ConCon Promises That Can’t Be Kept

Independence Hall

Independence Hall (Antoine Taveneaux – via Wikimedia Commons)

From Mike Stenhouse at the Ocean State Current (emphasis added):

In a ConCon, there will be no secret, backroom deals (like 38 Studios), no master lever, and there will be no future reelection campaign that power brokers can use as a threat to coerce delegates to vote their way. The special interest groups desperately want to protect their turf, and they see a ConCon as a major threat to their favored status.

I’m interested in how Stenhouse can make this promise. It’s my understanding that the delegates set the rules for the Convention. Our highly-praised U.S. Constitution was debated and voted upon entirely in secret — in fact, some might argue that allowed it to get its job done, and also set up its major failings. There’s no official record of the proceedings, just the notes of two delegates. And as we know, the Philadelphia Convention produced The Greatest Document in the History of the World™.

In light of the powers of the delegates, it’s entirely possible a Rhode Island Convention would be conducted in the dark; emerging only when matters are settled. It’s even possible that with even if it conducts its official proceedings in the light, the Convention could be even shadier than the way the Assembly behaves. The Convention is an open-ended question, and Stenhouse is making promises he can’t be sure of.

The rest of Stenhouse’s argument is near-irrelevant or naive. The Center for the Freedom and Prosperity is calling for non-partisan elections for delegates; but in reality these will be partisan in all-but-name; and likely to be reflective of the current Rhode Island House of Representatives. The lack of the master lever is next-to-irrelevant, because while it may drive down turnout in some places, the master lever was also a big boon to Republicans as well. And “no future reelection campaign” may be true, but it ignores that many convention delegates will be politicians; either past, present or future.

While a ConCon may have the ability to make very real changes, I don’t expect that the changes it proposes will be the kind Stenhouse will be writing favorably about in a year or two.

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