Superficially, the local State House of Representatives Race of 2016 in Camden/Rockport resembled the presidential race at the national level in many ways. On the one side, there was a center-of-the-road Democrat — a woman — running against a self-styled, insurrectionary, outsider populist candidate who ultimately squeaked out a victory. This local race was not fraught with the overt incivilities that characterized the presidential race — small-town life by necessity curtails and mitigates the worst of the animosity that tends to plague the national political discourse (we will probably see each other tomorrow at French & Brawn, after all!), but the major theme of discontent with the status quo was present and apparent.

At the time, I didn’t personally know either of the candidates who were running, but I watched the race with interest as both a former voter in Camden and a campaign worker with the Maine Democratic Party focusing on state legislative races. While I ultimately I toed the party line and voted for the Democrat, I reckoned that I would have been fine with either candidate, as I’ve always appreciated and respected people who run independently of one of the major parties. This was before the dangerous and anti-democratic (note the small “d”) veer that the country has taken in the previous six months would be made apparent. Had I known what the outcome of the election and what the consequences of those results would be, I would have been much more convinced that my choice of voting for Democrats up and down the ticket was the right one.

This week, Republican legislators in Maine, joined by independent Owen Casas of Rockport, are pushing the most dangerous and anti-democratic legislation yet to come out of the era of Trump. The American Legislative Exchange Council– backed bill (a group funded by the Koch brothers and other such barons of industry to push legislation to expand corporations’ abilities to exploit the public for their own profit), HP 987, would make Maine the 13th state to call for a constitutional convention. If 33 states make this same call, an arcane process under Article V of the Constitution would be set in motion, and the ad hoc lawmaking body convened could essentially rewrite the foundational document that has been guiding the American republic for the last 241 years. Proponents of the measure say it’s time to bypass Congress, get rid of the bureaucracy, and give rights back to the states — a familiar trope used by right-wingers who insist that is what the Confederacy was actually fighting for instead of the institution of slavery — and streamline the decision-making process so that things would actually get done in this country. It sounds great, especially if you’re a behemoth corporation who wishes to exploit the public and the environment with no repercussions, which is the thinly veiled aim that this movement actually seeks to achieve.



If a constitutional convention is called, in essence, it would amount to a corporate coup d’etat, a regime change, and the effective end of meaningful democracy at the federal level. Rule of law and the ability of ordinary citizens to have a say in the highest echelons of government would be put to an end, more so than they already have been. This movement is very similar to the Turkish referendum that was recently passed to severely weaken the Senate there and grant dictatorial powers to Recep Tayyip Erdogan. ALEC wants to do the same here. With a dangerous demagogue like Donald Trump at the helm, all bets are off as to what would become of America should the radical right succeed in its efforts to cynically rewrite the Constitution.

The Constitution needs amending, not rewriting. From 1791 to 1971, the Constitution was amended 16 times, on average once every 11 years. Since 1971 the Constitution has only been amended one time, and then only to ratify an amendment proposed in the 18th century to prevent Congress from raising its own pay between elections. Between ending the shameful gerrymandering process that has allowed members of Congress to pick their constituents instead of constituents picking their members of Congress, to abolishing the corporate personhood that has allowed corporations to give unlimited sums of money to political campaigns since the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, to ending the death penalty, to ensuring that corrupt politicians can’t use their position to skirt the law — surely lawmakers can find ways of dramatically improving the document that guarantees Americans’ rights under the law without completely doing away with it.

It seems we live in a time when people who have no interest or understanding of the rule of law or democracy are dominating our government, which is supposed to be guided by such principles. Those principles are what separate us from the brutal, totalitarian dictatorships abroad that have always stripped citizens of their rights in order to consolidate power. The American system of democracy is not perfect, but it can be fixed. Let’s fix democracy, not do away with it.