Constitutional Un-Convention

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On the Brian Lehrer Show today at 11am. Audio and a recap will be posted by 1pm.

Christopher Phillips, scholar, pro-democracy activist, founder of the Constitution Cafe Dialogue Movement, and author of Constitution Cafe: Jefferson's Brew for a True Revolution, discusses his experience travelling across the country and asking the question, How would you rewrite the Constitution? 


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Comments [32]


Who selected the founders? They led the revolution, they were educated, they put it upon themselves the serious business of growing a country, and they knew each other well enough to trust each other. That's who. Taking the idea of selection by popular vote into all aspects of government is just plain silly; we are NOT robots, democracy is NOT perfection nor ultimate truth as 1+1=2 and therefore does not deserve to permeate through all governance as if it were.

Oct. 01 2011 09:38 PM
Ed from Larchmont

"Our government is made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other". John Adams.

Sep. 30 2011 08:21 AM

Someone sent a poster to me via facebook that reads something like: "If corporations are really people, why not send one to Texas and get Rick Perry to execute it?

Sep. 29 2011 04:55 PM

i would myself the king, then i could fix everything else

Sep. 29 2011 02:58 PM
David Willinger from NYC

This man is insane when he states that a national conversation on changing the Constitution will reduce "the shrillness" of the current conversation. Once that conversation gets under way the shrillness would mount until the Union splits apart -- which, in my opinion, wouldn't be such a bad thing. It would free us from the unmerited dominance of Red States.

Sep. 29 2011 11:45 AM

This conversation shows that amending the Constitution is a dangerous enterprise. I'm not sure we would come up with a document that is as inclusive and open-ended (although with flaws) as what we have now.

Sep. 29 2011 11:41 AM
nbmandel from Brooklyn

I appreciate the motive of equity behind the idea that the set of "new framers" should be proportioned by ethnicity, but I have to say it sounds like absolute poison. Assign all Americans to some headline version of their inherited genome and bind them there? Fatal.

Sep. 29 2011 11:34 AM

Make all immigration illegal. End birthright citizenship.

Rename to "Free Space"

Provide an streamlined way to gain Canadian Citizenship.

Sep. 29 2011 11:34 AM
Leah Hooper from Brooklyn

Wow. We only want a country based on white Christian European values? Did my radio suddenly tune in to 1950? Or 1850?

(Also, Christianity is not white, just for the caller's information. I suspect he'll have trouble making a non-racist document when he's so obviously racist.)

Sep. 29 2011 11:33 AM
The Truth from Becky

That was not an anecdote, that was an absolute truth and embarrassment to this Country!

Sep. 29 2011 11:32 AM
Steve from Flatbush

I think our government should be stocked through compulsory service, like jury duty. Whether you like it or not, when it's your turn to be a senator, or whatever, there you go. You're questioned by assessors (themselves chosen through popular consensus) of your ability to fulfill the role for which you've been selected and you either get chosen or get bounced.

Sep. 29 2011 11:32 AM
Toby from Brooklyn

I would add a clause as well- one that specifies that the right to vote cannot be suspended for ANY reason- and that if a population is counted in the census as belonging to a particular voting district, then it is their right to vote within that district- so if upstate gets a boost to their congressional representation from the numbers of incarcerated persons in their district, those same prisoners would be allowed to vote in that district.

Sep. 29 2011 11:28 AM

Yep, at the very beginning of the Article about Amendments: "...that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate"

In other words, amending representation in the Senate is a practical impossibility.

Sep. 29 2011 11:27 AM
Leo in NYC from NYC

I'm sorry, what about judicial review..? Of course it was understood! It's in Federalist 78! Marbury vs Madison wasn't some big surprise — it was the resolution of an ongoing debate.

Sep. 29 2011 11:26 AM

More than who should participate in a new Constitutional convention -- the issue should be how will it be funded. Just look at the Super Congress dealing with the deficit -- evidently lobbyists have been all over it with funding and influence. What we don't want is a new Constitution funded by the Koch brothers, big oil, agribusiness, and Wall Street.

Sep. 29 2011 11:26 AM
Mike from NYC

Everyone who is a citizen should participate in decision making of every aspect of the Govt. Ex: Every citizen should vote on daily and weekly pools by using their Birth Certificate number or Naturalization number to vote on issues we are facing localy or in govt. This way our elected officials are clear about how their constituents feel.

Sep. 29 2011 11:25 AM
RichK from UCNJ

Leave the Senate as is, but re-constitute the house of representatives so that the state with the smallest population gets one representative. That population would then dictate the number of representatives other states get, with the House growing to however many representatives are required to do that.

Sep. 29 2011 11:24 AM
Peter from NY metro

There's a whole book of suggestions by Larry Sabato, a nice textbook for undergraduates:

Getting rid of equal representation of the states in the Senate would be fair in terms of one person one vote. However, there is no way it would ever get approved.

Signing statements have little impact. How about the power to issue executive orders? That is not in the Constitution!

Sep. 29 2011 11:24 AM
Bob Brady from Riverside, CT

Two recommendations:

1. Do away with the Electoral College and elect the President by popular vote, with a 50% + 1 majority required.

2. Elect twice as many senators as states, currently 100, but elect half of them by majority vote in each state and half of them nationally. The risk is that you wind up with the Senator from Exxon or IBM, but it would partially solve the relative representation problem.

Sep. 29 2011 11:22 AM

Guest is making my point. It doesn't matter what the law sez bc prez don't pay any attention to it.

Sep. 29 2011 11:22 AM
Brian Reindel from Midtown

What about re-evaluating the regional interests of the united states and breaking up into a sort of confederacy again?

Is the nation too big, and the regions' interests too different, to consider ourselves one nation anymore?

Sep. 29 2011 11:21 AM

Heh. "Who should be the framers of new constitution." Exclude anyone with annual income over $50,000 for starters. Then exclude anyone who has attended a Poison Ivy League school, assuming there might be a few of them who weren't already excluded in the first category.

Sep. 29 2011 11:20 AM
sophia from Yonkers, NY

Replace the President with a prime Minister elected by a joint session of the legislature and require weekly question sessions like England.

This would reduce gridlock.

Sep. 29 2011 11:19 AM

Unicameral legislature at the Federal level is interesting.

The 2 senator problem is one that effects the people in terms of non-proportional representation & aggravates the inequality for women & other groups.

I think 2 years public service could be useful, but military service should be one of the options [Park Service, Public Health, etc.]

Sep. 29 2011 11:18 AM

If I'm not mistaken, there's a provision which allows any one state to veto an amendment which would lessen senate representation. If I'm right, shouldn't this be mentioned.

Sep. 29 2011 11:18 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

There should be term limits for all federal elected posts

Sep. 29 2011 11:15 AM
Janine from NYC

They, the white men - I mean We, the People

Sep. 29 2011 11:12 AM
Eric from B'klyn

1. I would eliminate the electoral college; 2. I would make the Executive's pardon privilege subject to Senate hearing

Sep. 29 2011 11:10 AM

I agree with the caller. Corporations are not people. They can not be put in jail. Murdered. Cry. Laugh. etc. Corporations should be noted in the constitution as an organization.

Sep. 29 2011 11:10 AM

Who cares what the constitution sez. Laws are only for keeping little people in line. PTB never follow the law.

Sep. 29 2011 11:08 AM

1. Get rid of the 5th amendment. When a trial occurs and a Casey Anthony takes the 5th, all it does is say "I am guilty and there is no way I'm letting the prosecution question me". Innocent people ALWAYS defend themselves. Back in colonial times, i could see why the founding fathers put that in. Irrelevant today.

2. Make the separation of Church and State OFFICIAL.

3. Make military service mandatory. Everyone should be ready to defend our democracy.

4. Add FDR's new bill of rights in it's entirety. We should all have access to Healthcare, a right to earn a living, have shelter and not be exploited by the mega rich. Capitalism is great when tempered with Socialism. Neither one alone is far and effective. We the people refers to the masses. Not "job-makers"


Sep. 29 2011 11:06 AM
Ed from Larchmont

You mentioned Jefferson in the ad: the founding fathers wrote having read the three part balance of powers found in the writing of Robert Bellarmine, which was an elaboration of ideas in Thomas Aquinas.
If I were to rewrite it - or amend it - it would define human life as beginning at conception, and it would define marriage.

Sep. 29 2011 08:20 AM

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