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Constitutional Hypocrisy

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Millions of Americans are politically informed, smart, active and angry. They see many wrongs in our political and government system. They are fed up with politics as usual, meaning corrosive corruption of politicians by corporate and other special interests. They see little good in either the Democrat or Republican parties. And they almost always share a common bond: They love and honor the US Constitution, even though they may see some flaws in it. Yet they are also constitutional hypocrites.

Why do I say this? Because they are overwhelmingly ignorant or misinformed about the constitutional paths for amending the Constitution. Too many, in fact, seem to miss the profoundly important point that the Founders and Framers knew that they had not created a perfect document and blueprint for the US. That is why they placed two specific paths for amending the Constitution.

Yet very few Americans know that only one of these amendment mechanisms has been used in the entire history of the country. All the current amendments were proposed by Congress. This should raise this serious question today: Considering the very low regard for Congress by the overwhelming majority of Americans, which is richly deserved, why should we have any confidence that Congress would ever propose amendments that could kill so much of the corruption that plagues our system, especially corruption of members of Congress?

This situation was somehow anticipated by the Framers. They could see that there was a strong possibility that Americans would eventually lose confidence in the federal government. Which is why they put a second path to amending the Constitution into the document. A path that has never been used. This is the provision in Article V for a convention of state delegates that could propose amendments, which like the proposals from Congress would still have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

Being human, the Framers made a mistake. They gave Congress the sole power to call or convene an Article V convention. The single explicit requirement that was supposed to make Congress call a convention was that two-thirds of state legislatures had to request an Article V convention. The Framers did not, apparently, envision a future in which Congress would stubbornly ignore state applications for a convention and get away with it. How could they envision that Congress would blatantly disobey something so simply stated in the Constitution? How could they anticipate such weak states, unwilling to make Congress respect their constitutional right? The Framers clearly were not cynical enough.

The situation we face today is that all 50 states have submitted over 750 applications for a convention, considerably more than enough to trigger the constitutional mandate that Congress convene an Article V convention. How could Congress get away with this kind of unconstitutional behavior? Apparently, a combination of political corruption and public ignorance has allowed Congress to get away with this. Even among the millions of Americans that proudly declare their loyal allegiance to the Constitution, there is no recognition that unless they demand that Congress obey Article V, they are constitutional hypocrites.

Note that Congress never even created a mechanism where they would collect in a public way the state applications for an Article V convention, which helped create public ignorance of this situation. Add to this that many, many organized vested interests on the left and right like their ability to corrupt Congress to get what they want from it. This is why they have frequently mounted campaigns to make the public fear a convention, because such a convention might actually propose reforms that would remove corruption of Congress by contributing money for campaigns and lobbying.

Ignorance and fear have combined to thwart public demands that Congress obey the Constitution and convene the first Article V convention. In fact, there is only one national, nonpartisan organization vainly attempting to educate the public so that Congress would be forced to finally give us the first Article V convention. Friends of the Article V Convention at foavc.org is also the only group that has collected all of the state applications for a convention and made them publicly available.

It comes down to this, unless you get informed and join the mission to make Congress obey the Constitution, you are a constitutional hypocrite.

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About Joel S. Hirschhorn

Formerly full professor Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, and senior official Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and National Governors Association. Author of four nonfiction books and hundreds of articles.
  • Arvind Ranabhat

    Constitutional hypocrisy is seen in almost all government systems in the world. The people from the third world countries think that theirs is the worst government system but others are also not a tad better.

  • Why should it matter. You are basically saying that i should have no right to give
    my money to whom I chose to give it to.

    The whole argument here is that congress is corrupted because people give them money, so, instead, we should remove my practice of both contracts, property laws, and the first amendment (political money is political speech)

  • #14 It does matter why.

  • @14 it doesnt matter why, but why should i not be allowed to donate my money to the person representing me

    of course i have an agenda, after all, everybody who thinks has one

  • Cheryl #15

    You are only as free as your government is strong.

  • What I see at times is not only at times the govt voilating the rights of the people but the people as well voilating the rights of the people… With every freedom comes responsibility… consequences… but when people misuse their freedom and make innocent oppressed at what point does the system govern… Many people are being foolish and misusing their freedom…. If it wasn’t so… their would be no need to even put freedom in question…..

  • Robert #13 Why would you donate 15 million?

    out of the kindness of your heart?


    keep your money!

  • Why should i not be allowed to donate 15 million to a candidate if i want?

    right, respect the founders, Which ones, the DoI or the ACPU or the Constitution?

  • Joel Hirschhorn

    Thanks Jeannie Danna for your kind words; I hope you become a member of FOAVC.

    Everyone should understand that the only way we will end the corruption of politicians is through a constitutional amendment that takes all but the smallest donations of individuals out of the system. Whatever risks you can imagine with holding a convention (remember that can only propose amendments) are nothing compared with all the crap we have with the current system. Respect the Founders and Framers wisdom: use what they gave us!!!

  • Joel, I just E-mailed your article to the Ed Show.
    Maybe we can get you some recognition for your work..:)

  • Doug Hunter

    Glenn brings up a good point in #2.

    Direct democracy has serious issues in such a large population. The only way to win a vote is advertising which in turn means money. Once you realize you can’t win that battle without draconian measures including severe limits on free speech, the answer becomes minimizing the power, money, and authority the federal government has to be corrupt with.

  • Joel, I keep a copy of the Constitution by my desk and just read article V. You are absolutely correct. Now, how can I help?

    after learning that the Insurance industry has spent 116 million on lobbying this quarter, up 40 % from last year, I am thoroughly disgusted, angry and fed up!

    Right now as I type they are meeting behind closed doors.

    I say open em up!

  • also, congress must all if they recieve from 75% of the states a similar request, not just any request

  • 1) get standing and take it to SCOTUS
    2) we dont want a convention, as they might come up with something absurd and out there, perfectly enforcable

  • Arch Conservative

    Well Joel for every one of those millions of those politically informed, smart, active and angry Americans there are about five that are content to sit back and let Obama do his “hope and change thugthizzle thang.”

    You’re wrong Glenn the case to raise the red flag on would be the fairness doctrine whereby the federal government would dictate to private broadcasting companies what content they may air.

  • Joel, I’ve read article V many times looking for the interpretation you put on it. You’re right that it’s clear and simple. And clearly and simply your interpretation is not there.


  • Joel Hirschhorn

    Well Dave, I keep hoping that one day you will actually read Article V so that you can see and hopefully understand that there is only one explicit, clear, simple requirement for a convention, which has indeed been met through over 750 state applications, which by the way are available for you to actually read and comprehend at foavc.org. I also keep hoping that there are some intelligent open-minded people that come to this website.

  • Well, that’s good news anyway, Glenn. The corruption and abuses which have arisen from misguided campaign finance reform have done incredible harm to our political system.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joel –

    While I also decry the oligarchy our nation has been since Will Rogers quipped that we have the best government money can buy, I also bear in mind that it’s not just Congress.

    Even now, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on a case that – if decided in favor of the conservatives – would allow corporations to effectively spend as much as they want in partisan political campaigns. If you want something to raise a red flag about, that’s the one!

  • Out of curiosity, Joel, how many times can you write the same basic article, repeat the same fundamental falsehood, be corrected on it, and then come back and do the same thing again.

    As you should know perfectly well by now, all 50 states have NOT submitted 750 applications for a convention. In fact, they have submitted a wide variety of applications for specific amendments, no single one of which has received enough state applications to qualify for calling a convention or to force the consideration of that amendment. And in fact, most of those state applications are not even for a general convention, but just regarding specific amendments, many of which were then entered by Congress and ultimately passed or rejected by the state legislatures.

    So your basic premise is untrue, there is not a crying demand for a convention, and Congress is not ignoring the people. Give it up.