Is the constitutional system of government in the U.S. broken and in need of an overhaul?
Or is it just the people who have failed to maintain control of their own government?
That’s the issue that will be the focus of the Conference on the Constitutional Convention set for the Harvard Law School on Sept. 24-25.
It will be moderated by Tea Party Patriots founder Mark Meckler and Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig.
“From the Right and the Left, citizens are increasingly coming to recognize that our Republic does not work as our Framers intended. Reform of any kind is stalled by a status quo that profits from blocking change. No side in the political debate benefits from this inertia,” the conference promotion explains.
Wallbuilders founder and President David Barton says asking if the system is broken misses the real issue.
“It’s a citizen breakage as much as anything. Citizens have allowed the system to get away so that now we’re looking at outside fixes,” Barton said.
“It’s an issue because for 20 or 30 years we’ve been out of stewardship mode. We’ve had a voter turnout that runs from 37 to 42 percent in off years. We know that half of all votes in presidential election years are cast off of 30-second TV commercials,” Barton explained.
“When you’re looking at that kind of involvement, yeah the system’s broken but not because the constitutional system doesn’t work, it’s the citizen responsibility that hasn’t been fulfilled,” Barton said.
Conference organizers concede there’s no consensus on whether a Constitutional Convention should be convened, and that that is one of the questions that will be addressed.
They say among the organizers of the event are both supporters and opponents of an Article V convention, so the issue clearly needs to be explored.
Meckler said his role to to ensure that those who are opposed to the idea of opening up the door to possibly major changes in the Constitution are heard.
“What I wanted to do is make sure that they (convention opponents) had a place at the table so that people who understand the vision of the Founders,” Meckler said.
“There are plenty of people on both sides of the aisle who are anti-convention and I wanted to make sure that all those voices are heard,” Meckler said.
The question is still whether or not the country is broken enough to need a massive series of constitutional amendments or a completely new Constitution.
The American Center for Law and Justice’s Executive Director Jordan Sekulow says constitutionalists and those who believe in original intent need not be afraid of the Conference on the Constitutional Convention.
“Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides the framework for this never before used but equally legitimate method of amendment,” Sekulow said. “Because the Framers put in place the necessary safeguards against any kind of radical change without adequate deliberation, there is no question that this process is worthy of being seriously considered as a means to amend the Constitution.”
Sekulow believes that those who fear a convention fear citizen input.
“Those who are afraid of the lack of a congressional or federal role in the process are the same individuals who fear the American people being too involved in their government,” Sekulow said.
Barton says overall, there is still no need for a Constitutional Convention.
“The constitutional system is not broken. The constitutional system has a wonderful self-change mechanism for amendments in Article Five. Whenever the people want to, they can submit amendments and we can get that thing changed. We’ve done that 27 times,” Barton said.
Barton believes the ultimate motivation behind proposing a new Constitutional Convention is a set of contrasting world views. The author of “Original Intent” believes that there is a clearly defined political agenda behind the push for a convention.
Listen to Barton:
“This is the living Constitution kind of philosophy; the Constitution is broken because it doesn’t reflect who we are today and doesn’t reflect our values,” Barton said. “Therefore we need something that reflects us, so it’s much more of a progressive document.”
He said the existing Constitution is perfectly adequate.
“I like the old document because it leaves power in the hands of the people. If there’s a problem the people can fix it,” Barton said.
Barton said the other side believes that the power should be placed in the hands of a few.
“In the new system, it moves things in a much more elite direction and it moves things much more out of the hands of the people. That’s why they love to use the courts to create new constitutional amendments for them,” Barton said.
“You find the right to privacy not because the people found it but because the courts said there’s one. So that view tends to want to take more things out of the hands of the people and put it in the hands of the so-called elites,” Barton said.
In “Original Intent,” Barton writes about the historical connections between Christianity, the Founding Fathers and the Constitution.
Meckler says he believes that in the end, the conservative view of original intent and belief in the present Constitution will prevail.
“One of the ways conservatives prevail, we prevail consistently in the arena of ideas,” Meckler said. “When we’re willing to debate and discuss, I believe that we always win. And I believe that when we refuse to debate and discuss, and when we allow emotion and the ideas of the left to prevail, without entering that fray, we always lose.”
Lessig did not respond to WND calls for an interview on the conference
But WND previously has reported how it would take action on the part of 34 states for a Constitutional Convention to be called, and the number of states that have issued such a call was standing at 31, after Wyoming rescinded its action.
There are numerous warnings about what could happen if such an event developed.
“Don’t for one second doubt that delegates to a Con Con wouldn’t revise the First Amendment into a government-controlled privilege, replace the 2nd Amendment with a ‘collective’ right to self-defense, and abolish the 4th, 5th, and 10th Amendments, and the rest of the Bill of Rights,” said the warning from the American Policy Center.
Changes also could include the incorporation of “rights” to abortion and euthanasia, as well as the “separation” of church and state, the group said.
As WND reported, President Obama has expressed the belief that the U.S. Constitution needs to be interpreted through the lens of current events.
Melody Barnes, a senior domestic policy adviser to the Obama campaign, has told Fox News Obama’s “view is that our society isn’t static and the law isn’t static as well. That the Constitution is a living and breathing document and that the law and the justices who interpret it have to understand that.”
WND also reported Obama believes the Constitution is flawed, because it fails to address wealth redistribution, and he says the Supreme Court should have intervened years ago to accomplish that.
Obama told Chicago’s public station WBEZ-FM that “redistributive change” is needed, pointing to what he regarded as a failure of the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren in its rulings on civil rights issues in the 1960s.
The Warren court, he said, failed to “break free from the essential constraints” in the U.S. Constitution and launch a major redistribution of wealth. But Obama, then an Illinois state lawmaker, said the legislative branch of government, rather than the courts, probably was the ideal avenue for accomplishing that goal.
In the 2001 interview, Obama said:
If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK
But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.
And that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.
The video is available here:
WND also has reported an associate at a Chicago law firm whose partner served on a finance committee for Obama has advocated simply abandoning the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that a president be a “natural born” citizen.
The paper was written in 2006 by Sarah Herlihy, just two years after Obama had won a landslide election in Illinois to the U.S. Senate. Herlihy was listed as an associate at the Chicago firm of Kirkland & Ellis. A partner in the same firm, Bruce I. Ettelson, cites his membership on the finance committees for both Obama and Sen. Richard Durbin on the corporate website.
Herlihy’s published paper revealed that the requirement likely was considered in a negative light by organizations linked to Obama in the months before he announced in 2007 his candidacy for the presidency.
“The natural born citizen requirement in Article II of the United States Constitution has been called the ‘stupidest provision’ in the Constitution, ‘undecidedly un-American,’ ‘blatantly discriminatory,’ and the ‘Constitution’s worst provision,'” Herlihy begins in her introduction to the paper titled, “Amending the Natural Born Citizen Requirement: Globalization as the Impetus and the Obstacle.”