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Editorís Blog No. 1:
Thoughts of an Ordinary American on Election Day, 2012

I apprehend no danger to our country from a foreign foe . . . Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter — From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence.
—Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Daniel Webster was prescient. Our political, economic and moral decline, as Webster predicted, has come about through “the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government.” We ordinary Americans of all political parties must now remedy our past inattention by joining together to attend to the concerns of our government.

As I write, the attention of most Americans is focused on Election Day. Most of us will do our duty and go to the polls on Nov. 6. There, we will use our present elective process to vote for the candidate and party we believe will best respond to our needs and those of the country. This is as it should be. Our elective system is deeply flawed, but it is not meaningless. While we correct its flaws, we should continue to do our duty by voting. After we correct its flaws, our votes will mean even more.  Election Day is also an appropriate time for us to consider thr dangers of neglecting our most important duty - the duty of being attentive to our government. It is our most precious right and our most important duty to “new model” our federal government – to include our election system – when it becomes dysfunctional. 

New modeling (Madison discussed our duty to “new model” in Federalist 49) is possible only by means of making alterations to our Constitution. This is so for two major reasons: First, the notion that the Members of Congress will ever write genuine new modeling statutes (depriving themselves of their elite life style, virtual lifetime tenure, celebrity status and access to corporate money) is unrealistic. They are energetic and intelligent human beings – quite capable of looking after their own interests. When pressed, they write “dishwater” reform laws – just as we would do if we were in their places. Like you and me, they prefer traveling first or business class but, unlike you and me, they are able to do so at no cost to themselves. The second reason is conclusive. They are members of our federal government and our Declaration of Independence and Constitution purposefully place the power to alter our Constitution away from the federal government and in the  hands of the people.

There are only about one thousand of us who cannot be blamed for being inattentive to the concerns of our government. These blameless Americans are these same Members of Congress – along with five hundred or so presidential appointees. They are blameless because, in their official capacities, they lack the power to alter the Constitution. Congress has only three minor administrative duties concerned with this process.

First, upon the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures, Congress must call a constitutional convention.  Never in our history, however, have two-thirds of the states so applied. Second, Congress can propose amendments for consideration by the states. Third, it can propose the means by which amendments should be ratified (that is, by the state legislatures or by state ratifying conventions). Only once has Congress proposed ratification by state conventions

The role of the American people, on the other hand, is decisive. The Declaration of Independence gives us the power to “alter or abolish the Constitution. The Preamble to the Constitution itself states that it is made by “We the people.”  Madison writes, in Federalist No. 53, “The important distinction so well understood in America between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and even less observed by any other country.” Washington wrote, in his Farewell Address of 1796, “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.”

Our present crisis requires that we exercise this basic right.


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