The Long Con
I wish I could muster the optimism of Richard Kreitner, Lawrence Lessig, and others regarding the theoretical progressive benefits of a constitutional convention [“Conventional Wisdom,” Nov. 20/27]. Kreitner daydreams of “lively and profitable discussion,” while Lessig writes in his book Republic, Lost that “The key is a simple compromise. We get to consider our proposals if you get to consider yours.”
This sounds great in theory—presuming that all sides approach the project with a good-faith willingness to consider proposals from across the ideological divide. However, this presumption flies in the face of the observed behavior of the Republican Party over the past decade. This is the party that, in opposition, obstinately said no to everything President Obama tried. This is the party that, in leadership, refuses to dialogue with the minority party. This is the party whose obstructionism baited the Democrats into scrapping the filibuster for judicial nominees and then, after refusing to hear the Merrick Garland nomination, scrapped the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees and confirmed the odious Neil Gorsuch on a simple-majority party-line vote.
Based on the evidence, it doesn’t seem likely that conservatives clamoring for a constitutional convention harbor any intentions other than gaming it for their own exclusive benefit. Any liberals who are gambling their support for a constitutional convention on the presumption that their conservative counterparts will approach the project in a spirit of constructive compromise need to be prepared for the conservatives to eat their lunch.
In his article urging the left to “embrace the movement for a new constitutional convention,” Richard Kreitner ignored the most important issue: Who would be the delegates?
They would certainly not be a cross section of the American population. Instead, they would be appointed by state legislatures, and thus would be similar to party superdelegates and the members of the Electoral College. In accordance with the state-oriented voting rules, a conservative voter in Wyoming would have 80 times the representation of a liberal voter in California.
Can anyone doubt that the Koch/Wal-Mart plutocrats will be able to fill those seats, the way they have done with the House and the Senate? Can anyone doubt that they will continue to use the same bulldozer technique of “no compromise ever” that they have used in those bodies since the election of Obama? The several states that have already gone on record for a balanced-budget amendment give an indication of the ways they will enforce party unity, eliminating any possibility of a reasoned middle ground.