Can You Do the Con-Con?
Richard Kreitner’s call for a new constitutional convention [“Conventional Wisdom,” Nov. 20/27] is not only a great idea for today, but also one that’s long overdue. Unfortunately, for decades, most Americans have revered the US Constitution as if it were a sacred religious text. We even force our government officials to swear an oath in public to uphold it; in some instances, they must place their hands on a Bible as they do so.
The Constitution is not only obsolete today; it has been so for decades. The oligarchy that adopted it in 1789 evolved into a plutocracy during the Gilded Age of the robber barons. That plutocracy is stronger than ever in today’s neo–Gilded Age, in which billionaires buy public offices and politicians secure their power through legislative gerrymandering.
As the world’s oldest document guaranteeing elected representative government, the US Constitution has failed to adapt to the needs of this country’s growing, diverse, and dynamic population. Its tattered language has much in common with the Bible—it’s archaic and vague. Its obsolescence is most obvious in the Second Amendment. Now 226 years old, the arms amendment (minus its first clause) is considered by many to be the Constitution’s most sacred sentence of all.
A new constitutional convention should do far more than amend the existing Constitution. It should start from scratch, and perhaps look beyond our borders to successful representative governments elsewhere for new ideas. Although the Constitution contains no mention of political parties, whatever might replace it should encourage multiple parties that embrace separate but humane principles. Any system is broken that allows a minority of voters to elect a wealthy, psychopathic narcissist to its highest executive office. Any new system would be better than the current entrenched duopoly that has long served the wealthy before all others.
east stroudsburg, pa.
Richard Kreitner’s “Conventional Wisdom” convinced me that we need to invoke Article V of the Constitution and have a new constitutional convention. Earlier this year, I listened to an NPR debate on the topic and was not convinced either way. Kreitner clinched it for me with the argument that the antidemocratic features of our existing Constitution are the reason for our government’s inability to get anything done.
What I’d like to know is how we can spur this idea along. A starting point might be to forward the article.
Lois C. Braun
st. paul, minn.
In general, I applaud Kreitner’s call for an Article V constitutional convention. And yes, without the Electoral College, 2016 would have worked out better for Hillary Clinton and for all of us. But would direct popular election of the president really be such an improvement? Adlai Stevenson’s comment would still be true: “In America, anybody can be president. That’s one of the risks you take.”
In a parliamentary system, there is much less risk of a demagogue with no competence in governmental administration reaching the pinnacle of power. Let’s consider that if we intend to revise the Constitution.
st. paul, minn.
RIP, Democratic Party
Re William Greider’s “What Killed the Democratic Party?” in The Nation’s November 20/27 issue: Even back in 2008, after massive grassroots participation in an inspiring, youthful, promising campaign, the party failed to ask its constituents for anything except donations. We have hearts, souls, stories, experiences, and ideas—all of which the left desperately needs. As Tip O’Neill discovered (and as Greider reminds us), people like to be asked—but for more than just money, because, after decades of neglect, we have little enough of that.
It’s hard to give to a party that accepts corporate donations and drones on about the (shrinking) middle class while failing to address the structures that consistently reproduce poverty, or while failing to meaningfully address the concerns of the working class. In my district, this can be a problem even at the local level, where at times I’ve been unable to locate a left-sounding platform from the Democratic candidates—or any platform at all.
It’s bad enough that the party panders to moderate Republicans rather than its constituents, particularly when its real power has always been the working-class vote. The Democratic Party may get a progressive’s vote by default, but it should not count on my money.
Are you kidding me? In terms of values, Democrats are rock solid. The party has always been for workers, equality, minimum-wage adjustments, unions, women’s rights, education, and respect for people of any color, sex, religion, or ethnicity. Sure, mistakes were made in 2016. Along with Russian interference, the Comey letter, WikiLeaks, misogyny from men and women, the quashing of voting rights, and media bias for Trump’s sensationalist stupidity, the Democrats were indeed responsible for some errors. For instance, it was condescending to count on the Rust Belt states and an even bigger error—a huge one—to minimize them.
Still, Democrats are the only ones fighting for a higher minimum wage, unions, women and children, and respect and rights for immigrants. When it comes to values, Democrats and independents easily win over Republicans and their party.
Mary Ann Hannon
west yarmouth, mass.
In Sasha Abramsky’s article “When Violence Comes” [Oct. 23], a photo caption erroneously stated that the picture showed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1965 march on Selma. The photo was actually taken during King’s 1968 march with black sanitation workers in Memphis.
In “Hiding in Plain Sight” [Nov. 6], David Yaffe writes that an unpublished poem by Elizabeth Bishop was inspired by Lota de Macedo Soares. In fact, while the poem is undated, it was found in a notebook that predates Bishop’s relationship with Soares.
In “Frequent Gunfire” [Nov. 13], John Banville refers to A Farewell to Arms and Death in the Afternoon as “two novels”; in fact, the latter is a work of nonfiction.
The Dec. 4/11 cover, headlined “Pillaging America’s Parks,” features an illustration of a Trump-headed monster stomping through a lake. The location pictured is actually Maligne Lake in Alberta, Canada.