Fact: our government has been hijacked by wealthy special interests. At this point, very few of us even dare to deny this.
But what can we do about it?
Whatever it is, it has to be something immediate and nationally scalable. Anything less, and we’re doomed to live in a country ruled by fat cats, comprised of politically apathetic zombies. (Let’s face it, who wants to engage with a corrupt system?)
To fix this problem, some advocate for taking the approach of voting for “good” candidates. It’s not that this strategy is bad, in theory. It’s that in practice, the problem we face isn’t a question of good candidates versus evil ones. Our elected officials are trapped in a system that demands their prioritization of fundraising. When it costs $1.2 million to win a House seat and $6 million to win a Senate seat, of course members of Congress spend up to 70% of their time fundraising.
Under the status quo, the candidates we might consider to be “good” – those who refuse to bow to big money – unfortunately just aren’t viable candidates. They don’t have a chance at winning. What we need is reform of our electoral system. Members of Congress, whose power depends on this system, aren’t going to deliver the reform that we need. And for many reasons, it’s dubious that a constitutional amendment will either.
Fortunately, in 24 states (interestingly, the vast majority of which are located west of the Mississippi), there is a tool that may hold the key to achieving the reform we need: the ballot initiative.
In a nutshell, a ballot initiative is a political mechanism by which a petition signed by a certain number of voters can place an issue on the ballot in a public election, to be considered directly by voters. In other words, this is a way that the people can take matters into our own hands.
It is well within the capacity of states to pass ballot initiatives reforming the system by which their members of Congress are elected. 7 states have already done this. There is no reason why this kind reform couldn’t happen in all 24 states where ballot initiatives are allowed.
Consider a couple of benefits of a ballot initiative approach to reform:
- Once voters in a state approved a reform-oriented ballot initiative, it would become law in that state. Reform would happen in real time, state by state, rather than waiting around for the whole nation to get on board.
- If all 24 states where ballot initiatives are allowed passed reform addressing our corrupt system for electing members of Congress, nearly half of Congress (47% of the House and 48% of the Senate) would then be elected by a reformed system that would presumably make them more representative of the people. With that kind of reform enacted, it would be much more feasible to pursue further, more substantive reform mediated by Congress itself.
Before there can be any kind of deeper change in policy surrounding the most important public issues of our time, we must end the domination of our political system by wealthy special interests. Neither those interests nor the legislators whom they underwrite will be the initiators of this change – it is change that we, the people, must demand, and initiate ourselves.
As we forge deeper into this field of battle, it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the potential effectiveness of the ballot initiative as a weapon that we, the people, might wield in the fight to reclaim our government.
Do not confuse this issue with crap about how 13 legislative bodies (in the states) can prevent the realization of amendments or use booger man stories about a “run away” convention. “WE THE PEOPLE”, using the general assembly process, can control who gets elected to the state legislatures and hence, whether or not we have a constitutional convention. And I see no reason that the general assembly process would not be used to form the amendments before or during the convention. If state governments block the passage of the amendments then we remove those who are doing the blocking using the general elections apparatus already in place.
All that matters is that “WE THE PEOPLE” form a consensus of what we want. General Assembly is the way to do that and then we vote as a block to insure that the proper people are in the state legislatures. All done, thank you.
There are no rules concerning how a constitutional convention arrives at amendments or how long the convention will last. As such, it will be a new branch of the government that can overrule the congress and the supreme court.