“… Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”
That was Henry David Thoreau’s reaction to the prospect of nation wide telegraph service in 1848. We were a divided nation then, stumbling toward a catastrophic Civil War. What unites us now? What can most of us agree on?
Can’t we all pretty much agree that Congress is a broken institution, barely capable of functioning at all? Don’t a lot of lefties and liberals realize that this concentration of wealth and power in the Washington beltway is unhealthy for democracy?
Most Republican conservatives, and that’s most Republicans, have some sympathy for Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the Republican leadership. (Including, especially, Rep. Steve Scalise, may the Lord help him). But even if you like and respect them, they have an almost impossible job.
Because the institutions they lead don’t work, can’t really work. The system is broken, and incapable of fixing itself. What can be done?
Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment through Article V, and see what happens. Will Congress respond by faithfully following the new instructions in the Constitution? Or will they play their typical games, and pay as much attention to the BBA as they do to the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution?
What can we do if they flout the BBA? Recall them, all of them. That would require another Article V Amendment. It could simply state that at the next federal election no sitting member of Congress would be eligible to run. Senators with two and four years remaining could retain their seats, but only for the rest of their terms.
This would not be a term limits amendment. The newly elected members of Congress can serve as long as their constituents elect them. But all of them would know that the state legislatures of this country were ready, willing, and able to throw them all out if they don’t perform. They will have done it once, and can do it again.
Who would these new Congressmen be? Most likely, the leaders of the state legislatures. A lot of these people have ambition for higher office. A Senate President, or a House Speaker, is a good candidate for the United States Senate. Other leading state legislators would run for the House.
Since this would be a brand new Congress, voters will want experienced legislators, with a proven track record, to represent them. In one sense, an Article V Congressional recall amendment convention would be a meeting of the same people, more or less, who would be taking over Congress if the amendment is ratified. This may provide some bipartisan motivation.
Congress gets to decide how it’s ratified, so it would be by special state Conventions. My hunch is that the people of this country, left and right, would jump at the chance to throw the bums out, and start over.
Maybe that’s how we unite the country. Against Congress.