THE BLOG
10/15/2014 10:50 am ET Updated Dec 15, 2014

Want To Revive Our Republic? Then Read the Constitution

If thawing out our republic and getting it back on a vibrant track can be achieved without any changes whatsoever to our Constitution, as I've asserted in my last blogs, why haven't we done so already?

Why, for instance, haven't we already dramatically upped the number of members in the House? In the same vein, why haven't we also considered increasing the number of Justices in the Supreme Court?

Such measures would only require a majority vote in Congress to be enacted. But Congress, much less the highest court in the land, would never go along with whittling away at their cherished fiefdoms, where they wield inordinate power, without the firm and unyielding insistence of 'the people.'

So why haven't ordinary Americans of all political dispositions risen up as one to take back their republic? Where is the will to find a way back to making ours a republic our Founders would be proud of? Why aren't we out there protesting for our right to a truly representative republic?

One chief reason -- even as polls make clear that most of us believe Congress is heedless of our will -- is because most of us haven't bothered to read the Constitution.

According to a poll conducted by the Center for the Constitution, a whopping 86 percent believe that the Constitution is important in our everyday lives, a mere third of respondents had actually ever read the entire document. So most of us don't know of our constitutionally-given power to revive our republic.

But what if our monolithic institutions won't budge, because they're, well, monolithic institutions?

While a new Constitutional Convention is not the remedy, we should nonetheless threaten to hold one. State legislatures favoring a convention are slowly but surely trending towards the magic total of two-thirds needed to pull it off.

If U.S. political history has taught us anything, it's that only when those in power with a vested interest in keeping things just as they are realize that the people aren't going to tolerate this any longer, they give ground.

This is what happened in the early 20th century, when the various state legislators asked the U.S. Senate to approve a proposed amendment calling for the direct election of Senators. If ratified, this would replace the constitutional provision stipulating that Senators must be appointed by the state legislatures. When the Senate refused to approve this proposed amendment, the state legislators began the process of initiating a convention to ratify it themselves. This prompted the Senate to quickly cave in; it voted to have the amendment forwarded to the states, where it was put to a vote according to the traditional amendment route, and ratified.

The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted on April 8, 1913, and did away with the need for the states to follow through with plans to hold a convention to amend the Constitution. The Senate capitulated in this one instance because its members knew that if a convention of the states had been held, not only would this particular amendment have been debated, but many other amendments likely also would have been proposed and considered, possibly further diluting the power of the legislative branch. Why? Because once a convention to propose amendments is convened by the states, as the members of the Senate well knew, those attending can propose as many amendments as they care to.

There hasn't been, until now, another concerted attempt to organize an amendment convention. If those at the vanguard continue working towards having one, and show that they can make it happen, Congress and the Supreme Court will blink first, and the remedies I'm proposing (or ones kindred to them) will fast become the new standard operating procedure. Once they do, ours will no longer be a congressional republic of "us versus them." It will more and more be one of "all for one and one for all."

As I'm fond of pointing out early and often, Abraham Lincoln asserted that "(t)he people of these United States are the rightful masters of both congresses and courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution." When our congresses and courts act in ways that unravel our unique republican experiment with democracy, then it's a must that we the people to take it upon ourselves to stand up and be counted, to push back. Join the movement to revive our republic.