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Larry Lessig Wants You to Want Us to Rewrite the Constitution

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, March 2 2010

Somehow this slipped beneath our radar until now. The deal is that Harvard's Larry Lessig is supplementing his Change Congress/Fix Congress First push with a more fundamental -- yet more provocative -- appeal: let's start a grassroots movement to call for a constitutional convention, as provided for in the Constitution, to rework the basic nature of the agreement between "the People" and Congress. Here, from CallAConvention.org, is Lessig's thinking behind why the time is well nigh to provoke state legislatures into calling a summit on rewriting the Constitution:

From the Tea Party Right to the Progressive Left, there is agreement that something fundamental has gone wrong. But I believe that our frustrations share a common source -- an exasperation with the broken state of our political system -- even as we disagree passionately on what to do about it.

The solution to that disagreement is democracy. We should begin the long discussion about how best to reform our democracy, to restore its commitment to liberty and a Republic, by beginning a process to amend the Constitution through the one path the Framers gave us that has not yet been taken -- a Convention.

For the Framers imagined a time when the government might be captured. And they created a mechanism to respond to that capture. If 2/3ds of the legislatures of the states demand it, Congress must call a convention. That convention then must meet and deliberate about amendments to the constitution. If it agrees, it then proposes amendments to the states. 3/4ths of the states must then ratify any amendment before becomes law. Thus, 12 states of 50 have the power to veto any change, meaning no change could happen unless it appealed to a solid group of Red States and a solid group of Blue. We are, today, beginning the process to call a convention.

In particular, what Lessig wants that constitutional convention to tackle would be an amendment to the Constitution that requires Congress to ensure that "the financing of federal elections does not produce any actual or reasonably perceived appearance of dependence, except upon the People," with a non-partisan commission acting as the people's watchdog on when money is creating unholy dependencies on Capitol Hill.

Of course, one way of lessening the impression that Congress is paid for by high-donors is to create a widespread base of small donors and making political funding processes more transparent -- two things that the Internet has proven to be pretty good at. But first things first: here's where you can sign up to support Lessig's call for a constitutional convention.

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