American exceptionalism, the Founders’ wisdom, or how to ‘drain the swamp’
Mentioning “American Exceptionalism” in the wrong crowd could yield everything from “the vapors” to outright hostility. These stem from both a misunderstanding of the word “exceptional” and a lack of U.S. historical knowledge. Let me address both.
Many folks think “exceptional” means “better than.” Not so. The first meaning in the 2016 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary is “uncommon,” synonyms for which include “rare” and “singular.”
In the history of governing mankind, our founding was indeed rare. From the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to our Constitution in 1787 (ratified in 1788), no form of government like ours had ever existed. Founded on ideas (liberty and freedom) rather than geographic boundaries and not ruled by a sovereign but a representative body responsive to the people, we are truly that rare and singular exception to the rule, are we not?
As for our swamp problem, with the election of a “disruptor-in-chief” as our national leader, it’s clear he means what he says. However, may I offer a word of caution on the odds of success at “draining the swamp?”
A recent article in Bill Bonner’s Diary used the swamp analogy, saying the two lizards needing removal are Wall Street and the “military-industrial complex.” I’d argue that the Founders warned us (see The Federalist Papers) that the problem is more basic, that it’s rooted in human nature which thrives on power and that those possessing it are loath to relinquish it.
Therefore, I submit the two lizards… dare I say alligators… are actually the members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. While good citizens, to be sure, they are human and subject to all our weaknesses. As such, they are not likely to restrict their own power. Add the inertia of unelected bureaucrats and you have a recipe for the status quo.
No leadership from the White House will trump (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) the ease with which our elected legislators spend other people’s money! Do they all need to be removed? Of course not. They just need their actions restricted to those cited in the Constitution.
There is reason for hope, as provided for us in 1787. The Constitution was written by very perceptive folks who not only anticipated those human weaknesses, they established a mechanism for addressing them in the form of Article V of the Constitution, the “how to” for amending it.
It may have been eighth grade social studies where we learned that Congress could propose amendments that, after ratification by three fourths of the states, would become part of our Constitution and hence the law of the land. The Bill of Rights, our first 10 amendments, reflect the first of what grew to be 27 amendments.
What we weren’t taught is that the States could propose amendments via the Convention of States process. Following the same ratification rules, the significant difference is that the Federal government can not block it, i.e., the Founders gave us a way to drain the swamp!
The Convention of States process begins with a resolution passed by both houses of the state legislature. The resolution doesn’t contain specific amendment wording, merely the calling for an Article V Convention, e.g.:
The legislature of the State of Connecticut hereby applies to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, for the calling of a convention of the states limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.
The governor has no role in this process. Because it is a resolution rather than a bill, no Executive Branch approval is needed.
When two thirds of the states pass such a resolution, they are submitted to the U.S. Congress. With no blocking option, it is simply obliged to specify a date and location for the convention, at which the states propose, debate and vote on the proposed amendments. Thereafter, ratification by three fourths of the states is required, just as would be the case if the US Congress had proposed the amendments.
If you agree that the time for reining in our federal government is now, go to www.conventionofstates.com and sign the on-line petition, informing your state legislators of your opinion.
David Lloyd is State Director of ConventionofStates.com.
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