Maryland voters have a chance to call for a constitutional convention. To find that the elected officials are not very supportive should come as no surprise, for those in power and this in apposition to affect policy a rewrite of the constitution is a invitation alter the know pathways to power. In a sense a rewriting would do exactly what Jefferson and many founding revolutionaries wanted a handing off power to a new generation faced with new information and new challenges.
A constitutional convention could examine the political and policy needs as well as the economic burden of having a bicameral legislature. Since the mid 20th century the Senate of Maryland has not represented the counties of Maryland, but rather due to federal constitutional question, as duplicated the House of Delegates by representing artificial aggregations of voters. Nebraska has demonstrated that two houses are not a necessity.
Further more the current almost 140 year old constitution has parts that have no seeming influence or standing before our courts such as article 4 of the state Bill of Rights. A state convention could examine the whole existing document and pare away the parts that no longer are considered in the day to day contracts of life. At over 47,000 words, the current state document invested with its historic baggage and current attempts to update is perhaps a document unreadable except by the legal and political class. For a constitution to be relevant to the citizens it needs to be readily understood, plain in its intents and broad enough to address tomorrow’s unforeseen events.
Thomas Jefferson addressed the ideas of change in his Commonplace Book, writing that 'All human constitutions are subject to corruption and must perish unless they are timely renewed and reduced to their first principles.” [Algernon Sidney - in Discourses Concerning Government, Sect. II, Par 13,] Jefferson was not afraid of change and in fact believed it a remedy for the stultifying aging of traditions of generations now past. He would have applauded Maryland for taking yet another clear-eyed review of the state’s constitution with a new younger generation’s eyes and views of the state of the state.
Jefferson knew that in a viable vibrant democracy there was nothing to fear when good people gathered to talk about how they would live together saying to Ralph Izard in1788 that it is "[h]appy for us that abuses have not yet become patrimonies, and that every description of interest is in favor of rational and moderate government. That we are yet able to send our wise and good men together to talk over our form of government, discuss its weaknesses and establish its remedies with the same sang-froid as they would a subject of agriculture." As a true revolutionary, he did not fear what the morrow might bring, but encouraged each generation to discuss the laws that bound its members together. "A generation may bind itself as long as its majority continues in life; when that has disappeared, another majority is in place, holds all the rights and powers their predecessors once held and may change their laws and institutions to suit themselves. Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man." Jefferson wrote to John Cartwright in 1824.
A Maryland Constitutional Convention would be an opportunity to examine a more grass roots form of government. This will not sit well with today’s Tories, but should resonate with citizens who feel disconnected with the obscure and distant processes of today. What better way to bring greater citizen collaboration with their government than to involve them in the creation of the form of government. There should be no doubt that the present established elite will be full of fury and filled with scorn for the very idea that the people of Maryland might want to fully reexamine the functions and mechanics of governance. And even more important a Maryland Constitutional Convention will be an opportunity to bring young people and their concerns about the future into a general discussion about the role and government and the responsibility of the citizens.
Opposition to a constitutional gathering will come from those afraid of change, from those whose immediate gain is rooted in the patterns of the past. Opposition comes from those who are delighted that the majority has no clear connection to the political process and is disinterestedly disenfranchised. The claim will be raise that the current constitution works well enough, and that is true for the very small percentage of people who are directly connected to its complications and fully vested in its perpetuation. I have no doubt that the current special interests will make the case that change is too expensive and in deed it would be – for them. They will not be concerned that most citizens do not vote and seem to not care, because the 47000 words require deep pockets to navigate and full time resources to take advantage of. Most Marylanders are disenfranchised from the very constitution because of its layered complications and dusty irrelevant history to the dangers of today. We should bring on a Convention; we should elect delegates to the convention who come representing ALL the constituencies of the Free State representing a full and diverse spectrum of opinions of Maryland’s tomorrow. Now is the time for a Maryland Constitutional Convention; now is the time to examine the future.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].