Witt: Is it time to revisit the Constitution?

Published 10:27 am Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Richard Labunski, in his book “The Second Constitutional Convention,” posits it is time for another Constitutional convention to be held in America.

The book is available at the local library (342.73/Labu). It was published in 2000, but the theme of the book resonates as much, possibly even more, now as it did 18 years ago.

Of course, those who know even a little about American history know there has only been one Constitutional convention, held 231 years ago in 1787.

Our Constitution, as good as it is, was formulated by men who could not accurately foresee the future. So they made it possible to “adjust” the document to conform to changing circumstances.

Those adjustments are accomplished by amendments, of which there have been 27 in those 231 years — the first 10 just four years after adoption of the Constitution and the last in 1992.

But the framers didn’t want the Constitution to be altered gratuitously, so the process of adopting amendments was made somewhat cumbersome.

In fact, every amendment made has been done through the same process, originating in and being ratified by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and subsequently ratified by three-fourths of the states.

The other method, outlined in Article V of the Constitution, allows that conventions of three-fourths of the states may initiate amendments.

Labunski suggests the Constitution is so outdated, so out of tune with current societal norm, it can only be fixed by another convention designed to re-write the original.

Since no discernible effort has shown itself in the 18 years since the book was published, it seems unlikely such an event will occur in the near future either.

But why does the author feel such a drastic measure is necessary?

Detailing a comprehensive list of abuses by federally elected officials in the late 1990s, he exposes the dark machinations intrinsic to our political system.

If he were writing the same book today, he would have another 18 years of skullduggery to list and his clarion call would be even more intense.

But adding to all the nefarious shenanigans which constantly go on are the things built into the Constitution and the law which allow too many of those who inhabit the halls of Congress — and the White House — to shaft the people they are elected to represent to enrich themselves.

Among the things that need to be addressed are term limits, upper age limits, retirement benefits, compensation, length of campaigns, the gathering of money for campaigns and, most recently, the decision of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, which declared money was equivalent to free speech — an admittedly oversimplified explanation of the decision.

Too many of these issues that dramatically affect the operation of democracy, and which should be dealt with through the Constitution, will never originate in the Congress because they will restrict legislators from continuing to game the system.

One can only hope a potential re-writing of the Constitution would never result in a document even closely similar to the one that governs Kentucky. That one is a complete mess — and  it’s 100 years younger than the one governing the nation.

Labunski may be onto something, but it would be a long process fraught with many pitfalls and our current freedoms and guarantees would have to be scrupulously guarded.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.