an Article Five Convention than by attempting change through congress–either by legislation or passage of constitutional amendments.
Remember when polls indicated that 90% of Americans wanted background checks for all firearm purchases? When the bill was ready for a vote, the Senate could not muster 60 votes to pass a motion for cloture. That vote proved to me that an Article 5 Convention was necessary. Until the cloture rule and the filibuster are abolished, no substantial controversial legislation will come from Congress. And , this we know, the Senate will not amend their rules to remove the filibuster or motion for cloture because the majority party views them as necessary tools to exercise or block the use of power. The cloture rule is used when in the majority and the filibuster is used by the same party when it becomes the minority. The cloture rule means that it takes 60 votes to pass any controversial legislation in the Senate. 60 is the new majority. Whatever happened to democracy?
Bernie wants us to believe that the Supreme Court will overturn its anti-democratic Citizens United decision if a Democrat President can fill vacancies to the high court. Really, Bernie? Perhaps it is true that Citizens United is to democracy what Plessey v. Ferguson was to racial equality, but it took fifty-seven years for the Supreme Court to overturn the legal validity of the horrendous and dysfunctional separate but equal doctrine of Plessey v. Ferguson.
Because of the long-time infusion of private money into elections, meaningful representative democracy was in trouble long before Citizens United. But now, democracy is in even deeper peril requiring dramatic change; similar to the kind of policy changes needed to deal with climate change.
The Citizens United issues of corporate personhood and the equation of money with free speech are not the only forces working against democracy that require constitutional reform. The Electoral College should be abolished along with the presidential veto and filibuster. And, most important, private money should be prohibited in public elections.
There are other goals of Bernie that will require constitutional change: If Bernie is truly opposed to the death penalty, a constitutional amendment will be required to abolish it in all 50 states, territories and commonwealths. If Bernie wants universal healthcare, he must realize that it will happen in the foreseeable future only with a constitutional amendment.
There are other constitutional reforms that go beyond Bernie’s proposals, such as a recognition of lifetime cultural and educational rights; a recognition that government should be based on human rights; and, a more rational distribution of government resources.
I have not mentioned that certain groups will be pushing for conservative amendments; likely to include a balanced budget and a full or partial repeal of Roe v. Wade. But I leave those issues to conservatives as they do not fall into my Beyond Bernie progressive classification.
Article Five requires two thirds (34) of the state legislatures to apply to Congress to call an Article Five Convention “for proposing amendments” to the Constitution Those amendments passed at the convention must then be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures or three-fourths of state conventions; the mode of ratification to be decided by Congress.
A great coalition of groups with diverse, even opposing issues and views, must be gathered together in common cause in order to mount an offensive capable of pressuring or persuading 34 state legislatures to call for an Article Five Convention. A successful effort to achieve a call for an Article Five Convention will require the cooperation of groups ideologically opposed to one another, but if we are to move beyond Bernie, this is what must be done.
Next: Boaz’s Blog 005. How the Ninth Amendment and Declaration of Independence could influence an Article Five Convention.