Practical Steps for Bridging the Partisan Divide
by Vickie Deppe
One of the primary obstacles to an Article V Convention is distrust between Republicans and Democrats. Asking elected officials of different parties to work collaboratively can sometimes seem like asking a fish to swim through shag carpet, because winners and losers are an inherent feature of our day-to-day politics. Elections have winners and losers. Control of the chamber goes to the winners to the exclusion of the losers. Getting legislation passed is ultimately a win-lose proposition. While the high bar of ratification ensures that no amendment can become part of our Constitution without overwhelming support, it also requires state legislators to rise to the challenge of bipartisan collaboration, sometimes in opposition to their congressional counterparts and national activists. This paradigm shift from Republican vs. Democrat to Congress vs. the states can make getting to convention a daunting prospect.
To help ease fears, Professor Lawrence Lessig has offered a mechanism for states to involve everyday citizens in evaluating proposed amendments. A state legislature would obligate itself to withhold ratification of any amendment that does not secure supermajority support in a referendum or Article V citizen assembly. Such a formula has ample precedent: a dozen states similarly bound delegates to the will of voters instead of the legislature at conventions to ratify the 21st Amendment. Four states (Arizona, California, Colorado, and Michigan) already have an analogous process for drawing legislative maps. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, all four have provisions that require buy-in from both the minority party and independent/3rd party commissioners. If just 13 states were to implement such a paradigm, it could not only ensure that amendments that do not enjoy broad support among the American people can be stopped—perhaps even before the convention gavels in—but also deter the convention from squandering time and resources drafting amendments that stand no chance of being ratified.
Another step states can take to ease convention apprehension is to stipulate bipartisan involvement in their delegate selection and oversight mechanisms. As of this writing, we are aware of only one state that has passed legislation that specifically includes the minority party in the delegate selection process. Changing this state of affairs can go a long way towards diffusing suspicion and communicating that the minority viewpoint is both welcome and important. The National Constitution Center’s 6-minute video, Why Have Civil Dialogue? explains the critical role opposing viewpoints play in our constitutional republic.
Article V News
New York magazine has run a hit piece on Mark Meckler and the Convention of States Project. Though the factual content appears to be largely accurate, it also contains mischaracterizations and conjecture. It is critical to note that it is state legislatures—not well-funded activists given to hyperbole—who will be in the driver’s seat at the convention. We encourage states, even—especially—those that have concerns about the process, to consider the above Practical Steps to ease fears that have been stirred up by the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the states’ constitutional authority to check Washington, DC.
In Alabama, HJR 104, a measure to rescind all Article V applications, has been carried over.
In Texas, a delegate oversight measure passed in the Senate as well as a House committee but died awaiting a floor vote.
In Maine, a request to carry over SP 705, a single resolution calling for both a term limits convention and a campaign finance reform (Wolf-PAC) convention, has been filed.
Most states that do not meet year-round have adjourned. To see which states remain in session, please consult the NCSL Legislative Session Map.
Who Said It?
“Having civil conversations is central to the discovery and spread of political truth
and also to the rights and responsibilities of self-government.”
President & CEO, National Constitution Center