The U.S. Constitution needs amendment. Outdated and imperfect, it lacks relevance to today’s culture and technology. More than once recently I’ve seen or heard it said that calling a national constitutional convention would be a good idea.
There are Things To Be Fixed! We could abolish the Electoral College and dispose of icky gay marriage and slow the flow of corporate money into political arenas and require Congress to have the same health care and retirement as everybody else. Some of these proposals are mean-spirited. Others have merit. Some are just batshit clueless.
Jason Rapert’s Role
Arkansans from Eureka Springs to Little Rock to Smackover gratefully appreciate the voters of the 35th District who elected Jason Rapert to the state senate. We know Rapert as that Baptist preacher whose demonstrations of Christian love are yuger than the unpresidentedly yuge crowds at the most recent inauguration. Civil rights lawyers love him because Rapert has never encountered an unconstitutional bill he wouldn’t sponsor. Die-hard fans of schadenfreude remember his dedicated finesse as a Wikipedia editor. We all delight in Rapert’s vigilant attention to our ethical decrepitude; he knows his fellow Arkansans aren’t moral enough to be moral all by themselves. Bless his tiny little paternalistic heart for sticking by us.
Rapert actually floated the constitutional convention idea this spring to the Arkansas legislature. He wanted, among other things, to ban abortion completely and to redefine marriage as one man and his silently servile brood mare. We expect he would have also wanted a brand new constitution to ban gay people from getting together in any way, especially on Sundays. Thankfully, the legislature shot down the idea with all those guns they decided to allow on college campuses since that always ends well.
From a progressive and libertarian point of view, a constitutional convention is a spectacularly bad idea. Given the current number of Republican-controlled state legislatures and governors, and given that the Tea Party and Religious Right control most of those, we would not recognize the new nation that emerged on the other side of that process. Unless, of course, we had read or watched the Handmaid’s Tale.
Unless Congress or a supermajority of states call a national constitutional convention, the only other way to amend the US Constitution is by a 2/3 majority of both the House and the Senate to approve language, followed by ratification by 2/3 of the states.
Amendment of the Constitution doesn’t come easy. Six proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been languishing for years – centuries, in several cases – unloved and unratified by states despite the best efforts to pass them. Let’s take a look.
The Congressional Apportionment Amendment
This amendment was proposed along with the rest of the Bill of Rights in 1791 and is still pending before the states, believe it or not. It provided that there would be one U.S. Representative for every 40,000 people. Given the current US population of 324,118,787 people, the 8,103-member House of Representatives would resemble the Galactic Senate in Star Wars.
The Titles of Nobility Amendment
Proposed in 1810 and still pending before the states. It strips citizenship from anyone accepting titles of nobility or honors from foreign heads of state, including gifts, emoluments, offices, and pensions. We would have lost Grace Kelley and Queen Noor. The Donald would have been rendered ineligible for the presidency by operations of law, what with him accepting emoluments and thereby no longer being a US citizen. Sacrificing Princess Grace and Queen Noor would have been worth it. Losing Prince, on the other hand, not so much.
The Slavery Amendment, aka the Corwin Amendment
This proposed amendment says we can’t amend the constitution to abolish slavery or indentured servitude. Kentucky, Ohio, Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois, and Virginia actually ratified this one, although Maryland and Ohio rescinded ratification and the validity of the ratification is questionable in Virginia and Illinois. Those ratifying states all acted in an effort to avoid the Civil War. Texas, on the other hand, made a go at ratifying it in 1963, nearly a hundred years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. So, in case we really need one, there’s another reason to hate Texas. And Texas could do what it did because, yes, this one is still pending before the states. For real.
The Child Labor Amendment
This would give Congress the power to say when, if, and how little children can power the engines of the industrial revolution and muck out coal mines. Only 28 states have agreed to this one so far, but Congress decided what the hell, even without the approval of the states it would go ahead and pass child labor laws anyhow. Now Baby needs new shoes and can’t get them because Baby can’t get that sweet sweatshop job Baby really wants. Damn congressional overreach!
The Equal Rights Amendment
Fuck Phyllis Schlafly. Her histrionics claimed that it shouldn’t pass because the military could draft (gasp!) women. The three remaining states needed to pass it might actually do so in today’s political climate. Nevada voted to ratify it just last month. Seriously. The brochure below is worth a read. It’s from 1941, and warns women that being independent, fully responsible adults might make them independent, fully responsible adults. Like that’s a bad thing.
The DC Voting Rights Amendment
Essentially, this amendment would give the District of Columbia two US Senators, proportional representation in the House of Representatives, and participation in the electoral college. It still would not have been enough for Hillary to have won in November. However, her margin of victory in the popular vote would have been considerably higher. It makes sense to ratify this, but apparently nobody really wants a city-state. Can you imagine the “Tonight we dine in Hell!” and the “THIS is D.C.!” rallying cries on K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue? Although, having a Spartan mind-set so close to the White House might actually be kind of interesting.