It’s human nature that we sometimes have contentious disagreements. But for every person that goes off the deep end to escalate a fight, there are more people that would rather compromise. Our Founders compromised on many issues and perhaps the true silent majority wants to avoid fights at our national and state capitals.
We need to find those who wish to lead by example. Grass roots success can lead to national success. If we can demonstrate that non-partisan debates can take place on a local level, that sets the stage for a ‘great debate’ at the pre-conference gathering and that leads us along the path to an A-5 convention and government reform through amendments to our Constitution. Not every state legislator lives to sling mud at the other faction.
A grass roots debate can be in full compliance with Article V. Results of the debate can be archived for further reference by all those who want to improve our government. Even small examples of Republicans and Democrats sitting at the same gathering and having a collegiate debate can send a message to state legislators. Rules of the debate can preview the same rules that will be used at the ‘great debate’.
For example, I live in Michigan’s 108th district. It is comprised of three counties. If two Democrats and two Republicans from each county got together we would have 12 voting members at the mini-debate.
Three quarters of the states must agree to pass a constitutional amendment. Scaling that down, nine votes would be needed to advance any proposal. Contrarily, four votes could stop any proposed amendment. Robert’s rules of order would be altered. Any one of the 12 participants may make a motion to advance a proposal. Then one of two things would happen. The motion could receive a second and advance for discussion or four of the twelve could signal to kill the proposal. Once a proposal is killed, no further discussion is allowed and the meeting proceeds instantly to the next proposal.
Under these rules, expectations for any issue would be low. The purpose of the meeting is to separate acceptable ideas from those that will never succeed. After a debate of moderate length, a vote would be taken and the results would be recorded for use by state legislators. Those state legislators could use this information with their opportunity and perhaps obligation to initiate action on new constitutional amendments.
Because amendments have not been proposed by the state-initiated Article V process, the entire mini-debate process would set a precedent and be educational for both state legislators and the public.
A fully informed state legislator would understand that if and when a ‘great debate’ occurred, delegates would need to be chosen. And that state legislator, wishing to advance his or her political career, may wish to be one of those delegates. Certainly, the delegate selection process may favor those who personally held a mini-debate. It would increase their level of qualifications because they had personal experience. State legislators and former state legislators would seem most qualified to be delegates.
It is likely that the mini-debate would be a one-day event. If a larger number participated it would take longer. And having 12 to 20 people certainly expands the possible choices of meeting places. One of the real objectives is to show that Democrats and Republicans, in small numbers or large, can talk politics in a normal civil manner. Too often, national politicians talk past each other without specific responses to claims or allegations made by the opposing faction. The fact that some of the issues are abstract in the context of state politics makes the debate less contentious.
Debate suggestions could be written prior to the initial motion to discuss. When one topic is finished, the next written proposal is brought up. Each topic may be recorded by voting result and duration of debate time. All results could be scanned in for further reference by state legislators. The mini-debate could be initiated by anyone but it is most logical that a state legislator would initiate the mini-debate and attend the event.
Those state legislators who want to diminish the current high level of divisiveness may choose this mini-debate as a first step. Do you know such a state legislator? These debates are simple and send a strong message. When enough mini-debates are held, the attention that they receive will move the amendment process forward and secondarily may reduce our current level of divisiveness.