We all need to act to protect our U.S. democracy

Years ago, a popular song had the refrain, “What a difference a day makes.”  For me, I’d alter those lyrics to “What a difference a comment makes.” For it was this comment, “I’m afraid for our democracy” uttered during a political conversation a year ago that led me to the Kentuckians For The Commonwealth Constitutional Convention lobby day on January 23.

In the past year I’ve learned more about what that comment means and now I’m afraid for our democracy, too.

Our founding fathers understood that unforeseen situations might arise that would necessitate amendments to the Constitution. Article V delineates two methods to propose amendments. The first provides for Congress to originate amendments. This historically tried and true process has worked successfully twenty-seven times. The second provides for a convention of states to originate constitutional amendments. After 34 states submit applications for a convention, it “shall be called by Congress.”

The most salient danger of a convention of states is that no branch of government has authority over its operations. There are no rules. There would be nothing to prevent delegates from slicing and dicing our Constitution from top to bottom.

Regardless of what proponents of the convention of states say, there are no formal institutional safeguards from any branch of government to provide guidance during the convention. In this untested process, once the delegates meet, the wild rumpus begins.

Recently, an organized contingent of massively funded individuals formed Citizens for Self Governance, which is the vehicle for the Convention of States Project. The Legal Board of Reference of CSG is an odious who’s who of some of the most self-serving, radical, right-wing conservative thinkers in our country today including Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Charles Cooper, Jeff Sessions’ lawyer and Andrew McCarthy, advocate for torture and the abolition of Medicare.

Citizens for Self Governance assumes that their unauthorized, self-chosen rules and procedures would control a convention of states. It makes one wonder if there are nefarious motives behind this call for a convention of states. What does Citizens for Self Governance really intend to achieve?

Citizens for Self Governance has persuaded twelve state legislatures to apply for a convention of states and Kentucky is in their crosshairs. House Joint Resolution 81, sponsored by Rep. Regina Huff and House Joint Resolution 119 sponsored by Rep. Scott Wells are both before the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs. HJR 81 is an identical template provided to state legislatures by Citizens for Self-Governance. Exactly how either resolution may progress through the current General Assembly remains to be seen.

Citizens for Self-Governance is well-organized, well-funded and determined to succeed. If you wish to protect our current democratic processes, here are actions to take:

  • Read HJR 81 and HJR 119 on the Legislative Research Commission website; use these links to track the status of the legislation.
  • Watch the March 6, 2017, video archive of last year’s committee proceeding regarding this issue on the KET website.
  • Read “Kentucky Should Reject Dangerous Call to Reopen Constitution” and “States Likely Could Not Control Constitutional Convention.” 
  • Call each member of the House Committee on Elections & Constitutional Amendments and tell them to vote “no” on HJR 81 and HJR 119.
  • Call your state representative and senator and tell them to vote “no” on HJR 81 (800-372-7181 for the Legislative Message Line; 502-564-8100 to reach their offices directly).
  • Call committee chair Kenny Imes of the House Committee on Elections & Constitutional Amendments and request he not call resolutions.
  • Tell your friends and family about this existential threat to our most beloved guiding document, and ask them to contacts their legislators.
  • Attend the committee meeting should HJR 81 get a reading this session (look for an action alert from KFTC).

When “we the people“ truly demand changes in our Constitution, we should use the same process that has served us well for over 200 years. Personally, I neither want nor appreciate outside forces with suspicious purposes surreptitiously and strategically undermining the protections in my Constitution. Do you?