When any amendment to the Constitution is to be ratified by the states, it is done in the state legislatures. For us in Nebraska, it must be ratified by the Unicameral. But with this on-going government stalemate—causing 25 percent of government employees to go without pay—Americans should consider how this country can work around and prevent future shutdowns.
This idea involves having constitutional conventions. For those who have never heard of a constitutional convention, it is a meeting of representatives to create, revise or remove a constitution. In this case, it would be a meeting of the States to change and if necessary, remove and create a new constitution. A constitutional convention has not been held since 1787.
The notion may be radical, but when a country has a strong centralized government, which some of the nation’s founders knew would create problems, there needs to be a process to keep it in check. Our current Constitution created our current branches of government–a convention could change their duties or remove them entirely.
Thomas Jefferson, our third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, actually wanted the Constitution to expire. His belief was stated in a letter to James Madison, the fourth president, when he said, “the question whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water.”
What Jefferson was saying is one generation should not bind another to their own beliefs or laws. He knew that as the country grew and as time advanced, new beliefs would start to grow and take form, which could cause discourse and interpretation of the country’s laws.
If the United States did decide to have another constitutional convention, amendments preventing any type of shutdown could be proposed alongside legislation to have a balanced budget. Only one state in the union has it in their constitution to have a balanced budget—that state being Nebraska.
The other purpose of a constitutional convention is to move away from the two-party system the nation has become accustomed to. Americans are frequently informed that political parties and politicians are not going to budge on stances—spurring stalemates like we’re currently experiencing. Even though a convention is not directly Constitution related, it still gives power to the states and the people to overcome these issues.
In a time where it seems the country seems more divided than ever, I feel it is in our country’s best interest to come together and take back what is ours. In the words of Jefferson, “ a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”