Segments in this Video

Call a Convention to Amend the Constitution: Introduction (05:37)


Moderator John Donvan introduces Jeffrey Rosen who explains Intelligence Squared's partnership with the National Constitution Center and Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz who discusses Article V.

Debate "Housekeeping" (06:47)

Donvan frames the debate on calling a convention to amend the Constitution, instructs the audience to vote, and introduces panel members.

For the Motion: Mark Meckler (06:22)

Citizens for Self-Governance President, Meckler states that the single, fundamental question facing Americans is who decides? The vast majority of power now resides in Washington D.C. Article V gives power to the people.

Against the Motion: Walter Olson (06:27)

Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies Senior Fellow, Olson states that an Article V convention is dangerous and uncharted; we have never used this method for constitutional change. He cites several questions that are not clearly answered in the article; Congress and the Supreme Court would ultimately have to answer those questions.

For the Motion: Lawrence Lessig (05:51)

Harvard Law Professor and Mayday PAC Founder, Lessig questions if we can have a representative government again. At the core of our government is a failed institution that does not represent us; Congress cannot sensibly address problems Americans care about. He explains how easy it is to block an amendment.

Against the Motion: David Super (06:23)

Georgetown University Law Center Professor, Super states this is the worst possible time to amend the Constitution; we are a nation divided. Special interests would control the delegates of a convention to amend the Constitution. He cites ways in which states with 13% of the American population proposing constitutional amendments could go wrong.

Constitution Framers (04:16)

Donvan summarizes opening statements from panel members. Olson believes the framers ran out of time when creating Article V; it has defects. Meckler counters that the framers knew what they were doing.

Convention "Rule Book" (03:18)

Super states that "we have never placed the essence of our nation on the line." Lessig states we have hundreds of precedents pursuant to our Constitution. Olson states that people of high authority disagree on unresolved questions; Meckler vehemently disagrees.

Convention Distinction (04:50)

Super does not see a difference between a constitutional convention and a convention under the Constitution, and reiterates that this is a time of divide. Lessig explains that this is a special purpose convention. Olson argues the interpretation of language in Article V; Meckler cites issues of jurisprudence.

Article V Special Interest Manipulation (04:45)

Lessig believes the response is to find a way to block special interest control. Olson states special interest involvement is inevitable. Meckler argues the American people will drive the process; Super states it would be Congress.

Alternate Solution (02:43)

Lessig considers the consequence of special interest amendments. Olson considers whether or not current politics makes any difference; we should not give up on the political process.

Number of State Votes? (05:15)

Meckler cites the precedents of one state, one vote. Lessig adds that three fourths of the states must approve the amendment. Olson and Super consider population percentages choosing amendments.

How We Ratify the Constitution (04:44)

Lessig states that the mechanism to ratify an amendment is the same whether it comes from Congress or a convention. Lessig and Super agree on one person, one vote; Lessig wants proposals outside of Congress' control. Donvan asks for specific examples of amendments that cannot get passed in Congress.

One Topic Convention (02:30)

Olson disputes whether the proposed ideas have a super-majority of public support and cites the Senate as an example of Congress approving something that challenges its power. Lessig argues why the Congress approved the Senate.

QA: Rewriting State Constitutions (02:39)

Lessig states that U.S. states are active in rewriting constitutions and are examples of successful conventions; Meckler cites examples. Super argues that state activities are in the context of the federal constitution.

QA: Process Success vs. Amendment Risks (06:50)

Lessig cites presidential election numbers as an example of public prudence; "the check" is 38 state legislatures. Olson cites 80/20 issues as an example of risk. Super states that works only if the legislatures are in a particular frame of mind. Meckler counters that state legislatures are closer to the people than politicians in Washington D.C.

QA: Special Interest Control of State Legislatures (03:32)

Lessig states that we cannot generalize the level of corruption by New York's. Olson cites examples of good and bad judgment calls by state legislatures.

QA: Calling a Convention (01:14)

Super cites examples of when it would have been appropriate to call a convention. He is anxious about the American people's current frame of mind.

QA: Convention Effects (02:48)

Lessig believes Congress will never propose constitutional amendments that reinforce the idea that citizens have equal political power in the Republic. Olson agrees that all constitutional amendments negate some precedent.

Concluding Statement For: Meckler (02:39)

Meckler reiterates the importance of "We the People." He discusses Mellen Chamberlain's encounter with Levi Preston and argues that Washington D.C. intends the American people are not allowed self-governance.

Concluding Statement Against: Olson (01:53)

Olson states that the convention is a vessel of hope, but offers an alternative proposal.

Concluding Statement For: Lessig (02:27)

Lessig cites the economic collapse of Iceland in 2008; the Icelandic people crowd-sourced a new constitution. Is it difficult really so difficult to meet and deliberate how to fix problems in the Constitution?

Concluding Statement Against: Super (02:27)

Super reiterates the danger of a call to convention. Many proposed ideas would likely not work unless we hold Congress accountable; do not risk the Constitution.

Time to Vote (01:58)

Donvan instructs the audience to vote and thanks participants.

Audience Voting Results (01:07)

Pre-Debate - For: 34% - Against: 22% - Undecided: 44% Post-Debate - For: 44% - Against: 43% - Undecided: 13%

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Call a Convention to Amend the Constitution: A Debate

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Since the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1788, it has been amended 27 times, always by the same method outlined in Article V of the document: by winning approval of two-thirds of each chamber of Congress and three-fourths of the states. But Article V allows for another method to revise the Constitution that bypasses Congress: by winning approval of two-thirds of state legislatures to call a convention and approve amendments, and then gaining the support of three-fourths of the states. Some argue that this alternative method would overcome congressional gridlock and restore power to the people. But others argue that it could unleash chaos and extremism that might undermine the republic. Should the states call a convention to amend the Constitution?

Length: 100 minutes

Item#: BVL128515

ISBN: 978-1-63521-975-3

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

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